Visiting Salamander Resort & Spa in Virginia Hunt Country

A mother and daughter equestrian pair spend the weekend at a luxury Virginia Hunt Country retreat, enjoying horseback riding and the Spa.

by Caroline Maffry

Read Part 1- A Luxury Equestrian Vacation at Salamander Resort & Spa, Virginia
Read Part 3 - Insider’s Tour with Farm to Table Dining at Salamander Resort


As we made our way to the main entrance, we were welcomed by smiling faces and staff outfitted in equestrian attire–– a lovely touch that most would not necessarily notice, but to us equestrians, it was appreciated. Nothing was overlooked from hunt coats and breeches to boots and gloves. My daughter was impressed that the ladies were wearing wrap collared show shirts, properly named rat catchers.

As we entered the grand foyer, the reception area was not where you might expect it to be located. It seems that Salamander was looking to achieve the feeling of arriving at a private residence, rather than a guest facility, so the grand living room welcomes you before you head to the reception. In fact, we were told later in the evening that the resort’s entrance and façade was modeled after the private residence of the owner and inspiration for the Salamander Resort & Spa, Sheila Johnson.

salamander living room

The resort features a spectacular living room, which is the first space a guest encounters upon entering. Photo credit Justin Kriel.

Every effort to make you feel like you are “coming home” has been achieved. We were welcomed by name, a personal touch that is a benchmark throughout the resort–– a well thought out touch and one not as common in the hotel industry these days as you would think. We were also presented with personal letters of welcome from the concierge, stating that should we need anything that they were at our disposal. The feeling of relaxation instantly washed over us. The hallways were lined with artwork and photographs worth stopping to admire, unlike the generic hotel art we all have experienced. We found our room by following the numbered plaques in the shape of riding helmets marking the doors down the hallway and as we reached for our key cards to enter our room, not even was this element overlooked, as the cards themselves depicted photos of the resort and horses.

salamander grand hallway

The Grand Hallway at Salamander Resort.

The hotel has 168 guest rooms with 17 additional suites. True to its description, the room was spacious and flawlessly appointed with two queen beds dressed in equestrian motif, a fireplace centered beneath the wall mounted flat screen television, luxurious bathroom with a marble shower and a pedestal tub, and enclosed water closet. Placing my bag on the convenient bench at the foot of the bed, I noticed the spread of food neatly laid out on the table for two at the far end of the room. A welcome note personally addressed to me, simply but eloquently said, “A warm welcome to Salamander Resort & Spa.”

salamander room service

An afternoon snack awaiting us in the guest room following our trail ride. Photo by Caroline Maffry.

salamander hotel rooms

A well-appointed guest room at Salamander Resort.

dressage room bathroom

Modern resort amenities in the dressage suite bathroom.

The tasty treats were just what we needed coming in from the equestrian center. We spent an hour or so enjoying our room, the fabulous bathroom and view from our private balcony outwards to the expansive countryside. Below we could also see the rear lawn of the resort that consists of a fire pit lounge and a giant chessboard for guests to enjoy a life-size match. Also on the property are tennis courts, an outdoor pool complex, and nearby walking and bike trails.

salamander farms sunset

View of guest fire pit and countryside from our guest room balcony.

Salamander History and Local Area

Despite only being open a few months, the team at the Salamander is hard at work and dedicated to guests. Efforts to work closely with the town of Middleburg began with Sheila Johnson, CEO of the Resort and a local resident herself. This partnership has ensured that guests and residents can both benefit from the revenue being generated by the resort and local events and activities. With over 400 annual equestrian-related area activities that include polo events, steeplechases, and renowned historic horse shows, horse enthusiasts and travel lovers are in heaven. Resort guests also benefit from exclusive golf privileges at the nearby Jack Nicklaus Signature Course and over 50 Virginia wineries within an hour of the resort. Historic area tours can be arranged in between shopping trips to Middleburg, where old world charm seems to remain preserved.

Some area highlights include the Virginia Tech MARE Center, known recently for developing an exceptional sport horse breeding program. The National Sporting Library and Museum in the center of Middleburg is the largest museum in the country dedicated to preserving and sharing the literature, art and culture of equestrian, angling and field sports. Great Meadow is home to the twice-annual Virginia Gold Cup steeplechase race events. During the summer months, guests of the area may also enjoy an evening of Twilight Polo. Local renowned Horse Shows that are not to be missed include the Washington International Horse Show and the Upperville Colt and Horse Show – America's oldest horseshow.

Salamander Spa- The Rider’s Relief Massage

Welcomed at the Spa Reception once again by name, we were immediately invited to sit in the Spa lounge to fill out the treatment questionnaire. The questionnaires were inside leather cases for our convenience, making it unnecessary to look for something to lean on. As we took a few moments to complete the health questions, the flickering fire in the fireplace and soothing sound of the water fountains that lined the entrance to the Spa started to lull me into a peaceful trance.

 salamander spa

The luxurious spa at Salamander.

salamander spa

The Spa also includes a fitness center including indoor pool, cardio and weight room, movement studios and sauna.

The Spa manager made a point of greeting us and welcoming us to the Spa, further inviting us to relax and truly enjoy the experience. We were given a brief tour of the spa facilities, which feature a vitality whirlpool, aromatic steam rooms, tepidarium chairs, and experiential showers. The Spa’s naturally inspired location is designed to offer a health and wellness journey while balancing the mind and body. After being invited to change into spa robes, we were escorted to the sun-lit relaxation space to await our spa specialist.

salamander spa relaxation

Relaxation areas are filled with natural light at Salamander Spa.

I can truly say that the spa experience was the highlight of our stay. Scheduled to experience the “Rider’s Relief Massage” for two, it was just what we needed after our afternoon out with the horses. Described as a unique treatment ideal for equestrian connoisseurs, the massage focused on releasing our muscle tension. Designed to mobilize the joints in affected areas, this massage lived up to its description and beyond. The couple’s room was complete with a fireplace and our heated massage beds were side by side.

couples massage salamander spa resort

Couples massage room with fireplace. Photo Caroline Maffry.

Each of our spa specialists worked up and down or bodies applying just the desired amount of pressure to relieve the tension. Our spa specialists were equestrians themselves, so there was no need for us to mention the areas that were sore! In fact, there was adequate time spent on our body’s most used riding areas, from our calves and forearms to our hands and lower back. We experienced the 50-minute service, although I would highly recommend the 80-minute option, as we wanted to remain and continue the massage indefinitely. As with any luxury, top-of-the-line massage, be prepared to see top-of-the-line pricing to accompany it, but hands down, it will be the best money you have spent in a while. And, yes, massage services are also available for your equine companion- at the equestrian center of course!

With 14 deluxe treatment rooms, many with private treatment terraces or fireplaces, there is plenty to indulge you. Other massage specialties featured at the Spa include a well being massage designed to relief stress and tension; a lava shell massage for a heated treatment incorporating oils and shells into this unique interaction with nature; a quirogolf massage that incorporates golf balls into the therapeutic treatment; and a couples massage in the couples’ suite complete with fireplace, a patio and garden, whirlpool, and pedestal tub.

Facials and body treatments round out the Spa experience and a full service salon will have you looking your best whether you come for an hour, a full day experience, or as a guest at the Resort.

Read Part 1- A Luxury Equestrian Vacation at Salamander Resort & Spa, Virginia
Read Part 3 - Insider’s Tour with Farm to Table Dining at Salamander Resort


How you can go: Learn more about visiting Salamander Resort & Spa, which is located in Middleburg, Virginia in Virginia Hunt Country and the various programs for equestrians and their horses.