Checking in at Hotel Domestique in the foothills of South Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains is like arriving at a European country manor. With stone walls, terracotta roof tiles, and elegant ironwork, the rustic chateau stands on a hillside surrounded by rolling, spruce-filled forests in the aptly named town of Travelers Rest.
Cycling legend George Hincapie, widely considered one of the greatest domestiques of all time, opened the property in 2012. (In cycling parlance, a domestique is a rider who works for the benefit of his or her team, rather than seeking personal glory. Hincapie played a supporting role in Lance Armstrong’s seven Tour de France wins; along with Armstrong, he was caught up in the sport’s widespread doping scandal.) After his career ended, Hincapie settled with his family in South Carolina’s Upcountry, a region with a strong cycling culture and plenty of rolling terrain. “I fell in love with the roads for cycling,” Hincapie says.
Hotel Domestique pays homage to the European design styles Hincapie grew to love during his racing days. The thirteen rooms, many with mountain views, are decorated with sophisticated furnishings, lush linens, and abstract art. “I asked our designers to have it resemble the old masía in Spain or in Tuscany, where it’s like a renovated castle that is very contemporary inside,” Hincapie says.
After settling in, do as the Europeans do and enjoy an aperitif in the courtyard overlooking cascading fountains. “When we first looked out the window from our room, I literally said, ‘We could be in the countryside of Italy,’” says recent guest Linn Lesesne. (Lesesne is proprietor of Charleston’s five-star Wentworth Mansion.)
At the inn’s Restaurant 17, Chef Haydn Shaak utilizes local ingredients to create signature dishes like mountain trout piccata. Dinner is served under the stars in the courtyard or in the sophisticated dining room.
Naturally, an inn owned by a road-racing great is home to a robust cycling program. “The region offers the terrain of Europe, with its undulating hills, scenery, and climbs,” says on-site bike mechanic and seasoned racer Bobby Hough, who will fit you for a custom bike rental from their professional-grade fleet. (You may also bring your own.) Bobby’s team will create a personalized route based on your skill level, or you can take a guided tour with one of the inn’s cycling experts.
After a long day on your bike, stretch and soothe your tired muscles with yoga, a dip in the saltwater pool, or a massage. You may also indulge in a glass of Nebbiolo, nibble the pork belly risotto, and retire to your room to flop on your bed and sleep with the windows open. It’s a little taste of Europe—much closer to home.
10 Road of Vines, Travelers Rest, South Carolina • (864) 516-1715 • hoteldomestique.com
To check out neighboring Greenville, hop on the northern terminus of the Swamp Rabbit Trail—eleven miles from the inn. The twenty-two-mile multipurpose trail runs from Travelers Rest to Greenville’s Falls Park, where you can stroll the suspension bridge for incredible views of Reedy River Falls.
This article appears in the Spring/Summer 2021 issue of Southbound.