The Blue Ridge Mountains are more extensive than one might think. This segment of the Appalachian Mountains traverses seven states and contains two national parks, eight national forests and a scenic parkway that extends for 469 miles. Earlier this year, we visited a section of the range outside Asheville, North Carolina. But we weren’t content to stop there. Virginia was on our minds in part because Keswick Hall, a century-old Tuscan-style retreat in Charlottesville, has been undergoing a massive renovation. Alas, we were not able to stay. The website promised a summer 2021 opening, but reservations weren’t being accepted until this month (October).
Instead, we decided to spend a few days at one of the latest additions to the Auberge Resorts Collection, Primland Resort, in southwestern Virginia. We flew into Charlotte, North Carolina, and drove two hours north, just over the border, to Meadows of Dan (population 1,418). After passing through Mount Airy, the quaint hometown of Andy Griffith and the inspiration for his fictional Mayberry, we arrived at the property’s unassuming South Gate. A security guard confirmed our reservations and set our expectations: Primland is big — 12,000 acres big — and it would take another 15-minute drive to reach the lodge.
The main road through this sprawling reserve is called Didier Primat Parkway, named after the French-Swiss billionaire and Schlumberger heir who bought the land in 1977 to harvest scrub oak for Primlumber kindling. Selective tree cutting continued through the 1980s, but part of the area was set aside for hunting, shooting, horseback riding and fishing. Today, as you wind your way 3,000 feet above sea level past dense forest and scenic overlooks, it’s hard to fathom that any sort of logging ever took place here.