A luxurious sporting resort in the mountains of Virginia stands as a tribute to its storied past.
There’s something about Primland. If you’ve experienced the stunning Virginia resort then you know that you can’t quickly share the experience—you want to tell the whole story.
There’s history there. The 12,000-acre woodland estate was previously home to eight Native American tribes, including the northern tip of Cherokee land. The heritage of the Cherokee tribe was later incorporated into the resort’s spa, with the help of native descendants and local historians.
The wilderness that now makes up Primland changed hands many times, starting in 1747, when then-Governor of Virginia Lord Brooke gave a 60,000-acre land grant to William Austin. Austin, like many others who received similar grants, sold his off in smaller parcels.
This relatively untouched land also contains Civil War history. Confederate Gen. Jeb Stuart was born near Primland, and has a nearby town named after him. Depending on which Primland entrance gate you’re heading to, you’ll pass a sign in Ararat, Va. proclaiming “Birthplace of J.E.B. Stuart,” or you’ll spend around 15 minutes traveling on Jeb Stuart Highway. And yet another prominent name in Southern history once held the deed to Primland: one of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s ancestors.
The history of this land is undeniable—even the more lawless parts. Simply drive through the land and you’ll find the remnants of what was once a thriving moonshine industry. Many streams still have signs of whiskey still sites leftover from the ’30s. And not everyone got away with it—revenue officers of the time seized wagonloads of more than 100 gallons from the property. This moonshine history is reflected in today’s resort, which has an extensive selection of the grain alcohol on its menus. Guests can even schedule a moonshine tasting in a reconstructed still, complete with discussion, run by one of the resort’s employees who, as the mixologist at 19th Pub points out, knows first-hand about ‘shine: “His daddy and granddaddy were in the industry.”
It wasn’t until 1977 that Primland’s founder bought the property. Didier Primat was a French businessman (and billionaire). He began by building access roads in the foothills. While he initially bought the property as a vacation spot for himself and his family, he soon had to face the reality of land taxes. With the abundance of timber on 12,000 acres, Primat started Primlumber and Primwood Kinlin to cover the costs, which quickly became the largest distributed wood bundled product in its marketplace.
By 1986 the land included a large hunting reserve, offering activities such as hunting, fishing, sporting clays, and horseback riding.
This last evolution of the land in its 250-year history is most evident in the modern resort today. It is still a functioning hunting reservation, just with so much more.
Today Primland consists of The Lodge with an observatory, world-class golfing, multi-family cottages, tree houses, and more than 50 activities—and that list keeps growing. Though Didier Primat died at age 64 before the completion of the lodge, he had his hand in the entire process.
The Lodge at Primland was modeled after a Swiss Chalet. As a naturalist, Primat wanted it to be built out of recycled materials, and his children made sure his wish was carried out. All the wood used was reclaimed and the roof is made of recycled rubber. Primat also wanted to include a piece of local architecture: a silo. The silo became the observatory, complete with a movable dome roof.
The resort’s décor is elegant and rustic, a blend of timeless pieces, neutral colors, and natural accents like stone and tile from a quarry in Tennessee. The Lodge succeeds in looking down-home without the kitsch—you won’t find antlers adorning the walls. You will find, however, walls of windows letting in natural light, outdoor-inspired art pieces, sleek furniture, and unparalleled views of mountain vistas.
So is the history of the land the ‘it’ that Primland possesses? Sure, it’s part of it. The history can’t be escaped; it has been flawlessly incorporated. The resort just lets the history speak for itself. If you ask, someone will give you a lesson. Otherwise it’s like background music to your visit; without realizing it, you soak in details like turquoise tiles lining the pool or historic topographical maps on the walls. This subtlety propels Primland from simple hunting preserve into luxury resort territory.
But what makes Primland special isn’t the history alone. It’s how well visitors to Primland can leave the city behind and just appreciate nature the way it is. It’s like traveling to a destination that time forgot—though that couldn’t be further from the truth.
It starts with a drive. Primland is only about two-and-a-half hours north of Charlotte, and two hours of that is driving along uneventful, uninspiring I-77 North. When heading to the north gate at Primland (closest to the lodge), you’ll stay on I-77 until shortly after you cross the border into Virginia. Once you hit the border, the scenery changes. Around the first bend, trees give way to views of mountains below, showing just how high in elevation you’ve come thus far. At The Lodge, the average elevation is 2,800 feet.
With views around every corner, it’s hard to dwell on anything back in Charlotte. The route continues through small towns and incorporated areas with grocery store/gas station hybrids, through livestock farms and pastures, past historical markers and churches, all in the foothills. Once at the gate, when you think you’ve finally arrived, you’re met with a security attendant informing you that The Lodge is six or seven miles up the mountain. So you continue on.
The main paved road winds through the territory, past tennis courts, mountain homes, stables, and wildlife. Fittingly, The Lodge is located on Moonshine Drive.
This is a resort that you don’t get to see until you’re on top of it—or in this case, on top of the mountain. There’s no parking deck to be seen; it’s located under the building. A valet attendant will park for you, and you won’t need your own vehicle for the entire stay. Any time a visitor needs to leave the main lodge, like to go to the activity center, guest services in the lobby will arrange a ride.
While phone service and Internet connectivity work just fine at The Lodge, on these winding roads throughout the resort (all 13 miles of them), reception is spotty. But think of it as being unplugged, more like a benefit. While on the trails, coursing through the woods, you can live in the now, with no distractions.
That special feeling visitors get at Primland comes from the touches of history, the remote nature of the preserve, and the urge visitors have get to take it all in, in that moment. Views can change on a dime. Primland beckons guests to pay attention to what’s in front of them. Problems are forgotten. Stress is gone. The only things to think about are watching your step on the trail, not shanking a golf ball off the side of a mountain, and enjoying the ride while you’re on it.
Eat & Drink
This casual eatery located in The Lodge is stocked with cold beer, including a couple local brews on draft, and specialty cocktails. The menu changes seasonally. A guest favorite is the pig candy, thick-cut bacon coated in Vermont maple syrup, brown sugar, and cayenne pepper.
Primland’s fine dining destination focuses on local flavors, including foraged fare from Chef Korey Sims. Guests also have the option of reserving a Chef’s Table, a nine-course tasting dinner in The Lodge kitchen.
This is the original dining facility, built atop old stables. The eatery is available seasonally for breakfast or dinner, and is open year-round for private parties and events. Look for classic, Southern-inspired fare.
Stay in the refined Lodge at Primland, at the peak of the property. The Lodge features 26 guestrooms and suites, including the Pinnacles Suite located in the silo, under the observatory. Amenities include the spa, wine room, fitness center, private theatre, observatory, and game room.
These were the original accommodations before The Lodge was built. There are several mountain homes available, each with its own floor plan. All come with large great rooms, kitchens, internet access, and a gas grill.
The two-story pinnacle cottages can be booked as individual rooms, or as a whole unit. Each cottage contains four suites all with private balconies. The living rooms can be opened for mutual use, making it ideal for groups.
The fairway cottages are located along the 10th and 18th fairways of The Highland Course. Each cottage features cathedral ceilings, stone fireplaces, and private decks. The cottages are duplex style, allowing guests to book a single unit or the whole home.
Perched on the solid branches of the treetops sit Primland’s tree houses. Unobstructed views let visitors see all the way to Winston-Salem on clear days. Each tree house resembles a large studio apartment with a king-size bed and an expansive wrap-around porch.
See & Do
The Highland Course was designed by Donald Steel, known for building the course with the land, rather than changing the scenery. The course has a 150 slope measurement and a rating of 75.1 strokes.
Use a GPS to find treasures hidden in caches along two different trails through Primland. Primland’s caches include a variety of information about the region, its wildlife, and its history. Each trail has a different difficulty level.
The sporting activity has guests progress through 14 stations over a mile-long course with the chance to shoot a variety of targets that simulate the flight path of game birds. Loaner guns and ammunition are available.
Take a one- or two-person recreational terrain vehicle out for a guided tour through Primland’s wilderness. Expect steep climbs, rocky descents, and plenty of streams and puddles.
Primland partnered with Blue Ridge Tree Climbing to teach guests the art of tree climbing. Duration of the climb is two and a half hours.
Guests can enjoy fly fishing in the Dan River or unguided pond fishing. Ponds are stocked with trout, bass, and channel catfish. Guests can have their catch cleaned and vacuum packed.
Primland offers a variety of hunts, including driven pheasant shooting, renowned in the UK. All game not kept by the hunters is donated to Hunters for the Hungry.
Explore Primland’s biking trails, or venture out to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Take the 20-miles loop to see the surrounding areas including Meadows of Dan and Rocky Knob cabins. Bikes are available to rent.
Sign up for the Starwalk in the observatory, offered every night. Take a look at deep space objects like nebulae, galaxies, and the remains of stars. A smaller telescope can be set up to look at closer objects.
The spa was inspired by Native American healing techniques and the best in European spa rituals. Services include massages, full-body treatments, facials, yoga, and meditation.