Visiting the Salamander Resort & Spa in northern Virginia brings to mind what it must feel like to be a time traveler to an earlier era. A mere hour’s drive from Washington, D.C. can mean escaping to an elegant, relaxed and more civilized way of life populated by the Harrimans, Kennedys and Melons.
Founder and owner Sheila Johnson, an entrepreneur and co-founder of BET, modeled the property after her own personal home, helping design it to look like an old Piedmont mansion. The Salamander opened in 2013 after ten-plus years of design and development. Its success is evident in being named the Washington area’s only Forbes Five Star Resort.
Guests may stay in one of the resort’s 168 luxurious rooms, including 17 suites. Every room includes a walkout balcony or terraces on the first floor. Resort General Manager Reggie Cooper recounts that Johnson herself added many human touches to the rooms she helped design, including a shower with a special shelf to hold a towel and toiletries.
Set on 340 acres, the resort is a five-minute walk to the heart of Middleburg, with its famed horse country locale, charming shops, restaurants, and countless vineyards. The resort pays homage to its location’s proud heritage with rooms named Aldie and Bluebonnet and walls displaying horse-themed art. The Gold Cup Wine Bar offers small plates and wine tastings from local Virginia vintners. Harrimans Virginia Piedmont Grill, named after the Harriman family who previously owned the property, is the signature restaurant.
Salamander is famous for its unique spa frequented by guests and local visitors. Many a stressed-out patron is delighted to enjoy the spa’s offerings of various body treatments, massages and facials. Not to be overlooked is an infinity edge spa pool and full fitness facility.
Another well-loved feature of the Salamander is the 14,000-square-foot equestrian center with 22 stalls and an outdoor riding arena. Group trail rides and riding lessons are offered to guests and other visitors, and children two to four years have their choice of ponies as well. Ashley Farrell, the equestrian manager, has been with Salamander since it started. She reflects that it is extremely rare to find an equestrian center on site at a five star resort.
Salamander also offers zip lining, nature hikes, tennis, archery, Frisbee and axe throwing among its many outdoor activities. The resort’s concierge service is quick to arrange tours of the nearby vineyards. Visiting celebrity chefs offer cooking classes and special dinners, and visitors are encouraged to enjoy the Middleburg film festival in October. Although there is not a golf course on the grounds there is a putting green, and guests may enjoy a round at nearby Creighton Farms.
Visitors often save a trip to the Salamander for a special occasion. For Charles Abell it was his wife Siobhan’s special birthday. According to Abell, “The Salamander lives up to its billing. I think my blood pressure dropped 15 points just arriving at the hotel.” The Abells enjoyed hiking along the Appalachian trail, visiting a winery, enjoying the spa, eating at the restaurant and relaxing by the pool. “It was fantastic,” he adds.
The Salamander is also a popular location for weddings. Several years ago, Carol and Mike Steed’s son Jeremy was married there and they hosted the rehearsal dinner and a welcoming dessert party at Harrimans. According to Carol, “It really was the perfect evening. The food was delicious! The chef worked with us on menu selections and wine choices.”
No place to park your pooch while visiting? No problem! The resort is dog friendly; just call ahead when making your reservation. And horse owners are also welcome to board their horses while they stay at the property.
For more information, please visit SalamanderResort.com.