Monday, March 1, 2010
Writer: Amber Lanier Nagle
The journey from Chattanooga to the Old Edwards Inn is a pleasant drive — especially in the springtime. Highway 64 meanders through the beautiful countryside of Western Carolina showcasing rolling hills, the sparkling waters of the Nantahala, rustic barns, and one small town after another. South of Franklin, the road winds through wondrous waterfall country, rising occasionally to reveal a postcard- perfect view. Just beyond Lake Sequoyah, the scenic byway enters Highlands, a charming mountain village perched 4,100 feet above sea level on an ancient Appalachian plateau. The Old Edwards Inn and Spa sits at the corner of Main and Fourth Streets as if watching over the town, beckoning weary travelers and passersby to stop and stay awhile. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the multi-acre European-style retreat had humble beginnings as Highland’s first boarding house—built circa 1878. Today, the Old Edwards Inn and Spa is recognized as one of North America’s finest destinations. It has won prestigious awards such as the AAA Four Diamond Award, the Mobil Four Star Award, and most recently, the inn was named as one of TripAdvisor’s 2010 top ten best relaxation spa resorts.
But these accolades are really no surprise to those who have taken respite there. The inn offers gracious hospitality and over sixty spacious, elegantly appointed rooms housed in one of several distinctive properties including the Inn, the Lodge, and the Cottages.
“I would describe the inn’s décor as relaxed luxury, upscale but cozy,” says Catherine Nelson Sawyer, a Chattanooga native who with her husband, Trone, honeymooned there in January. “Our room was beautiful, with a terrace that overlooked Main Street and downtown Highlands. The suite was filled with Old World ambiance including period antiques, European bedding, and Frette linens.” Sawyer says the couple also enjoyed modern conveniences like a large plasma screen television and wireless internet access.
Even the inn’s bathrooms are exquisite, with abundant marble and granite, Bulgari toiletries, rainfall showers, and heated tile floors. Champagne service and evening turndown rituals are thrilling, notes Sawyer.
“We truly felt like honored guests in someone’s grand estate,” she adds. “There was even a handy 24-hour Butler’s Pantry stocked with yummy Dove Bars, fruits, and beverages, just in case we got hungry and wanted a snack.”
For guests who prefer to focus on wellness, relaxation, and rejuvenation, the Old Edwards Inn’s 25,000-square-foot European spa doesn’t disappoint. Clients choose from plenty of pampering options including soothing facials, manicures, a variety of deep, penetrating massages, purifying body treatments, Swiss showers, and salon services.
For golfers, the private Old Edwards Club offers more than 200-acres of scenic mountain golfing. Designed by Tom Jackson, this 18-hole course underwent $5 million of renovations before reopening in 2009. Today, the front nine pleases golf enthusiasts with a serene mountain valley of greenery and rushing streams, but the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth holes situated on steep ridges garner attention as the highest on the east coast.
And there’s more. The Old Edwards Inn and Spa also boasts two outdoor, heated mineral pools, a state-of-the-art fitness center, and a special events venue—The Farm at Old Edwards. The adjacent 33- acre property, featuring a restored barn and farmhouse amid spectacular gardens, is the perfect setting for a dream wedding or corporate event.
Like the Sawyers, some guests prefer to spend a day or two exploring Highland’s downtown district with its quaint antique shops, boutiques, art galleries, and eateries. But others are drawn to the outskirts of town, where Mother Nature has been particularly generous. In spring and early summer, redbuds bloom and thickets of mountain laurel explode in bright clouds of pink and fuchsia. Nature lovers will have a tough time choosing from the menu of recreational activities including hiking, biking, fishing, kayaking, horse-back riding, and photography.
Highlands brims with interesting dining opportunities like Madison’s Restaurant, which showcases contemporary Carolina high country cuisine by combining the freshest local and regional ingredients fused with surprising flavors. Guests who prefer a more casual dining experience love the Wine Garden, especially in the spring and summer months when the mild temperatures encourage alfresco dining underneath the starry mountain sky.
Indeed, a journey to this exhilarating venue ends high atop a mountain plateau. A trip to Highlands in the springtime is delightful, but a getaway to the Old Edwards Inn and Spa is simply divine.