Primland: The Spirit of the Mountains

Southwest Virginia may seem like a strange place to take a tour of the universe, but here I am in a darkened room with a roof that opens up to the night sky and a telescope that offers a glimpse of galaxies 27 million light years away. 

Welcome to Primland Resort and Spa, an upscale vacation destination, where, like the stars, the Blue Ridge Mountains seem to go on forever. In fact, the resort does, too. It’s a 12,000-acre playground for those who love the outdoors. At Primland you can take your pick of year-round activities—all designed to connect you with the wonders of nature.

I’m here with my husband for a two-day getaway, and we can’t wait to experience the resort’s offerings. We didn’t bring our kids along, but already I’m wishing we did. Primland Resort is a perfect destination for families, especially those who lean toward adventure.

One reason Primland Resort is so unique is its remote location. It takes us about ten minutes from the time we drive into the resort before we arrive at the main lodge, which looks like a Swiss chalet tucked among rolling hills and well-manicured grounds. The resort was founded by a French entrepreneur Didier Primat, who flew over the property in a helicopter in 1977 and said, “I’ll take it.” 

He dreamed of turning this beautiful parcel of land into a luxury mountain resort but took his time planning and developing the property. In the early years hunting parties stayed in a few mountain homes and hunted for wild game. Eventually Mr. Primat began building his dream, taking pains to maintain the integrity of the landscape while creating a world-class resort.

He succeeded. Today Primland welcomes guests from around the globe, attracted to its tranquil location and abundant wildlife. In fact, the hunting tradition continues at Primland, and in the elevator en route to our room, Peter and I meet a gentleman dressed in traditional tweeds, shotgun in tow, heading out to hunt spring turkeys. For a moment it feels as if we are on a British estate and far away from the mountains of Virginia. 

That’s part of the charm of Primland. There’s a European feel to the resort—from the natural rustic, Euro-chic decor to the attentive staff to the resort’s fine dining experiences. Our first evening, we dine in Elements, Primland’s signature restaurant, and order the chef’s tasting menu paired with a thoughtful selection of wines. Highlights include Edwards’ Surryano ham, Virginia’s version of Spanish-style cured ham, alongside creamy scalloped potatoes; tasty striped bass served with roasted Brussels sprouts; lean, juicy bison from Asheville, cooked a perfect medium-rare. Homemade ice cream and decadent molten chocolate cake conclude our amazing meal.  

After dinner we walk up to the silo-shaped observatory at the end of the main lodge for our Tour of the Universe. Families and couples gather in the circular room as Scott Martin, Primland’s director of astronomy, starts the program. Video monitors placed in the room’s center depict what the telescope sees, and we watch in awe as Scott shows us the Orion Nebula, the star of Sirius, the Pleiades, Crab Nebula, and a globular cluster. The program is very relaxed and informative. “What’s a quasar?” someone asks, and Scott launches in to an enthusiastic explanation. (Quasars are galactic nuclei, in case you wanted to know!)

So why an observatory at Primland? “It’s one of the prettiest places in the Eastern U.S. for stargazing,” Scott says. Its remote location also means there’s very little light pollution, he continues, so observers can see many stars and planets—even with the naked eye. I peer up through the roof opening, and the stars seem to wink at me from outer space.

Stargazing is part of the charm of staying in one of the resort’s three tree houses, each one clinging to the edge of a precipice, overlooking a scenic valley. The tree houses feature large decks and offers stellar mountain views during the day as well as awesome stargazing at night. The rustic look of the cabins belies the luxurious décor inside—think over-the-top glamping. Guests can order room service and enjoy a romantic cande-lit dinner under the stars. As you might imagine, the cabins are popular for honeymooners. In fact, Primland is a perfect venue for weddings, especially wedding parties who want to combine nuptials with outdoor adventures. 

Peter and I can’t wait to experience some of the resort’s activities, which include hiking, ATV tours, fly fishing, clay shooting, horseback riding, and more. We try the resort’s geocaching activity, which takes us down pristine trails past babbling brooks. Around every corner it seems another majestic view awaits. We have fun hunting down the caches and learning about the resort’s indigenous flora and fauna along the way.

Golf is a big attraction at Primland. The Highland course features a compelling design that follows the natural contours of the mountain landscape and offers sweeping views at every hole. Designed by Daniel Steele, the course has been rated a “top ten” by Travel + Leisure Golf and received numerous other accolades. 

An ATV tour is the ideal way to explore Primland’s wide open spaces. After Peter and I listen to a brief orientation, our guide hops in her vehicle and says, “Follow me!” We climb into our ATVs and careen through the woods, up and down dirt roads, through muddy puddles. It’s a thrilling, albeit bumpy, way to experience the outdoors and get a close-up look at the vastness of this beautiful resort.

Next we try clay shooting. I have to admit it’s the first time I’ve ever shot a gun, so I’m sure I won’t break any records on the mile-long course. Our guide patiently instructs me on the use of the 20-gauge shotgun she has chosen. Then with the butt of the gun nestled against my collarbone, I squinch my left eye closed and line up the little bead at the end of the barrel and say, “Pull!” It takes me a few misses before I get a hit, and I’m proud of my accomplishment. 

Shooting the gun isn’t as scary as I thought it would be, although it takes me a little while to get used to the kick. Peter does much better at hitting the clays, and I’m happy to watch him enjoy himself. We work up quite an appetite after our adventures and relish a delicious beef brisket sandwich at the Woodland Grill next to the Primland’s Outfitters Shop 

Now it’s time for some pampering. The Spa at Primland offers a wide range of revitalizing services, many of which are inspired by Native American beliefs and legends. In fact, Native Americans consulted with the resort when the spa was created, sharing their knowledge of local herbs. The result is a spa that connects you to something elemental—the spirit of the mountains.

I enjoy Primland’s signature massage, which uses special movements and manipulations designed to provide a subliminal experience that takes me into another place. I feel myself traveling across time and space, perhaps back hundreds of years when this land was known only to the Natives Americans, who lived in harmony with the mountains, the animals, the plants, and the stars.

As my therapist rings a series of bells signaling the end of my massage, I pause and reflect on what Primland is all about. It’s a place where you can leave behind the busy highway of life and return to the peaceful rhythms of nature and, in turn, yourself. 

For additional information, visit