I've made brief trips to Highlands, North Carolina for many years, but nothing kept me here for more than a day. To me, Highlands was always a "pass-through" back to my home in Atlanta. This time, my visit was different. My daughter and I checked into the legendary Old Edwards Inn for an evening. I surveyed this historic building on the previous visits, but knowing that I was actually staying here on this occasion, changed my opinion of the inn and Highlands from "above average" to "beyond exceptional."
The main building, also known as The Inn, houses its front desk, rooms/suites, restaurant and rest areas--all possessing an elegant, cozy motif. Whether you're drinking coffee or a mixed drink from the bar, guests feel as if they're in their own dream home--sipping on a beverage of choice while relaxing in a chair or sofa or perhaps perusing a book. Some folks prefer to gaze into a fireplace as they listen to mood music or engage in conversation. I caught a snippet of this atmosphere the minute I opened one of the inn's grand doors while searching for their front desk. A group of well-dressed ladies were into deep discussion as they were drinking tea while the music was wafting through the air. I could feel whatever pressures that I was carrying slowly melting away.
We made it to the front desk where the staff pointed us in the right direction. The staff informed us that we were booked for a stay in one of Old Edwards' spacious cottage rooms which are about a block away from The Inn. After a short drive to The Cottages, we made it to the check-in area in The Lodge. When we entered, we were greeted by one of the warmest staffs that I have ever experienced in my travels. Before offering to take our bags to our cottage, we were immediately supplied with glasses of champagne.
While walking with champagne glasses in hand, we noticed the view of the mountain range from this vantage point at 4,000 feet. Guests who were already staying in The Cottages had the right idea as they were lounging in the property’s high-quality outdoor furniture with their own drinks -- taking in the sights. If you have enough energy after this “activity,” you could partake in a game of croquet on The Lodge’s front lawn.
Our biggest surprise came when we checked into our room. I thought I had stayed in spacious rooms before, but these rooms proved me wrong. Even though I was there for only 24-plus hours, The Cottages at Old Edwards made the visit seem much longer. I felt like I was visiting an actual house minus the relatives. Fine European bedding, modern lavish bath facilities, flat screen televisions and the finest décor I could ever imagine, just barely begins to describe these magnificent accommodations. With nightly turndown service on top of those features and amenities, one word comes to mind: pampered.
The pampering doesn’t end in the rooms. Spending time on your private outdoor patio or The Cottages' fireplace is perfect for a romantic evening. Since my trip was a family one, we spent a lot more time at the nearby pool. My daughter Caitlin gave it an A+ rating which means that this aquatic experience was beyond her expectations. I agree with her on the pool, but I add that the outdoor hot tub is an original as it is located in an alcove-like structure. The pool area is surrounded by even more of the property’s top-notch outdoor furniture which seems to hold up to all types of weather. After my daughter and I took advantage of the pool, we enjoyed conversation with the staff at the outdoor bar.
Fine dining on property
It was tough to get Caitlin out of the pool, but dinner at Madison’s was waiting. We quickly dressed in our “business casual best” and walked over to this fine restaurant which looks out onto Main Street. We started the meal with pimiento cheese with rice crackers -- compliments from the chef. Those treats quickly disappeared.
Our gracious waiter introduced us to their sommelier. He made excellent suggestions: Meiomi Pinot Noir 2007 for me and Henri Bourgeois 2006 Sauvignon Blanc for my friend who joined us that evening. Indeed my daughter can be the picky eater, but she found the perfect combination here: a Shirley Temple drink with Macaroni and Cheese. I do hope that she will order some of the higher end fare one day. The highlights at this meal included Chilled English Pea Soup and Champagne-Braised Trout. The atmosphere is spectacular with the restaurant's myriad windows which provide views of downtown Highlands and the amazing amount of well-kept greenery on The Inn’s property. After indulging on their Chocolate Mousse, we needed to walk around the town which included visits to Wit’s End and Cyrano’s bookshop.
I confess that it was tough to get out of the comfortable bed and off of the heated bathroom floors after a restful night. Knowing that we were returning to Madison’s for breakfast, we were motivated us to move. The continental breakfasts at Madison’s are good, but I had to go for something more original like the Crab Cake Eggs Benedict.
It was tough to pull my daughter out of the pool.
Euro bedding makes a night here incredibly comfortable.
My daughter and I walked the town again with a visit to Highlands’ toy store. After we took in the little town's sights, I then worked out at Old Edwards’ state-of-the-art fitness center. After the workout, I received a 50-minute massage at their spa. The Spa at Old Edwards is a 25,000-foot slice of serious luxury. The well-trained staff provides the ultimate in relaxation. After you receive your treatment, you may immerse yourself in a mineral bath or sauna in The Spa’s locker room. Later, Caitlin was ready to make a return visit to the pool, after she indulged in another Dove ice cream bar -- which seemed to be everywhere in mini-refrigerators throughout the property. I did the 30-minute massage which was so good that I wish I could have done the 50-minute version. This spa draws from a European approach to the way it operates which might explain why I rate this experience as being my favorite thus far.
Just like getting out of one of their cottage beds, it was tough to leave, but if I’m looking to do an ultimate romantic getaway, this is the place to do it. Indeed Old Edwards is great for families, but I think this an ideal couples retreat. Old Edwards Inn is about two and a half hours north of Atlanta. If you’re looking for a great escape to the cool North Carolina Mountains, then look no further than this awesome property.