You’ll know you’ve made the right decision to book a room at Salamander Resort & Spa as soon as you enter Middleburg, a quaint Virginia town about an hour and a half west of Washington, D.C. Located at the epicenter of Virginia horse country, it looks as if it were lifted out of the English countryside or a spread in Town & Country. As you pass the stone walls, charming cottages and sweeping estates, it’s impossible not to feel the stresses of whatever you left behind melt away.
Expect further encouragement to relax when you enter the gorgeous lobby of Salamander, greeted by a staff that will seemingly do anything to make your stay seamless. In fact, a friend once blew a tire on the way out there, and the staff took care of making sure it was repaired. “It was customer service #beyond,” she recalls. Before you arrive, make sure to book a table for dinner at Harriman’s Grill that night and a spa treatment the next day. Here’s what you can expect to find during your stay:
The entire property works in the town’s horse-country theme, right down to the decor in the rooms. Before dinner, take a walk around the property to poke around in the lovely culinary garden, the horse stables and the paths that weave through woodlands and hills lined with wildflowers and tall grasses. Note where the fire pits are so you can take advantage of them later, and head back inside to warm yourself up in front of one of the many indoor fireplaces and chill out before dinner.
Cocktails at Gold Cup Wine Bar -- a wine and billiard room with TVs, a fireplace and leather armchairs in addition to tables -- is a great way to start the night. Wine lovers will want to try one of the Virginia vino flights, while whiskey fans have the option of a Virginia whiskey and chocolate flight. We opted for the Apple Moscow Mule made with local fruit and The “H,” a blend of gin, cilantro, cucumber, ginger, jalapeño and lime. At Harrimans, the round room with a vaulted ceiling offers a nearly 360-degree view. Don’t miss the caprese, the Chinese-inspired orange cauliflower, your favorite cut of steak from the butcher’s block section of the menu and dessert from talented pastry chef Jason Reaves. His coconut semifreddo with green tea sponge cake, frozen coconut mousse, sesame cookie crumbs and honey-sweetened yogurt made for a stunning meal ender. Return to Harrimans in the morning for one of the craveable Mexican-inspired omelets filled with chorizo and cheese drizzled with a creamy cilantro sauce and served with avocado slices, black beans, home fries and toast.
The spa was the definite highlight of our Salamander experience. After checking in at the front lounge, men and women enter through separate doors into distinct changing and relaxation areas that each include a hot tub with a waterfall; a eucalyptus steam room; an “experiential” shower that involved various settings of hot and cold sprays; and heated tiled chairs. This area is available for two hours before or after any booked spa treatment, and it makes any money spent at the spa well worth it. Expert massages start with the client choosing a custom aromatherapy scent, and massage rooms also feature fireplaces. If you’re there for a romantic getaway, book one of the couple’s suites or plan to meet at the outdoor pool after your treatment. Even on cool days, a dip in the heated infinity pool followed by a soak in the outdoor whirlpool feels pretty amazing.
Without much time to explore Middleburg before heading back to D.C. -- we didn’t want to undo all that relaxation by hitting rush hour, after all -- we did manage a light Gallic lunch at The French Hound and a spirits tasting at the new Mt. Defiance Cidery & Distillery. The obvious choice would have been to hit one of the many wineries surrounding Middleburg, but we were just as happy sipping on flights of local cider, absinthe and apple brandy. If you have time, we hear Bluemont Vineyard has the finest views and is well worth the side trip.
Salamander Resort, 500 N. Pendleton St., Middleburg, Virginia; 540-687-3600; http://www.salamanderresort.com/