An iconic new luxury equestrian destination in Middleburg, Va., is unveiled.
Originally published Fall 2013

This month, in the historic town of Middleburg and the heart of Virginia’s famed horse and wine country, equestrian travelers will delight in the debut of one of the most anticipated hotel openings of the year after almost a decade in the making. With a full-service equestrian center and an array of programming that includes riding instruction and clinics from the area’s world-class riders, Salamander Resort & Spa combines the region’s geographic culture and equestrian history with unparalleled luxury accommodations and amenities. A vision of Sheila C. Johnson, the luxurious property features a comprehensive collection of equestrian, spa, culinary, winery, nature, and historic experiences.

CEO Sheila C. Johnson in the garden.

Johnson has long been a powerful influence in the entertainment industry, starting with her work as founding partner of Black Entertainment Television (BET). She is the only African-American woman to have ownership in three professional sports teams, including the NBA Washington Wizards, the NHL Washington Capitals, and the WNBA Washington Mystics. She is a businesswoman, film producer, accomplished violinist, and much more. In 2005, Johnson founded Salamander Hotels & Resorts and now oversees a growing portfolio of luxury properties. Salamander is her special love.

“From the moment I stepped foot on this serene land 10 years ago, I fell in love with it and envisaged creating an iconic retreat—one where guests would enjoy life-changing experiences complemented with exceptional service,” said Johnson. “I am extraordinarily proud of what we have created. It will serve several purposes to many, including a gathering point for the community, a political retreat for Washington, D.C., and an exciting new destination for travelers from all over the world.”

Salamander is set in horse country, 35 minutes from Washington Dulles Airport.

Located on 340 picturesque acres, the property was designed to blend into the surrounding rolling countryside and to reflect the traditions of Johnson’s own nearby Virginia farm. The resort features 168 luxurious, spacious rooms and suites starting at an expansive 545 square feet. Many include a working fireplace, and all feature a gracious balcony or terrace. The largest of the resort’s 17 suites is a spectacular 2,000-square-foot Owner’s Suite filled with numerous antiques and collectables from Johnson’s personal collection.

All guestrooms feature scenic views of the rolling Virginia countryside, an executive desk, a separate seating and dining area, a 40-inch flat panel television, a mini-bar and refrigerator, in-room safe, wireless internet,  a beautification area, and a beautiful bathroom featuring a pedestal tub, experiential shower and dual, marble vanities.

Just a short trot from the property’s 22-stall stable and riding ring are miles of trails where riders can easily spend a full day. Equine enthusiasts even have the opportunity to bring and board their own horses when they visit. Using the resort as a base, there are endless ways to experience Virginia’s horse country – from attending steeplechase races to world-class show jumping events.

The stables offer a 22-stall barn and riding arena with ThorTurf footing, as well as acres of surrounding paddocks and miles of meandering bridle paths and trails through the woods and meadows.

In addition to the top-notch equestrian facility, Salamander boasts an exceptional array of amenities, including a culinary program overseen by award-winning chef Todd Gray of the Equinox in Washington, D.C. The synergy between his classical training in Italy’s Piedmont region and his upbringing in the Virginia Piedmont is the culinary theme of the on-site restaurant, Harrimans. More than 50 nearby wineries produce award-winning varietals that rival those of California’s noted regions and may be enjoyed at the resort’s wine bar.

The Salamander Spa features 14 spacious treatment rooms with private stone treatment terraces and fireplaces, and a locker room with extraordinary whirlpools, steam rooms, heated stone loungers, and experiential showers. The Spa also features a tranquil outdoor courtyard with an infinity pool, private cabanas, whirlpool, fire pit, and a café.

Beyond the spa, the resort encourages wellness with an array of outdoor activities besides riding, including an ecologically oriented tree-top canopy tour with aerial walkways and viewing platforms. Falconry, local tours, an outdoor pool, tennis courts, and a Jack Nicklaus signature golf experience at nearby Creighton Farms Estates are at the fingertips of Salamander guests.

Of course, there’s also the Salamander’s home town, Middleburg. Many people, upon discovering the area, are reminded of the English countryside, with stone walls winding through lush fields. Middleburg is famous for its fine estates, exquisite stables, and the oldest horse show in America, the Upperville Colt and Horse Show.