“Come on in! I’ll get y’all some Champagne,” calls a bellman. My husband and I have arrived at Old Edwards Inn and Spa in downtown Highlands, North Carolina, for a quick getaway. After a busy week, this kind of welcome is just what we need. We settle into rocking chairs on the front porch of the lobby and sip our Champagne. Despite being on a plateau in the Appalachians, our surroundings—gently sloping lawns, lush trees, and winding walkways bordered by shrubs and flower gardens—remind us of the English countryside.
The original inn now known as Old Edwards dates back more than 130 years. It was once a boardinghouse, then a hotel. But a change of ownership in 2001 and a $150 million expansion in 2013 catapulted it to the upper echelons of American resorts. The property occupies several city blocks and includes numerous cottages, two restaurants, two cocktail lounges, a famed spa, a large fitness center, a boutique, two outdoor heated mineral pools and whirlpools, and a nearby golf course.
Our cottage suite is a blend of historic and modern, with dark hardwood floors, an antique desk and chair, and a cozy sitting area with a touch-of-a-button fire in a stone fireplace. The private porch looks onto tall evergreens and is just steps from a pool and Jacuzzi. The bathroom beckons with a large soaking tub, a rainfall shower with multiple jets, heated floors, and a towel warmer. It’s an invitation to unwind.
For dinner, we head to Madison’s, the resort’s signature restaurant. Located just off the main lobby, it’s casual yet elegant. Our table overlooks the wine garden, complete with a footbridge, fountains, and wine-tasting area. After starting our meal with house-made pimento cheese, we enjoy a bacon-wrapped quail appetizer, followed by roasted halibut with broccolini and a seared ribeye so tender it’s served with a butter knife. After finishing our wine, we return to our cottage to find that turndown service has left little homemade cookies for a sweet ending to the evening.
In the morning, I head to ground zero for Old Edwards devotees: the spa. After checking in, an attendant escorts me to get robed, then shows me the waiting area with a fireplace, plush seating, and a selection of hot teas and infused waters. Off to the side, guests enjoy light fare and wine in the spa cafe. Even pre-treatment, it’s a sanctuary of relaxation.
Soon my massage therapist, Nalu, escorts me to a treatment room. My fifty-minute customized massage is deeply relaxing, featuring an essential oil blend with eucalyptus and rosemary that Nalu selects when I mention feeling an oncoming head cold. Afterward, I practically float out to the meditation area, which is essentially a sleeping porch with giant chaise lounges and a fountain. Nalu encourages me to stay as long as I like to enjoy the steam room, sauna, whirlpool, and fourteen-head rainfall showers. There’s no rush.
She’s right: There really isn’t any rush when you’re on “mountain time,” a phrase used often here. Sip a glass of Champagne at the Lodge. Indulge in a leisurely gourmet meal. Soak in the whirlpool. Fall asleep on the porch. No one is in a hurry. And really, isn’t that the greatest luxury of all?
445 Main Street, Highlands, North Carolina • (866) 526-8008 • oldedwardsinn.com
While You’re There
Close to downtown Highlands, Sunset Rock offers the perfect vantage point from which to watch a sunset or enjoy a panoramic view of fall leaves. Trailhead parking is across the street from the Highlands Nature Center, and the entire hike is 1.2 miles round-trip.
This article appears in the Fall/Winter 2019 issue of Southbound.