SPA TRAVEL: Nemacolin Woodlands Spa and Golf Resort, Laurel Highland Mountains, Western PA USA

Updated: Jan 25, 2020

Intrigued by the return of British Airway's direct flight London to Pittsburgh, USA, I used my annual 'Sister's Week' get together as an excuse to try out the flight. The plane for my flight was new and clean, the staff friendly the flight was easy. And not have to take a connecting flight is always a positive!

When I was young woman, I worked in the land of Arnold Palmer and Rolling Rock beer; Latrobe, Pennsylvania. The locals I knew spent a lot of time discussing the joys of Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. As I was a city girl with no desire to hang out in the suburban woods, I brain-banked the name, Nemacolin, and never went.

Louis Comfort Tiffany glass panels at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort

This year, when my sisters and I were planning our sister trip to our home town of Pittsburgh, I stirred up that old grey matter and suggested a planned escape to the Woodlands Spa at Nemacolin.

The story of the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort begins in 1740 when Native American Lenape Cheif Nemacolin blazed a trail from Delaware through to the Laurel Highland Mountains. 13 years later, General George Washington followed this route and established Fort Necessity. The ensuing battle was George Washington's first in command, which he lost, and began the French-American War.

The road eventually became a major throughway from city to country. This allowed the newly rich steel magnates a quick getaway from the city smog.

In 1968, Pittsburgh industrialist Willard Rockwell bought a 400 acres in Farmington and established the private game reserve, Nemacolin Trails Hunting Reserve. The Rockwells built a hunting range, golf course and airstrip. They soon added Lakes Louise and Carol and developed Beaver Creek developed into a stocked trout fishing stream. By September 1970, the Lodge opened to the public under the name Nemacolin Inn.

Joseph A. Hardy III, founder of the 84 Lumber Company, bought Nemacolin at an auction in 1987 and reopened the complex as an upscale hotel and resort. In the following years, the Hardy's expanded the property to encompass over 2000 acres.

The Lodge, Chateau Lafayette and Falling Rock-photos borrowed from Nemacolin

The Chateau Lafayette takes it inspiration from the Paris Ritz. While the lobby is opulent, I enjoyed the tea room and it's adjacent bar. This conservatory room is pretty and light and home to a collection of Red Factor Canaries.

Nemacolin's boutique hotel, Falling Rock, has AAA Five Diamond status and inclusion in the 2018/2019 Forbes travel guide for Luxury Hotels. This hotel is set within the fairways of two USGA rated golf courses, and boasts sweeping mountain views.

The three hotels house the Hardy family art collection of over 1000 pieces. Included are three original Toulouse Lautrec posters, showcased in the award-winning restaurant, Lautrec. Nemacolin offers tours of the collection and hosts artists-in-residence from around the country.

-some photos borrowed from the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort website

In addition to Lautrec, there are seven further restaurants including Aqueous at Falling Rock. My personal fave is PJ's, where my sister, Marcia convinced us that ice cream is good for breakfast.

Outdoor activities include pools, a wildlife academy, field club, adventure center, and mini golf. There is a mini-automobile museum and an antique plane hanger featuring a plane once owned by actor Steve McQueen.

There are two hiking trails in the grounds of the resort. I looked forward to bucolic walks in the mountain air, but these trails were the paved roads leading from one activity to another. This the most disappointed part of my stay.


The Woodlands Spa features 40 well-appointed treatment rooms and a full service salon. The large treatment menu delivers everything from relaxation to rejuvenation in pure luxury. Signature massages are the Woodlands Remineralizing Shirodara, Dreamcatcher Massage and Woodlands Ritual Facial.

With a booked massage, guests have full use of the spa facilities for the day. These include a lovely heated pool, jacuzzi, sauna and steam. A large relaxation room boasts relaxing fireplaces, loungers and yummy nibbles. This also being a day spa meant our beautiful niece, Brynn, was able to join our 'Sister Week' spa antics for the day.

Near Falling Rock is the Holistic Healing Center. It has four treatment rooms, a meditation room and a juice bar. Here they offer treatments dedicated to finding life balance and wellness. They also host wellness retreats and events.

Nemacolin is a big resort with a lot going on. Some parts of the resort are oddly juxtaposed, and I found certain things a bit pricey for it's Western Pennsylvania location.

But it is a good place for visitors looking to enjoy a wide range of activities, rated golf and a great spa. The resort and surroundings are beautiful, the service is very friendly and the cocktails delicious.

The best part 'Sister Week' for me is the spending time with my sisters part. We could do this anywhere, but it was nice this year to meet so close to home, at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.

The cocktails part of Sister Week is also pretty good....

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About Us


Fearing the empty nest? Don't! Since my children have flown the coup, I have had time to refocus on my passions of travel, art, and writing.  This little blog is a handy tool that helps me share what I have learned with others.


I grew up in the States, but have lived a large chunk of my adult life in the UK. I now split my time between London and South Africa as well as chasing the sun around the world. 


 When my nest emptied, I began to plan my trips according to my own schedule, indulging in going solo. Once one gets used to traveling solo, it can be a very freeing experience. I seek out interesting, informative and unique experiences, and proffer advice with my network of readers.  I also have a lot of fun!


 Spa retreats and personal growth travel are core to what I do.  If there was a master's degree in the art of booking massages, I would be a scholarship student! I also plan to conquer Europe one city break at a time and with all that effort, I need as many beach holidays as possible. 


So please enjoy reading my tales of travel. I hope you are encouraged to get on that plane and perhaps have a few giggles along the way.


When my large family was quite young, we lived in several international postings. In an age before Google Translate,  I negotiated the grocery stores of foreign countries in search of tasty ingredients. I soon became an expert at discerning information from food labels and also learned to cook healthy, quick meals from local sources. 


From this experience, I became quite the foodie, even before 'foodie' was a word. And now as an empty-nester and devotee of food travel networks, I  interpret those old recipes into smaller, even tastier versions. 


Being an editor and food/wine travel columnist,  I travel the world sampling indigenous recipes which I share on Old Bag on a Plane. I also love wine!


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As we are all not traveling much, now would be a great time to share favourite travel, wellness, and food stories. We would love to include your best tales on this blog. If you would like to collaborate, please email us here at

Around this time each year, we would create a recap of all our best adventures from the year just passed. As this is 2021, and there were no adventures in 2020, here is a short video montage of all the things we did while we were not doing anything at all.