Remote, luxurious Primland offers mountainous retreat year-round


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We kept checking the directions. Had we taken a wrong turn?

We were driving to sprawling Primland in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, and the roads were getting progressively smaller and more rural. In a remote residential area, we rounded a bend and were jarred by the incongruous sight: soaring iron gates closed across a road.

My fiance pressed the button on an unobtrusive intercom to the left of the gates. The attendant who answered instructed us to "drive 5 miles up the mountain" on a winding road to check in at the Lodge. Soon the tall gates slowly swung inward, granting us entrance to the 12,000-acre mountain oasis. We exchanged a sidelong glance. This clearly was going to be a unique experience.

Primland is an upscale but unpretentious eco-minded resort. It juxtaposes an impressive menu of rugged outdoor activities with luxury lodging, an award-winning golf course, refined dining and a destination spa in a beautiful natural environment. Primland's secluded setting is part of what makes it special. Wildlife is plentiful here -- we saw deer, wild turkeys, a groundhog and a copperhead snake -- and stars fill the sky at night.

Primland's elegant wood and stone Lodge, which opened in 2009, sits atop a high ridge and has an expansive terrace with sweeping views of the picturesque mountains and golf course. It was constructed using local natural materials. The Lodge is the main place for guests to stay on the property. It has 26 guest rooms and suites that are tastefully decorated with a rustic flair and appointed with luxurious comfort in mind. It also houses two of the resort's three restaurants, all of its gathering areas and an observatory dome that opens to view the night sky.

A variety of alternative lodging offers guests a more private experience, including cottages of varying sizes and Mountain Homes suited for group or family travel. The most special and unusual of the lodging options are the three secluded Tree Houses that are a short drive from the Lodge. Built around treetops and perched at mountain edge, all three have large, private decks and jaw-dropping views across the North Carolina Piedmont.

Guests have an even larger choice of recreational activities, most of them geared to the outdoors. Hunting and fly-fishing remain big draws for the resort, which got its start in the 1980s as a hunting reserve. Primland was gradually converted from a lumber business by French businessman Didier Primat, its namesake, who bought the property in the late 1970s.

Among the many rugged outdoor pursuits are tree-climbing, archery, sporting clays, horseback riding, mountain biking and ATV tours through some of the resort's many mountain trails. This is a place where guests can get dusty and muddy driving an all-terrain vehicle up and down steep mountain trails (it's a lot of fun!), and then retreat to luxury accommodations to rest and refresh with Bvlgari bath products and 400-thread-count Frette bedding.

Less vigorous activities include exploring the resort's many trails through geocaching, a high-tech treasure hunt, disc golf and stargazing from Primland's observatory dome. Catch a presentation by an astronomer, and then take a look through the powerful 14-inch telescope at stars, planets and celestial objects far beyond our solar system.

Primland prides itself on its eco-friendly practices, hospitality with a personal touch and attention to detail. The resort is abundantly staffed, and employees are gracious, attentive and quick to tend to even the most minor matter. They promptly learn guests' names and food and drink preferences.

Primland promotes environmental awareness through its eco-conscious construction, its careful upkeep of the land and the locally sourced, organic and sustainable fare on its menus. Its signature moonshine cocktails are a nod to the area's past as a leading producer of moonshine whiskey.

An employee illustrated the resort's commitment to preservation when a poisonous copperhead snake found its way to a golf course tee box. He scooped up the snake and carefully secured it in a clear box with a snug lid to relocate it deep into the mountains. There's no need to kill such a snake, he explained, when the property has so much wilderness acreage.

While most of Primland's outdoor activities are geared toward warmer months, the resort is open year-round. Peak season is October, when the changing leaves show their vibrantly colored splendor. Activities are limited during the winter, but discounted rates beckon visitors to experience a more relaxing, luxury mountain getaway and indulge in the comforts of the resort.

The scenery would look magical with snow.

Correction: An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect size for the telescope at Primland.

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