The 45-mile drive from Washington, D.C., to the quiet equestrian haven of Middleburg, Va., overflows with the sagas of America’s past. Crossing the Potomac River (where General Robert E. Lee’s troops fled after the Battle of Gettysburg), and bypassing signs for Spotsylvania Courthouse (the site of one of the Civil War’s bloodiest battles) and Fredericksburg (where Confederate forces blocked the Union army’s crossing of the Rappahannock River), the region is a living textbook of US history. Set against this verdant backdrop, the new Salamander Resort & Spa is a welcome outlier, offering a charming combination of contemporary design and seamless integration with the region’s storied landscapes.
Opened in August, the 168-room Salamander sits on 340 acres of horse country in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Built by the millionaire Sheila C. Johnson, the resort was indeed a battle of its own, taking nearly a decade to come to fruition. The rambling estate, with its brick gables and columned porches that trace the region’s rich history, resembles a well-preserved manor house with a grand porte cochere and tree-lined entrance.
Inside, Johnson re-created the spaces of her own 100-year-old home, located a few miles down the road. In place of a traditional lobby, guests enter an oversize living room where salon chairs, chaises, and couches are covered in tan leather and rich blue and gray fabrics. In the library, dark wood shelves filled with books line the walls, and throughout, equestrian paintings and country photography can be found.
While the equestrian details verge on quaint (a horse’s silhouette carved into the balcony railings; placards shaped like riding helmets that display guest-room numbers), interiors are refined, with a warm palette of ivory, cocoa, gold, and blue. In the rooms, silk drapes frame the beds, furnished balconies overlook the great lawn, and expansive bathrooms feature marble showers with body jets.
The resort’s 23,000-foot-spa is a highlight, with 14 treatment rooms, vitality whirlpools and steam rooms, an indoor lap pool, and an infinity-edge pool perched on the edge of the forest. Signature treatments include the Rider’s Relief massage (from $150), an 80-minute therapy that soothes the joint pains and muscle tension that follow excursions on horseback; and Rasul (from $90), a Moroccan mud treatment that takes place in a ceramic-domed steam room.
True to the Salamander’s equestrian theme, the resort offers an extensive riding program, preserving more than 250 acres of land for trails and featuring a 22-stall stable. The premise plays out subtly in the property’s eateries as well, from the barn-shaped Harriman’s restaurant, which serves locally sourced cuisine, to the 150-year-old stallion barn turned private dining room. The Washington, D.C.–based chef Todd Gray oversees the culinary offerings, which include a Muscovy duck breast seasoned with thyme from the resort’s garden, and oysters sourced from the historic Rappahannock River. (866.938.7370, www.salamanderresort.com)