Salamander Resort & Spa Middleburg, Virginia

The Forbes 5-Star-rated Salamander Resort & Spa is gracefully situated at the edge of the quaint town of Middleburg on 340 acres of pristine, preserved land. The charming Bella Vilgrain, fluent in French and English, may greet you at the reception. Help yourself to an Arnold Palmer upon arrival. 

You find yourself in a meticulously appointed space. All the art in the buildings was personally curated by the owner, Sheila Johnson, who also took all the photographs in the rooms. Ms. Johnson is passionate about art. They’re even working on a brochure for a walking art tour throughout the property. 

Ms. Johnson designed the Grand Living Room to give the feeling of welcoming guests into her own home. With a library, two fireplaces, and equestrian statues, it is inviting indeed. You can even get a room with a fireplace. And there are several fire pits outside as well. 

Upstairs rooms toward the left side of the building have the choicest views and look out upon a beautiful little pond and the over 100-year-old Stallion House, where they have activities such as wine and painting. The charcuterie board, with local butcher’s sausage and cured meat with stone ground mustard and pickled garden vegetables, like a zesty giardiniera which tantalizingly tickles the tastebuds, can be ideal to order in to share on your balcony overlooking the lawn. 

The Gold Cup Wine Bar – noted for its extensive wine list – also serves flights. It is a community-style restaurant with small plates designed for sharing. Just behind the bar is the Billiards Room, with more of a sports bar atmosphere. Slate floors lead to the Cooking Studio by Fontessa, where they have cooking classes every other Saturday. 

HARRIMANS VIRGINIA PIEDMONT GRILL 

Harrimans Virginia Piedmont Grill for fine dining is an elegant octagonal space with windows all around with views of the Virginia countryside from every table. The high-ceilinged dome houses a gargantuan chandelier. Chef Bill Welch hails from Cape Cod in New England and has also worked in the Sea Islands, so there is a seafood slant to the menu, but it is also famed for its butcher’s cuts of meat. They also serve Sunday brunch. The horse sculptures Midnight and Shadow on the Middleburg Lawn light up at night. 

Start off dinner with a velvety sweet potato soup poured tableside over roasted sweet potato cubes and mustard crème fraîche, with beurre de noix de muscade, warm spices, and lime. Choose from French baguette, Irish rolls, or multigrain bread with a ramekin of fermented butter and lemon seed oil. 

Next up, the Asian-inspired charred cauliflower exhibited a rich umami flavor profile with baby bok choi, red quinoa, Mt Defiance cider, and golden raisin jam with toasted pepitas. 

Not to be missed is the 6-ounce Wagyu filet from Oroca Farms in Paris, Virginia with root vegetables and savory miniature beech mushrooms complemented by a delicately light horseradish cream, paired nicely with a pinot noir from Oregon. If you’re in a seafood mood, you might try the Loup de Mer with saffron, baby fennel, calamari, and shellfish fumet.

And palate-cleansing desserts which include flavors such as yuzu cream and lemon-basil granita perfectly punctuate the last of the repast. 

The culinary garden grows herbs and spices to enhance the cuisine, including mint for cocktails, in addition to grapevines to make house-made jam, as well as hot sauces from the peppers. In fact, the local Lost Barrel Brewing brewed a special beer with hops from their garden. 

A PLETHORA OF EXPERIENCES 

On the Grand Lawn you can play lawn games, such as life-size chess, or walk your dog, as the dog-friendly first floor opens to patios. It is often also used for team-building activities. The Salamander counts numerous hiking and biking trails (they even have bikes available for the guests) with picturesque names such as Tulip Poplar, Sycamore, Chestnut Oak, Dogwood, Birch, Virginia Pine, and Goose Creek, in addition to 20 acres of zipline course. For the fishing pond, they even have fishing poles for rent. They also have unique activities such as axe-throwing, archery, and a falconry experience. 

The Equestrian Center, open daily 9-3 offers private horseback-riding lessons and trail rides. They also offer a unique class In Equine Communication – kind of like being a horse whisperer, using your body and energy to communicate with the horse. You will encounter horses such as a Belgian draft horse, dappled Welsh Pecheron, and Stella, an Arabian, before they head to paddocks to graze in the evening. 

Fridays and Saturdays at four, the miniature horse Cupcake comes up to the Grand Lawn for happy hour. She’s cute but she’s a little sassy. Sometimes she’ll take a child in a little cart for a little country ride. They also have pony rides for kids and grooming lessons as well. They can give a horse a bubble bath. You might get a glimpse of the black cat Hamlet lurking about the barn. 

SALAMANDER SPA 

Sip on some cranberry hibiscus tea as you enter the fountain-lined, fragrant hallway to the spa. Or pour a cup of ginger peach, Morroccan mint, green passion, white ambrosia, or Masala chai. Select from a variety of treatments or opt for a massage from the nurturing Christine. “Healing is my vision. Relax and detox. Be free.” 

There is an indoor blue-tiled Vitality Pool with waterfall to loosen tight shoulders. Then rest on the tile Tepidarium Lounge Chairs, heated to 95° to increase blood flow and circulation – the name reminiscent of ancient Roman baths. 

For a bit of nourishment in the Quiet Room, pick up a mandarin; small square house-made Salamander lemon-thyme sugar cookies; and some strawberry-orange infused water. 

Indulge in the Experience Shower, which mimics Tropical Rain with the water dancing over you. Try the refreshing Arctic Mist or more invigorating Body Sprays – or venture into the steam room. There is also a sauna downstairs just past the fitness center and the indoor heated pool. The outdoor heated pool for all resort guests opens Memorial Day. 

Be serenated by songbirds in the spa’s outdoor hot tub heated to 104° beside the infinity pool, heated to a soothing 81°. You will enjoy being cooled by the spring breeze. They say people even get in there when there’s snow. 

Contented guest Olia Legoshina marveled, “They thought of every detail.” She’s right. When I didn’t feel like getting my hair wet in the outdoor Jacuzzi one morning, they instinctively brought me a hair tie. And then a bottle of water just at the right moment. They even have a spinner to dry your swimsuit. They just know. They even send you on your way with the most flavorful lollipop I’ve ever tasted, with a fox emblazoned on it. 

Olia states her sentiments succinctly. “This is exactly what I needed. I never want to leave.” 

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