Primland Resort by Ryan Stalvey

July 11, 2017 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ SCA Articles

Primland Resort by Ryan Stalvey

Some might consider it an odd thing, but I must admit I feel a tad inadequate, naked if you will, to take a walk in the country without a rod, or gun, or golf club for that matter. Come to think of it, for as far back as I can remember I have always been casting, shooting, or hitting at something.

Although my wife, Nicole, is very accommodating to my woodsy whims, big game hunting for her is bagging a Michael Kors autumn-inspired pocketbook at 30 percent off the sales price. While my two daughters certainly received their pretty looks via my wife’s beautiful genes, they got their passion for wild spaces from me. And, ever since they were old enough to tag along, I have taken them on one outdoor adventure after another.

It was on one of these excursions, when they were little girls, that we happened across a praying mantis. He was a dandy, an exquisite Stagmomantis carolina. My oldest, Parker, thought the Brownie Scout thing to do would be to give this fellow a good home. So we did. She named him Mantar, and long story short, the crazy thing actually became somewhat of a pet. Whenever you’d walk into her room he’d tap on the side of the terrarium with his claws, watch you with those big bubble eyes, and wait for Parker to take him out and hand-feed him crickets. Yes, it was all a bit creepy. And somehow, Nicole, who had built up a tolerance to taxidermy, wet dogs, and muddy boots, accepted this as par for the course.

Well, the life expectancy of insects is generally quite short, and eventually, one afternoon after school we came in to find him dead. The girls were brokenhearted at the loss of their little friend, so we decided a proper burial was in order. They procured one of my wooden cigar boxes and filled it with a bed of freshly picked wildflowers. Then we located the perfect sticks from an old orchard and fashioned them together into a cross using the most perfect honeysuckle vines, and gathered the perfect stones from a nearby creek to help brace it up. The whole undertaking spanned a couple of hours. Lastly, I said a few parting words as the girls gazed sadly at the grave. Just then, Ella, of whom I often refer to as the baby, tugged at my sleeve.

“Dad?” she sheepishly asked.

“Yep, kiddo?” I replied.

“Lets bury him again.”

It was one of the most adorable things I had ever heard.

Now much older, they’ve become young ladies. Parker is heading off to college in a couple of years, and the baby is almost a teenager. Their freckled faces have faded and that wide-eyed wonderment for the world has passed. Bugs have been replaced by boys, who’ll soon, come before dear ol’ dad as well. They grow up far too fast.

It’s a sobering thought.

So when Steve Helms. vice president of Primland Resort, sent out the invite for a writer to come and partake in the Primland family experience, we loaded the car with our golf clubs and guns and headed for the hills to see how much fun we could cram into two days.

There’s an old saying, “Sometimes you have to get lost in order to find yourself.” To describe the location of Primland as off the beaten path would be putting it mildly and without the aid of my GPS, I would likely have disappeared in the mountains forever. However, we eventually passed through the sleepy community known as Meadows of Dan, and the North Gate to the property soon followed.

The estate itself is an expanse covering some 12,000 acres, a parcel just shy of the size of Bermuda. From the entrance to the main lodge is a scenic six miles, with breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains most of the twisting and winding way. Then at last, the pinnacle of the property—the spectacular lodge. Reminiscent of an alpine ski chalet, the 72,000-square-foot lodge is the quintessence of grandeur and sophistication.

Primland originally served as the private, rustic playground for French tycoon and sportsman Didier Primat and his family. Primat died in 2008 and is survived by his wife and eight children. Ultimately, his vision for Primland was that it be enjoyed by sportsmen from around the world and serve as a testament to environmental consciousness and natural beauty. A vision that has indeed staved the course.

Upon arriving, we were greeted by our lovely hostess, Diana Dixon, who had devised a splendid itinerary for us and after a brief introduction and tour of the lodge, we settled into our accommodations at Flying Squirrel, one of Primland’s many mountain homes.

With names like Black Bear, Cottontail, Otter, and Red Fox to name a few, each mountain home is special in its own way, all perched atop ridges and tucked into hillsides to provide spectacular views from any opened door.

Flying Squirrel is one of Primland’s two newest mountain homes. Most distinctive is the house’s 13-sided frame constructed of reclaimed wood. Below a dramatic, circular ceiling are the bedrooms, a spacious living room, and full kitchen, as well as two bathrooms featuring the finest imported European glass mosaic tile. A wrap-around deck capitalizes on the unique shape, affording 360-degree views of the secluded woodland setting—altogether the ideal atmosphere for escaping the everyday and reflecting on nature.

We did a quick run-through of our quarters, then hurried off to the outdoor recreation facilities to prepare for a pheasant hunt.

Waiting for us and wasting no time getting down to business was Outdoor Activities Director Carl McDaniel. After a video presentation on hunting and gun safety by Sporting Classics’ own Doug Painter, we loaded for battle and disembarked for the hunting grounds.

A staunch point soon followed, and as three pheasants flushed from the lush cover, our over-and-unders shouted a commencement—the game was afoot.

While quail and chukar offer additional hunting opportunities, pheasant hunting is Primland’s specialty. Ringnecks can be pursued by the point-and-flush approach or within a European-style driven shoot. Regardless of the method, the big roosters, with their cackling rises and brilliant coloring, provide a thrill for young shooters that Gentleman Bob just can’t contest.

The afternoon ensued with superb dog-work and flighty birds, each catapulting into a tapestry of reds and golds in a scene worthy of Lassell Ripley’s best. Smiles abounded, and as the game bags grew heavy and the dogs tired, we retreated for dinner, leaving behind the last of the autumn stubble gleaming in the golden light.

With dining, like every other part of the Primland experience, no detail is spared. From the freshness of the food sourced locally or grown in organic gardens to the attention given to each guest—the end results are enjoyable, and beautifully displayed, delicious meals.

There are three dining spots at Primland. Elements is the refined dining room located on the main floor of the lodge. It evokes the elements of air, water, fire, and earth while celebrating this theme with elegant, inspired dishes. An expansive, hand-selected wine collection accentuates the dining experience, promising the perfect wine to complement the meal, for even the most discerning wine connoisseur.

The 19th Pub, also in the lodge, is the quintessential golfer’s tavern. The lively bar is well stocked with draught beers, single malts, and traditional cocktails. Hearty fare includes appetizers, salads, sandwiches, and entrées that change seasonally.

Perhaps of all the food we sampled at Primland, Nicole and the girls enjoyed the Pig Candy the most. Pig Candy is a local delicacy consisting of thickly sliced bacon brushed with maple syrup and encrusted with raw sugar and cayenne pepper. Very tasty. Other local fare includes the moonshine cocktails, which hark back to the region’s rich bootlegging history. According to the barkeep, it’ll sting your throat, burn your belly, then melt into liquid gold, or so they say. There is also a mixologist on hand to blend specialty flavors.

That night we dined at the Stables Saloon, a rustic and remote setting built atop the former stables. The buffet was set with a Southern-style smorgasbord, including homey comforts like fried green tomatoes, fried fish, and collard greens—the perfect respite following an afternoon of hard hunting.

After a meal-polishing indulgence of chocolate delight, we withdrew to find the night had slipped over the mountains like a black silk stocking flashed with spangles. So with stomachs full, we gathered back at the observatory dome, which sits atop the corner of the lodge for an evening of stargazing.

The Celestron CGE Pro 1400 series telescope gave us extraordinary glimpses into the outer reaches of our solar system and beyond. We marveled at the constellations and planets, admiring galaxies and nebulae before retiring to Flying Squirrel, sending the girls off to sleep, and dreams of skyrocketing pheasants and shooting stars.

In the early twilight of dawn, the mountains were dappled with the beginning shadows of the day. Pulling out from our drive, a fat spike buck fled from a laurel grove and ran parallel to the road, dodging through flares of morning light before bounding over a ridge. It was the perfect start to our day, one which was to be spent on Primland’s acclaimed golf course, and we were looking forward to our tee time with Head Golf Professional Brian Alley.

At its inception, the golf course was a long shot. “You can’t build a golf course at the top of a mountain,” was the general consensus, and several prestigious architects passed on the project, citing the logistical concerns, before Donald Steel, renowned for his modification efforts at St. Andrews, accepted the task.

“When I first saw Primland, it reminded me of the highlands of Scotland. I knew this was the perfect spot for a truly exceptional course.” And with that, the rest, as they say, is history. Steel’s world-class Highlands creation serves as the pièce de résistance in his outstanding portfolio.

While we enjoy wetting a line, the majority of our warm weather pursuits finds us chasing birdies of the dimpled variety. And both of my girls, who have been swinging a golf club since waddling from the crib, have blossomed into fine junior golfers. But how tough can two piddly winks be? Brian is a pro, so, having played little golf myself of late, I teamed up with him to even the odds, and after a bit of trash talking, we teed it up for some friendly competition, which, was no simple undertaking. In fact, it took all we, or rather Brian had, to hold the girls off. Then in true dramatic fashion, just when we thought we were about to finish two up with one to go, Ella, the baby, matched birdies with the pro and we headed to the last dormie.

There really is no bad view on the Highlands. It is picturesque at every turn as the course sweeps along the outer edges of the plateau. The compelling layout, verdant fairways, and speedy greens test the mettle of the best of players, with each awesome view serving as a pleasing distraction.

There’s something about the mountains that mixes well with the midday sunlight.

In autumn the cascading, tree-lined ridges cast glints of bronze and gold as they sway in the breeze. Beyond the cliffs, the shadowy chasms make sunlight on the exposed ridges look so warm that it’s easy to forget the altitude and underestimate the nip in the air.

But it had been an extremely blustery day, and by now the full sweep of the chilly winds was battering us from the mountain edges. On 18, Brian steadied himself against the wind with a widened stance, eyed our winning putt like a fat chef eyeing a pastry, and when it fell from 20 feet we happily accepted a tie on the hole and the one-up win.

The girls had given us a heck of a fight, so we shook hands and withdrew from the cold, and revisited the pub to pep them up with a couple orders of Pig Candy and hot chocolate.

That evening, as the girls and I explored the lodge and surroundings, Nicole went for her much-anticipated appointment at the spa for a Native American-themed healing treatment. Inspired by the healing powers of nature and Native American history of the region, the treatments are based on the concept of the Native American medicine wheel and are intended to work in line with the energies in nature, turning, as do the seasons, in an ongoing cycle, bringing introspection and awakening the whole self.

While we waited, the girls and I warmed around the great fireplace, roasting marshmallows and making smores. A hostess came over for a chat. She was an Aunt Bee-type local, with a Southern drawl, sweeter than the Pig Candy and smores. In fact, the entire staff was as friendly and hospitable as any group I have had the opportunity to be around.

“Many of us are locals,” she said. “It’s a dream come true to work at a wonderful place like this. We all feel like it’s part of our home.”

That’s the brilliance of Primland. To say Primland is a contradiction would be an understatement. In fact, it is the perfect combination of opposing concepts. It’s an oasis in the middle of nowhere, intimate but gigantic, rustic and natural while still luxurious and ultra-modern, quaint and homey, yet sophisticated and refined.

By the time Nicole finished up at the spa night had once again stolen the color from the day, so we returned to our lodging with sticky fingers and loosened muscles.

Our final morning was spent at the outdoor activities facility. We threw tomahawks and shot arrows at the bow range before off-roading in RTVs. There was plenty of dust and mud and one amazing lookout after another as we took in panoramic views from the mountain trails.

As the midday sun made its turn toward evening, our stay had all too abruptly come to an end. In this fast-paced society of deadlines and appointments, it’s important to every so often slow things down a bit and spend time with those who mean the most to you. From high atop the crow’s nest that is Primland, you get the feeling you can almost see the entire world. As I reflect back on the time shared with my wonderful daughters and lovely wife chasing birds and birdies and sport among the majestic mountains, I believe that maybe, just maybe, I have.

As advised by the staff, we took a more direct route for home via the South Gate. Along the way we passed through Mount Airy, North Carolina, the town that was the inspiration for Mayberry in the beloved 1960s sitcom, The Andy Griffith Show. We did some window shopping, took a peak at Andy’s old patrol cruiser, grabbed a malt at Barney’s cafe, and ventured back to the busy track that is I-77 South.

The sun set low in the western sky and the car was filled with an orange glow. Nicole nodded off behind her sunglasses. I assumed the same of the backseat passengers.

Then a sleepy and inquisitive voice from the rear asked.


“Yep, kiddo?” I replied.

“Lets do this again every year.”