Airlie – Virginia’s Stunning Resort And Seeds of Earth Day
Until two years ago, Airlie, a 150-room resort on 300 landscaped acres in Warrenton, Virginia, was strictly a Conference Center. Recently, however, owners decided to upgrade rooms and open this beautiful place to leisure travelers.
A Historic Hotel of America, Arlie’s centerpiece is the 1899 Manor House, owned by Harry Connolly Groome, a wealthy Warrenton fixture in the early 1900’s who traveled to Scotland, fell in love with golf and named his home after a Scottish castle.
Ironically, Groome never built a golf course on his property. And neither did the next owner, Dr. Murdock Head, a doctor, dentist, lawyer, and professor at George Washington University in Washington DC, who purchased the mansion and grounds in 1956.
In 1961, Head turned Airlie into an oasis – a neutral location absent of city distractions – where progressive organizations and government big wigs could meet. Coined “An Island of Thought,” Airlie’s first conference, “The Challenge for the Minds of Men” focused on the country’s religious heritage. It set the standard for meetings to come.
Most significantly, in 1969, Senator Gaylord Nelson announced his plans for Earth Day at Airlie.
Over the years, Airlie has hosted environmental, gay rights, world health, women’s, and other, mostly non-profit, groups and organizations. Though Airlie still serves as a Conference Center, it’s improved its level of cuisine and added leisure travel offerings.
First Impressions of Airlie
Rolling hills, stone walls, spring buds starting to bloom and undulating backcountry roads: you may find yourself wondering if you’ve stumbled into some kind of fairyland idyll.
Drive on and look for the signs. Pull in to the long drive and take a deep breath. It’s truly beautiful here.
Rooms are set inside cottages and buildings clustered around the property. The main building, a grand yellow Georgian colonial, houses a small reception desk and restaurant space. Hidden from the foyer are a series of large, bright conference rooms.
Across from the mansion, discover a somewhat secret Butterfly Garden accessed through an arched stone gate. It’s no surprise that more and more weddings are being booked here.
Check-in is personalized and friendly, with a warm greeting, a map and explanation of the property and activities. I stayed in the Lake Cottage – a quick walk uphill. Utterly charming, it was like a home in the English countryside.
Rooms at Airlie Resort
My cottage featured a barn-cute den and kitchen area shared by two other bedrooms. Each guest room has been for the most part updated, country charming and cozy.
Other buildings and lodges have distinct room décor – and all have been updated to luxury standards with modern amenities.
Dining at Airlie
This is where Airlie shines, and if you haven’t been here, or it’s been awhile, you may be surprised by the sophistication of the cuisine. Many of the ingredients used by chefs here are sourced from Airlie’s organic garden.
During its conference-center only period, Airlie placed the meeting experience before food. Now, it offers some of the freshest, most delicious and beautifully plated food to ever emerge from a kitchen. Anywhere.
Both the newly renovated and built Harry’s, and buffet-style Arlie Dining Room serve dishes created from hyper-locally sourced greens and meats.
In a separate building, the Irish-style pub “can be raging one night and quiet the next.” It’s a few minutes walk from the Main House in a building that houses the billiards and game room, complete with foosball, Wi, and Karaoke machine.
Amenities and Things to Do at Airlie
In addition to the game and billiards room, there’s a state of the art fitness center with treadmills, elliptical machines weights and balls. And outside, fine fire pits (pick up a s’mores kit at the desk), pool, tennis courts, skeet shooting, and even an archery range. Use of bikes on the property costs nothing.
Just the Facts
Rooms from $69 include use of resort amenities, wi-fi, loaner bikes, parking. Packages, from $335, include breakfast.