Author & Photo credits: Beth Pollock
Why you need to stay here
The Salamander Resort and Spa is an elegant hotel set on an idyllic 340-acre property near Middleburg Virginia.
You might feel like you’ve stepped onto a real-life Clue board when you visit, and not just because it feels like a wonderful English mansion. One of the first rooms you’ll see when you enter is the Billiard Room, where you can play a game or relax with a drink. If it’s cool or rainy outside, head to the Library, where you can read by the fireplace or in a window nook. You might even take cooking classes in the Kitchen. (If I’d seen a Conservatory or a Ballroom, I might have started looking around for a lead pipe.)
Quaint Middleburg is less than a mile away, and the main street is lined with well-kept homes and businesses. The area is known for horses and wineries, and both John F. Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor owned properties here.
I stayed in an Estate Room with a king-sized bed and fireplace. Two seating areas in the well-laid out room meant there was ample space to work and relax. A small patio with table and chairs overlooked the beautiful lawn and woods behind the resort. Bonus: if anyone’s playing croquet or lawn chess, you’ll have a perfect view!
If you want to splurge, you might upgrade to one of the spacious suites with walk-in closets and stone balconies.
Food and Drink
I ate dinner at Salamander’s signature restaurant, Harrimans Virginia Piedmont Grill.
I can usually suss out a restaurant by ordering its corn bread – if it’s too dry or flavorless, it’s often the sign of a chef that overlooks the details. Harrimans’ rustic corn bread was one of the high points of the meal, and was absolutely delightful served with the honey butter made from the Salamander’s own honey.
The beet and pistachio salad was a wonderful balance of colours, flavours and textures. And the crispy cauliflower, dry-aged New York strip, and crab cake were highly worthy too. The gorgeous Red Blend from nearby RdV Vineyards was a terrific accompaniment to the meal.
My host and I split two desserts between us, along with the matching wine recommendations. The Sour Cherry Cobbler was bursting with flavour, and partnered nicely with the sweet Vietti Moscato d’Asti. And the six-layer devil’s food and pumpkin spice cake, laced with a decadent hazelnut crunch, was a perfect match with the rich and satisfying Taylor Fladgate 20 year Tawny Port.
Note: there’s lots to choose from on the menu. I was also tempted by the Ahi Tuna Tartare with spicy [Colonel] mustard, although a [Professor] Plum cake was nowhere to be seen.
Breakfast the next morning was equally satisfying. Market Salamander serves breakfast and lunch in nearby Middleburg. The Crispy Chicken Biscuit was highlighted on a “Neighbourhood Recommendations” board; when I asked about it, the server described it as “the best chicken ever, served on the best biscuits.” You’d have to be made of stronger stuff than me to resist a description like that. It was a wonderful way to start the day.
My favourite feature of the Salamander was the fire pit. After dinner, I went outside to sit by one of the campfires that staff had lit earlier in the evening. Whether you’re with a big group or on your own, it’s a lovely way to relax after a busy day and a delicious meal. And depending on your preferences, you might do it with a glass of Virginia wine, or with one of the Salamander’s S’mores kits.
You’ll find active pursuits on the Salamander’s numerous hiking trails, three swimming pools, tennis courts and a putting green. And if you’re looking for indoor diversions, try cooking or art classes, or a board game in the library. If you love horses, riding lessons and trail rides are among the offerings, as is an Equine Communication course. Learn to be a horse whisperer!
If you’re visiting in October, you might plan your trip around the Middleburg Film Festival, or go on one of the resort’s weekly apple-picking excursions.
The Salamander makes it easy to enjoy off-property activities too. They offer local transportation to local vineyards, which makes it a cinch to visit Greenhill Vineyards, just five minutes away. Their Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine, part of a six-wine tasting, was featured in the Oscars swag bag in February 2016. My favourite wine at Greenhill was the Cabernet Franc, and after reading its description, it’s no surprise why. It tastes of all the things I love to bake with: “cherry, baking spices, and a touch of vanilla.”
And make sure you visit lovely Middleburg. If you have breakfast at the Market Salamander (see above) leave yourself some time to explore historic main street.
The Salamander is less than a mile outside Middleburg, Virginia, and is just over half an hour’s drive from Virginia’s Dulles International airport. If you’re in Washington D.C. for holidays or business, you can drive to the Salamander in a little more than an hour.
Notes: The author visited as a guest of The Salamander Resort and Spa, who did not review or approve this story.