Salamander Resort, a beautiful rural getaway for you and your dog.

by Joseph Grammer

My traveling companion Woody, a 6-year-old German shorthair, leaned his shaggy head out the car window as I wound my way down the gentle curves toward the Salamander Resort and Spa, a 340-acre sprawl filled with wonderful trails and elegant buildings. Pulling up to the front, I was met with a grand portico and a handful of friendly staff. You can opt for a valet if you like, but I chose the self-parking just around the corner and entered the main complex. Keeping Woody on his leash, I made my way past a sumptuous wood-paneled lounge that tempted me to abandon my tasks and just read a book all evening in one of the comfy armchairs. My sister’s dog, however, made sure I didn’t stop and stare for too long.

The hotel room had its own small patio, plus a dog bed and food dishes, as well as a magnificent walk-in bathroom with a huge tub and shower. On the large flat-screen TV were the words “Welcome Mr. Joe Grammer.” After I took Woody on his first walk around the property, I returned to find the housekeeping service had come by and perfectly arranged my belongings on the table and counters, making me seem much neater than I actually am. This was a wonderful touch—and Woody was so content by now that he didn’t even mess it all up by jumping around like a maniac.

Located in the heart of Virginia horse (and wine) country, Salamander is an old-world marvel with modern amenities. If the inclination strikes you, you can zip-line, undergo survivalist training in the woods, or trot around on horseback. There is a charming stable, as well as a wide, well-kept lawn that boasts several firepits at night. And did I mention the spa? There wasn’t time for me to visit, but suffice it to say that Salamander has everything you need to relax, from massages to full-on cleanses.

Later, I had the good fortune to escort Woody on an obstacle course set up on the lawn for Yappy Hour, and the excited pup managed not to injure me while I struggled to keep up. He made friends with some other guests’ pets, including one well-behaved dog named Xena, who happened to have some shorthair in her, too.

Ashli Kimenker, the resort’s marketing director, was kind enough to explain that the property was originally named for a Civil War officer who earned the nickname “Salamander” for his ability to slip across enemy lines. Luckily, you won’t have to watch your step now, because everyone you’ll meet here is helpful, accommodating, and honest—they expertly avoid the formal stiffness that can sometimes creep into such an imposing, colonial estate. It felt like I was surrounded by good friends who happened to dress very fancily. Furthermore, all the staff seemed like genuine dog lovers, and more than once someone would rub Woody’s head, look into his eyes, and just smile, which hopefully made up for the times he peed on various pillars and urns outside.

At night, the grounds are peaceful and almost otherworldly. Woody sniffed around the firepits and tried to stick his head in a bush, but nothing could detract from the sense of calm and serenity I felt, even when he tried to tug me into the hedges after him.

The next day, I was certainly sorry to leave. Woody stared at the resort from the back seat, as if it meant something special to him, too. And maybe it did. After all, where else can a dog get a welcome packet, his own private back porch, and a fleet of happy people scratching behind his ears? ND

Joseph Grammer is Managing Editor for NOVADog Magazine. He lives in Alexandria, VA, but grew up in New Jersey with a bunch of adopted dogs, including a mutt (Blizzard) who he found on the street.

Getting There:

1.5 Hours from DC. 500 North Pendleton Street, Middleburg, VA 20117

Mix and Match: A collection of stops along the way to stretch your legs, soak up some history, and fill your belly.

The British Pantry: On John Mosby Hwy in Aldie, VA. This combination mini-store and café offers all kinds of scones, cakes, and quiche from across the pond. You can even reserve a tea room ahead of time for a much-needed cuppa along the way.

Historic Aldie: Also on John Mosby. This village boasts a history stretching back to the early 1800s, when it had a special position for trading thanks to its nook in the Bull Run Mountains. During the Civil War, a skirmish took place here at the start of the Gettysburg Campaign. There’s a 19th-century mill you can visit (which still works), plus a few other historical spots.

Brassicas Farm Fresh Market and Cafe: This peaceful-looking restaurant was started by a former bartender from Rocket Bar in DC, but it’s definitely all about the countryside here. Local ingredients and even gluten-free options will satisfy anyone who enters this calm little culinary abode. 39333 John Mosby Highway, Aldie, VA

50 West Vineyard: Want to drink Bordeaux-style wine while watching the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia? Come here and feel your cares slip away. (John Mosby Highway.)

Middleburg: The town itself is mostly dog-friendly, and many stores have water bowls sitting outside. You can see people eating dinner outside with their dogs nearby, which is a comforting sight. Walk around and explore!

Top Nearby Hike: Salamander offers a variety of trails right on the property. They range from easy self-guided jaunts of under a mile to more strenuous adventures—you can rent a guide as well for a fee! The routes are color-coded on all the maps, so you can be sure your pup and you are heading in the right direction. Try the 2.5-mile Southern Red Oak trail for a long but unchallenging walk with your dog.

The Details:

Your dog is free to go most places with you at Salamander. They are certainly allowed in your dog-friendly hotel room; just not in the lounge, bar, or Harrimans restaurant (although you can enjoy a dinner outside on the Gold Cup terrace with your four-legged friend). Dogs can roam outside throughout the entire property, except for the pool, and most likely the ziplines. The resort can supply dog beds for a fee, as well as food and water bowls (plus a treat!). There are no ATMs on the premises and no on-site source of dog food. However, Wylie Wagg is right in town and offers dry, canned, and raw foods for your pooch. The nearest human grocery store is the Safeway less than a mile off, about a 5-minute drive: 12 West Washington Street, Middleburg, VA.
Overnight Valet Parking – $18
Daily Valet Parking – $5
Self-Parking is available
$29 per day resort fee: includes area transportation, internet access, fitness center access, and more.
Check-In: 4:00 p.m.
Check-Out: 11:00 a.m.