Southern Exposure: Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains Beckon

A gem in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Primland beguiles with genteel outdoor pursuits and pristine nature.

In the wide world of experiential travel, there are places that promise an authentic nature adventure and places that deliver one. Primland, a sprawling retreat in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, is among the dying breed of the latter.

Photo courtesy of Primland

The 12,000-acre property in the Meadows of Dan is largely untouched, affording uncommon interaction with the natural world. Winding paths lead to stunning overlooks, where the blue haze of the aptly named mountain range comes into view and expands our very notion of scale. Trails point the way to gently undulating slopes, offering simplicity and silence, two profound gifts in a hectic world. Night skies sparkle with an intensity we only realize exists when all obstacles are removed. And in the depths of the preserved property, there are patches of land that so clearly belong to the deer, wild turkeys, and golden eagles that any human presence somehow feels like a trespass—and that’s okay; the beauty is in knowing it’s there.

A Tree House bedroom. (Photo by Patrick Cline)

That’s what makes Primland so real and why a reconnection with nature and self isn’t just marketing talk. Though simple pleasures are the foundation of the Primland experience, you’re not likely to feel like Henry David Thoreau in the Walden Woods. There’s a sense of refinement here that cultivated travelers embrace. It’s palpable in everything from the private, guided excursions into the backcountry to the nine-course tastings at the chef’s table to the environmentally sensitive architecture.

Main gathering area at The Lodge. (Photo by Patrick Cline)

Elements at The Lodge. (Photo by Patrick Cline)

Food imitates art at Elements. (Photo by Patrick Cline)

The Lodge at Primland—the main gathering place—is a LEED-certified building crafted with American chestnut from old barns, reclaimed oak from the Shenandoah Valley, and roof tiles made from recycled tires. The Lodge houses 26 guest rooms and suites with gorgeous views of the mountains and the acclaimed Highland golf course, plus a Native American–inspired spa, and two of the dining venues found on property. The signature restaurant, Elements, features farm-fresh cuisine with organic, sustainable ingredients, most of which are sourced within the region. Two specialties stand out: the slow-cooked Virginia farm egg with country ham and Byrd Mill grits, and the “pig candy,” which is essentially applewood-smoked bacon coated with sugar and maple syrup and baked to the point of caramelization. Vegans and dieters need not apply.

Tree Houses are perched among the branches. (Photo courtesy of Primland)

Accommodations are many and varied, and all foster a sense of escape. The newest of the bunch are the Pinnacle Cottages, which, as the name suggests, are perched on the Pinnacles of Dan, some 2,800 feet above sea level. Mountain panoramas are admitted via floor-to-ceiling windows, natural woods and stones promote a sense of rustic chic, and two-story arrangements are ideal for group or family travel.

But there’s nothing like sleeping in the treetops. Literally surrounded by branches and leaves, the Tree Houses make it possible to wake to the sound of birdsong and the brisk mountain breeze. Wrap your hands around a mug of hot cocoa and step out onto the wraparound wood deck, the perfect vantage point sunrise to sunset. The world will feel a million miles away.

Primland is deservedly renowned for outdoor sport, and its rambling grounds offer opportunities for fly-fishing, clay and wing shooting, sustainable hunting, off-road RTV adventures, horseback riding, and archery. The Donald Steel–designed golf course is a big attraction, not only for the challenges it presents (it’s rated at 75.1 strokes with a slope of 150) but also for the sheer beauty of the terrain. As Steel noted when he first saw the land, “It reminded me of the highlands of Scotland.”

Decks wrap around the Tree Houses for a panoramic view. (Photo courtesy of Primland)

One of the joys at Primland is the winding down of each day, celebrated with a wine tasting at The Lodge, around the fire pit or inside by the fireplace. It’s a moment worth savoring, especially in the company of kindred spirits.

Outdoor seating and a fire pit beckon at The Lodge. (Photo by Patrick Cline)


3 Must-Dos:

  • Enjoy an evening stargazing at the Primland observatory, a silo-like structure attached to The Lodge. The perfectly clear night sky grants an amazing view of celestial objects.

The observatory opens to the stars. (Photo by Patrick Cline)

  • Hit the reset button with a Native American day package at the spa. It includes a blue corn and honey scrub, a massage, and a facial.
  • Taste the local “white lightning” at The Old Home Place, a restored still that offers moonshine tastings and stories about bygone bootleggers. Primland offers covered wagon rides to the still.

Archery target practice. (Photo by Patrick Cline)

Indoor pools at the Native American-themed spa. (Photo by Patrick Cline)

Related Post