Stay & Play at Primland in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Most great golf resorts have a fantastic course or two, innovative restaurants, an excellent spa, and a host of other activities. But how many resorts boast their own observatory dome for stargazing?

Primland does. Its mountaintop location in southwest Virginia, far away from any light pollution, proved the perfect spot for a 14-inch Celestron computerized telescope to offer extraordinary views of planets, stars, and celestial bodies as far as 27 million light years away. In the observatory, located in a silo-like addition off the main lodge, resident astronomers program the telescope as the viewing door retracts and the dome rotates. Seconds later, the Orion Nebula appears on a half-dozen HDTVs and wows the guests seated against the wall.

Images of the universe are something to behold, but they’re far from the only heavenly sights at Primland. The golf course, fly fishing, hunting, and other natural pursuits are out-of-this-world, as well. And the indoor activities—like the variety of elegantly simple accommodations, the farm-fresh restaurants, and European spa—aren’t bad, either.

Designed by English architect Donald Steel, the 7,053-yard Highland course sits on top of the mountain landscape without the extreme elevation changes typically found on an alpine layout. It does offer the great views that mountain courses are known for, in this case of the Dan River Gorge. There are five par fives and five par threes, with four of the one-shotters requiring carries over ravines.

It’s important to drive the ball well to post a good score, particularly on the longer back side, which plays about two strokes tougher. The big, undulating greens with closely mown surrounds also can prove challenging. The course maintenance is also very special, relying on ecologically responsible practices and the use of organic fertilizers and bio-filters.

This commitment to the land also protects the trout streams and rivers, which is very smart given Primland’s fantastic fly fishing. The six-mile stretch of the ultra-scenic Dan River adjacent to the resort offers guided access to beautiful, clear waters with wild brown, brook, and rainbow trout. There are also three stocked ponds on property where you can drop rather than cast a line in hopes of catching trout, bass, and channel catfish. Rental equipment and bait are available at the resort’s outfitters shop.

Hunting is another mainstay of the outdoor activity program, particularly pheasant shoots from November through March. They feature six to nine gun lines with three morning and three afternoon drives across the ravines of the vast woodlands, each unique and challenging, like the Lime Pile Drive, which presents pheasants that shooters can see while approaching from a high-top ridge

Not surprisingly, game birds and fish figure in the cuisine at the resort’s main restaurant, Elements, which uses local and organic ingredients. There’s also a great selection of moonshine, another “local” favorite. For more casual dining, try the 19th Hole Pub, which serves a signature appetizer called “Pig Candy,” maple and cayenne-infused bacon that is absolutely addictive.

The boutique cedar and stone lodge has 26 guestrooms and suites with a restrained but modern European chic décor. Other lodging options include new two-story chalet-like cottages overlooking the gorge, 11 mountain homes, and three unique “tree houses”:  Perched on the mountain’s edge and built around sturdy tree-top branches, the rustic cabins offer bird’s eye views of the Kibler Valley and the North Carolina Piedmont. With relatively few rooms to choose from, the resort never feels crowded, and even less so amidst the vast outdoors that surrounds it.

Primland is remote—the closest commercial airports, Greensboro, N.C., or Roanoke, are an hour and a half away—but it’s well worth the trek. Its appeal, you might say, is universal.