Click to enlarge image

For more than 70 years, the Brown family has been offering accommodations to folks venturing into Santa Barbara County. “The original business started around 1932 near Los Alamos; it was called the Holt Guest Ranch,” explains second generation co-owner Jim Brown of the Circle Bar B Guest Ranch, located a few miles off the 101 and Refugio Road in Goleta.

The initial ranch belonged to Brown’s aunt Bernice Holt who with his mother, Florence Brown, opened up the property into a place where travelers could stay and enjoy horseback riding.

Open year-round, the guest ranch on the side doubled as a children’s camp during summer vacation the first few years. Because of the ranch’s diminutive size, it was strictly used as a farm where guests would actually do their riding onto other ranchers’ properties.

In 1939, the family decided they needed more space, so, the riders could feel free to roam without encumbering on to private land.

Thus, they ended up purchasing 60 acres at the present-day location just 20 miles north of the city of Santa Barbara. Over the years, the Browns have made gradual changes to the acquired site.

“We replaced our main building we’re currently at right now,” says third generation co-owner Kathy Brown, speaking of one of the renovations that took place in 1986.

Besides the main building being replaced, the ranch also has seen the addition of a new library, dining room and kitchen, as well as conference and recreation rooms over the years. “We’ve added some larger units in probably the past five years, our Creekside Cottages and Hillside Homesteads,” says Ms. Brown. Located above the creek, the Creekside Cottage room sleeps four and starts at $422 per night, while the Hillside Homestead model can sleep up to 7 and starts at $754 nightly.

The ranch also has affordable units for double occupancy; this includes three meals a day, a feature that’s a part of all accommodations. Packages for horseback riding and massages are also offered. Spa treatments are available where guests can indulge in facials, pedicures and manicures. “People can always ask if we’re running a special,” assures the third-generation hospitality professional.

Started in 1971, the Circle Bar B Dinner Theater located on site has grown into a popular attraction.

The outdoor facility holds 86 and puts on four plays per year, from April to the end of October. Prior to viewing perhaps a comedy or melodrama, theatergoers are treated to a tri-tip BBQ in the dining room.

The picturesque hillsides and unspoiled beauty of the ranch are too difficult to describe in mere words.

Although the facility has expanded its buildings and services over the years to appeal to a variety of clientele, the Browns are careful not to go overboard with large-scale construction at the ranch in fear of compromising its natural surroundings.

This could be the reason the actual number of rooms available has only expanded from 12 to 18 over the years. For the weary traveler, a pleasant experience awaits that’s not too far removed from what visitors enjoyed beginning in 1939, and from what Florence Brown may have envisioned seven years earlier.