Old Edwards Inn and Spa in Highlands, North Carolina – Your Much Deserved Mountain Retreat
“A French wine is like a hard to get woman,” said Phillipe Brainos, Head Sommelier at Old Edwards Inn and Spa in Highlands, North Carolina. “You keep asking her out, and a thousand times she says no. But then, she finally says yes.”
Brainos love of nuanced, refined taste is the epitome of all that Old Edwards Inn and Spa stands for. From the moment you arrive – greeted with a glass of champagne, no less – you’ll know that you are in for a luxurious couple of days, with spoils that extend beyond the hotel’s food and drink program to its awarding winning spa and posh accommodations (seriously, I never slept on linens so comfortable).
It’s why the Old Edwards Inn and Spa has won so many awards, including Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards #16 Top Hotel in the U.S., Travel and Leisure World’s Best Awards #1 Hotel in North Carolina, and TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards #5 Hotel in the U.S.
Highland, North Carolina
You can’t get any more off the grid and still be on the grid than in Highlands, North Carolina. The closest interstate is a two hour drive away along winding mountain switchbacks that, when driven at night, make that welcome glass of champagne necessary.
Even with its remoteness, everything you could possibly want or desire for a weekend retreat is at your beckon call at Old Edwards Inn and Spa. And, when you bore of the property, Highlands itself is a charming village with a storybook street lined with galleries, boutiques, and cafes and restaurants.
Admittedly, the town was a bit highbrow for my taste. However, there are plenty of local joints with good food, drink, and atmosphere a block of two off the main street like Lost Hiker Bar, Ugly Dog Public House, and Satulah Mountain Brewing.
The setting itself makes for the perfect romantic getaway. Alas, I was there on a writers retreat all by my lonesome. Still, the small mountain town feel of the Highlands combined with the relaxed lodge atmosphere of the Old Edwards Inn and Spa helped spur the creative juices.
Old Edward’s Spa
While the gastronomical aspect of Old Edwards Inn and Spa is off the charts good, the real reason why you’ll want to visit the mountain retreat is for the spa, which has won a few awards of its own like Condé Nast’s Top Hotel Spa in North America.
What I like most about the spa is that the facilities (steam rooms, mineral whirlpools, serenity solarium, sauna, Swiss showers, and fireside lounge) are available to guests of the hotel regardless if they opt for a spa treatment. But you’ll want to opt for a treatment. I spent the greater part of a day enjoying the serenity of the spa and working through some plot issues in a novel I hope to self-publish later this year.
Other amenities that make Old Edwards Inn and Spa more of a resort than a hotel include a fitness center that rivals the size of any city gym, complete with Barre, spin, yoga, and aerobics classes – so you can either work off the calories consumed at Madison’s or keep the Zen going from the spa. There’s also two pools, tennis courts, and an off-premise golf course that Old Edwards Inn and Spa also owns.
Guest quarters themselves are spread out amongst the historic inn, which was built in 1878, and a series of lodges, cottages, and individual home that take up the majority of Old Edwards Inn and Spa’s three block presence in Highlands. I stayed in a King Suite in Falls Cottages. As I was there in the winter (and for a writer’s retreat), the only time I left my suite was for the spa or to eat. With the fireplace, comfortable couch, and wet bar, I had very little reason to leave. I sat on the couch and cozied up with my laptop to the roaring fire.
Once again, the attention to detail was most impressive. The bathroom (which is the size of some hotel rooms I stayed at…) had a heated towel rack and heated floors, along with a Milton Brown body scrub bar that gave my body a scrub it’s never experienced (it retails at $22 a bar). Then there are those linens I mentioned earlier – Frette Italian linens – that are the thing that makes dreams. Can you tell I want to go back? And then there’s the food…
AAA Four Diamond Restaurant Madison’s is the star of the culinary show at Old Edwards Inn and Spa. The kitchen is led by Chef Chris Huerta and features dishes composed of both sustainable and, when possible, local ingredients, some of which come from Old Edward’s garden and greenhouse. Enjoy the same menu in the Wine Garden during warmer months.
I started my dinner with their Southern Fideuà, a dish very similar to paella but with a bit of a southern flare. From the thick cut bacon chunks to the prawns, mussels, and touch of heat from the chili, it was the kind of dish you want to linger over, savoring every bite because you know you may never eat anything like it again.
My main course was sunburst trout served amongst a family of seasonal root vegetables that added a heartiness and warmth to a lighter dish. The dish fell more to the simple side, but I believe that was by design. The chef clearly understands what it means to respect the ingredients and allowed each its place on the plate.
The wine list Brainos has curated is as decadent as the food. All of the wines – by the glass or by the bottle – have a rating of at least 90 points from Wine Spectator. My one complaint is the lack of a robust craft beer list given Old Edwards Inn and Spa proximity to Asheville. That doesn’t mean the resort is without craft beer, but the selection was on the smaller side.
Other Onsite Restaurants and Lounges
I also enjoyed a fresh lunch at the Spa Café (think health forward dishes with smoothie and fresh juice options) and fireside cocktails in Hummingbird Lounge and Library. Other dining options on premise include Arts for coffee, breakfast, drinks, and lighter fare; the Grill Room to feed hungry golfers; and poolside dining for when you don’t want to vacate your spot in the sun.
Old Edwards Inn and Spa was a one of a kind experience that is totally gourmand worthy. But, if I don’t have you convinced, check out Old Edwards Inn and Spa reviews of TripAdvisor. I definitely look forward to returning one day with my wife.
Know before You Go!
I hope this post has inspired you to book a stay at Old Edwards Inn and Spa. If it has, do plan in advance. During in season, rooms book up as much as six-months in advance. Check out the latest rates on Expedia and Travelocity.
Also, Old Edwards Inn and Spa isn’t what I would call kid friendly, so plan on leaving them behind. Besides, do you really want to hear screaming cannon balls why your experiencing a Zen moment?
Who wants to enjoy a retreat at Old Edwards Inn and Spa? Leave a comment below!
Thank you to Old Edwards Inn and Spa for hosting me. Regardless of their Southern hospitality, readers receive my honest feedback, as my opinions are not for sale. All photos are credit to Old Edwards Inn and Spa.