Like the White House transported south, this resort is a vision of stately columns, breezy verandas, and gardens so well-coiffed they put Jennifer Aniston to shame. Which may come as a surprise to those who tend to associate the neighbouring Allegheny mountains as redneck territory. Yet this bucolic patch of countryside has been playing host to the holidaying élite for at least 200 years. The equivalent of the UK's Victorian spa towns, West Virginia's springs became the boltholes of choice for wealthy urbanites seeking fresh air and eggy water to cure their internal strife. While other resorts have fallen by the wayside, the Greenbrier is still way up there, soothing the most glamorous of frazzled brows and offering one of America's prime networking opportunities.
The history. The spa still hauls in a large crowd but so, too, does the by now not-so-secret bunker built beneath the hotel in the 1950s for the emergency use of the US government.
The comfort factor
Though grand in size as well as style, the 800-odd bedrooms and suites have a homeliness about them. All boast the usual luxury amenities, but this is no characterless corporate monster. Each room is individually designed (the hotel was redecorated by interiors whizz, Dorothy Draper, in the 1940s and retains the look today with bright, chintz prints and quirky-but-elegant furniture). There are also around 100 fully serviced cottages, houses and apartments dotted through the grounds.
All are en-suite and come with cosy towelling robes. Not one for cosmetics junkies, though; the resort recently gave up Neutrogena toiletries in favour of nondescript own-label products.
The food and drink
There are several cafés, bars and restaurants. While the food (and drink) are good, finding some atmosphere can be a little harder. Unless your idea of the perfect evening is hanging out in the bar of a cross-channel ferry, definitely give "Slammin' Sammy's" sports lounge a wide berth.
Pearls. Jumpers tied over shoulders. Velvet headbands. Navy blazers. The Greenbrier is good on traditional but not so good on cool, and neither are its guests. If this was an out-of-town episode of Sex and the City, it would be Charlotte and Trey booking in rather than Carrie and Mr Big.
Unless you're an American history buff there aren't a lot of specific attractions in the immediate vicinity. West Virginia is an outdoorsy place and hiking and kayaking are the big thing. Most guests hardly venture out, though, with cookery classes, horse riding, golf (there are several courses and a golf academy), an eight-lane bowling alley, indoor and outdoor pools and a 300-seat cinema all available on site.
Wheelchair accessible. The family friendliness extends to tailored activity packages for children of different ages but, in keeping with a place that demands stuffy dress codes, children are less welcome in public areas in the evening.
Doubles start at US$474 (£250) per night, half-board.
The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia (00 1 304 536 1110; www.greenbrier.com).Reuse content