First impressions are hard to shake. Once you become known for something, it’s a chore to change people’s minds. We don’t have to tell that to The Lodge and Cottages at Primland, though. A plop of natural wonderment sitting in the heart of Southern Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, this Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star escape has made its name as a go-to destination for hunters and golfers.
While both of those qualities remain true today — there are times when deer and wild turkey actually prance through The Highland Course fairways! — the resort is so much more than that. Just look at the calendar for the next few months and you’ll see car-driving experiences, live entertainment and cooking classes. Not exactly what you’d expect from a 12,000-acre hunting lodge, right? That’s because the surprise-filled resort is so much more.
Structurally, the most recognizable part of Primland is the silo-inspired Observatory Dome to the left of the main lodge. In person, the structure, which houses the only Celestron CGE Pro 1400 telescope at a U.S. resort, is as captivating as it on the brochure. But when resort founder Didier Primat and his design team were bringing things to life, they took their imagination even further.
Rooms have an outdoorsy feel (wood plank walls, muted tones) that still somehow don’t pinch on luxury (vessel sinks, flat-screen TVs) — and it doesn’t much matter if you’re talking about accommodations in the lodge, a breathtaking Tree House or one of the four Pinnacle Cottages introduced last Memorial Day. We got up close and personal with one of the lodge’s suites, and if it weren’t for natural stone tile and a brown leather couch, we would have thought we were in an upscale address in the middle of the city.
Throughout public spaces, you’ll realize a sharp decorative eye gave the go-ahead to overhead light fixtures that resemble a bird’s nest and tables erected from polished tree bark. Call it refinement among the red oaks. Just don’t merely call Primland “an outdoorsman’s paradise.” That tagline is a bit too confining for a sophisticated property that appreciates its Bulgari toiletries as much as its hunting boots.
As you’d expect from a place resting in the middle of the mountains, fresh catches and just-plucked shrubs make up a big chunk of the menu at Elements, Primland’s Forbes Travel Guide Recommended restaurant. But even with the smell of Atlantic scallops, North Carolina squab and stuffed garden peppers wafting about the kitchen, executive chef Ryan DeRieux keeps you on your toes.
So, yes, go ahead and order the crawfish and grits or heirloom tomatoes and handmade mozzarella, if you like; just be prepared for your dish to be plated like a museum exhibit. It’s no wonder that gentlemen must adhere to a jacket-required dress code at dinner.
Collars can loosen a bit at the 19th Pub a few steps away. The vibe here jibes a bit more with what you might envision from 2,800 feet above the Dan River Gorge — wood furnishings, juicy burgers and free-flowing ales. But don’t let the casual air fool you; cooks here are just as focused in front of the stove. The roasted half chicken, drizzled ever so finely with an herb jus, is cooked to perfection while the apple-butter-glazed baby back ribs are said to rival any in the state.
Of course, if the luxury hotel has visions of bucking the down-home stereotypes, it might want to stop spoiling guests with Pig Candy, delightfully thick strips of bacon that are lovingly covered in brown sugar onsite. You may not earn a Five-Star award for these kinds of treats, but we’d guess that winning over guests’ hearts is more than enough of a consolation prize.
When we were riding an ATV between clay-shooting stations, our guide Sammy made a point to say that he felt that Primland’s fly-fishing was underrated. And he’s spot on with the statement. For all those who frequent the resort for its brilliant whitetail deer, wild turkey and pheasant hunting, only a small portion of them realize that they should have packed their poles, too. The six-mile stretch of Dan River near the property is literally swimming in brook and rainbow trout. Orvis-trained guides are readily available for lessons as well.
Beyond the water, though, Primland makes for a great summer destination for everyone from massage enthusiasts (Four-Star The Spa at Primland) to families (swimming, disc golf and archery) to car lovers (racing legend Tom Kristensen leads the Primland Driving Experience on September 11 to 13).
Outside of the stuffed activities calendar, another great thing about Primland is that it’s so close to other towns that enjoy having some fun, too. Mayberry Days (September 21 to 25), which takes place just across state lines in Mount Airy, North Carolina, is exactly what you think — a celebration of all things related to Andy, Barney and Aunt Bee.
About 30 minutes in the other direction is Floyd, Virginia, a place that annually hosts FloydFest (July 27 to 31), one of the country’s most respected world music celebrations. In the past, toe-tapping titans such as Emmylou Harris and Grace Potter have performed.
This year, Gregg Allman, Bruce Hornsby and Liz Vice will take the stage. The latter is an unassuming 33-year-old with the gospel-soaked pipes of someone from Appalachia. You’d never guess she was born in Portland, Oregon.
But if there’s one thing a weekend at Primland will teach you, it’s to expect the unexpected.