Serenity at Old Edwards Inn

Old Edwards offers a state-of-the-art fitness facility and a heated mineral pool with a winter enclosure

Old Edwards offers a state-of-the-art fitness facility and a heated mineral pool with a winter enclosure

Every once in a while, serenity finds me. Sipping a frothy cappuccino at Old Edwards Inn & Spa in Highlands, North Carolina, I’m relaxing on the emerald lawn, listening to a bird symphony. Bunnies hop across the lawn; a fat robin chases another worm. Golden clouds billow over the Blue Ridge Mountains. White magnolias, pink azaleas, and lavender hydrangeas adorn the inn’s splendid gardens under a shimmering robin’s egg blue sky. Sometimes you don’t need to do anything to be happy. Just close your eyes and listen.

A member of Historic Hotels of America, Old Edwards Inn & Spa was lauded in 2013 as Travel and Leisure’s No. 2 Best Resort in the United States. Condé Nast Traveler included the resort on its 2013 Gold List, and it has also received top awards from TripAdvisor and US News & World Report.

“Old Edwards has a world-class 25,000-square-foot spa with sumptuous amenities,” Marjorie Fielding, Old Edwards Inn’s marketing director, says. “Golfers love playing our spectacular 18-hole championship course at Old Edwards Club, which undulates along panoramic mountains.” She continues, “Our Madison’s Restaurant is a destination unto itself, with ingredients plucked fresh from our gardens and greenhouses. Our Wine Garden features al fresco dining alongside a waterfall and live music in summer.” When asked why guests return again and again, Marjorie replied, “Our staff is devoted to making them feel like they’re part of a family.”

The crowning jewel of this incomparable resort is the 25,000-square-foot European-style Spa at Old Edwards

The inn offers 92 individually appointed guestrooms, suites, and cottages, resplendent with period antiques, European bedding, and fine Italian linens. Baths feature plush bathrobes and slippers, heated tile bath floors, heated towel racks, and invigorating rainfall showers. Owners Art and Angela Williams are passionate about improving and enhancing the inn; they travel the world acquiring unique furniture and art to create a special ambiance in each room. In 2013, they added 24 new guestrooms, called “Falls Cottages at Old Edwards Inn,” and a second swimming pool with a hot tub and an inviting outdoor fireplace.

We adored our Cottage No. 5318, an airy, light-filled haven with a drop-leaf desk, a fireplace, and a cozy rattan bed. We relaxed on plush sea foam green couches, enjoying the lovely Asian prints on the pillows and drapes. We paged through local magazines such as Laurel, published monthly by Marjorie, and inspiring home decorating coffee table books by Barbara Barry. We spent quiet evenings on our balcony, sunlight melting into moonlight over North Carolina’s hypnotizing mountains.

Each of the opulent guest rooms and cottages are decorated with period antiques and European bedding

We relished breakfast and dinner at Madison’s Restaurant, which serves farm-to-table cuisine and boasts a Wine Spectator awarded wine list. German chef Johannes Klapdohr was born into a family of four generations of hoteliers, restaurateurs, and chefs, and his innovative menus will please even the most discerning palates. Chef Klapdohr’s background includes working at the Relais & Chateau Hotel Bareiss in Germany’s Black Forest and at the Restaurant Aubergine in Munich. He served as chef de cuisine at Nikolai’s Roof in Atlanta and executive chef at Georgia’s The Lodge at Sea Island. In 2009, he took over culinary operations at Old Edwards, helping the inn and an ace team earn Mobil Four-Star, AAA Four-Diamond status, and accolades from TripAdvisor as the No. 4 hotel in America.

“Here in the North Carolina mountains,” chef Klapdohr says, “I have found the perfect environment for combining my vision of a resort that presents unparalleled guest experiences with sustainable products, many of them grown at our own farm.” He adds, “We offer natural but refined cuisine in a comfortable atmosphere and nature at your door step.”

The classically trained culinary team at Madison’s are sure to delight your palate with their farm-to-table cuisine direct from the garden at the Farm at Old Edwards

At breakfast, we devoured fabulous omelets, smoked Carolina trout, cathead biscuits, and Belgian waffles with fried chicken tenders and Bourbon maple syrup. For dinner, we loved the chef’s poached pear salad with arugula, toasted walnuts, and goat cheese and perfectly cooked duck tenderloin with parsnips, peas, and fava beans.

No dieting here, just savor the incredible fare.

The resort’s fully equipped fitness center enables guests to stay in shape with Zumba, yoga, core strength, weight machines, and indoor cycling. Instructor Charlie Czarniecki led a hike to nearby Sunset Rock, so we joined the group.

“The Highlands area is an eco-gold mine,” Charlie told us. “We have thirty species of salamanders, foxes, bears, beavers, wild turkeys, and peregrine falcons.”

“They fly straight down at 200 mph, to catch their prey, so watch out!” he joked.

Charlie led us up a forest trail to a stunning birds-eye view of Highlands, Brushy Face Mountain, and Horse Cove. Granite boulders, beautiful wildflowers, and tangled evergreen forests groves … this easy hike close to the inn was pure pleasure.

Arrive at the Old Edwards Inn & Spa, a historic luxury spa resort by the Blue Ridge Moutains in Highlands

Highlands dates back to 1875, when the town became a health and summer resort at 4,000 feet on the highest crest of the western North Carolina plateau. By 1931, Highlands was home to 500 residents who grew their own meat and vegetables and enjoyed square dancing and mountain clogging. The diverse population ranged from industrious tradesmen from the north to Scotch-Irish laborers and craftsmen from the south, and included musicians, artists, actors, authors, photographers, scientists, and nature lovers. Today, Highlands is home to around 900 year-round residents and swells to 20,000 in summer, when vacationers seeking cool air come to golf, hike, fish, ogle waterfalls, shop eclectic boutiques, and dine on international cuisine.

Many mountain lovers fall in love with Old Edwards Inn & Spa, returning again and again. We will too. Others are so smitten by Highland’s charms they buy or rent second homes. Hmm, sounded good to me—so we did.