“Pitter-pat” went the raindrops on the rooftop of my suite, as I curled up on the sofa in front of my gas fireplace with a glass of wine. I was just beginning a weekend of R&R at Old Edwards Inn and Spa in Highlands, N.C. and I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect start.
The thing about Old Edwards Inn and Spa, which is part of the Relais & Chateaux collection of properties, is that it feels like a cross between being at a cozy private home in the mountains and a luxury boutique hotel. The charming town of Highlands and the woods that surround it are lovely — but Old Edwards is a destination in and of itself.
Now, I should mention that this particular trip was taken just before the COVID-19 pandemic put a screeching halt to everyone’s travel plans. I’m happy to say that after closing for a period (like so many hotels), as of mid-May, Old Edwards has reopened its doors to visitors with a number of new safety precautions in place. Check their website for the latest updates.
Sure, some of the experiences and services I’m about to share with you aren’t available right now. But, read on to find out what you can expect from the Old Edwards Inn and Spa experience when it returns to its full glory.
After making the rainy 2.5-hour drive from where I live in Atlanta up into the Blue Ridge Mountains, I pulled up to The Lodge at Old Edwards Inn and Spa to check into my Falls Cottage suite. (If you’re flying, I’d suggest coming into Atlanta or Asheville — a little over 1.5 hours away — and then making the drive up.)
Both the Lodge and the Falls Cottages are part of the main Old Edwards Inn and Spa compound in town, and check-in for the cottages is at The Lodge vs. the main reception area in the inn. For this trip, I selected the Falls Cottage suite because it offers a bit more peace and quiet than the rooms at the main inn.
At the Lodge, I was greeted with the customary glass of bubbly and then escorted to my room by a bellman. As soon as I stepped into the one-bedroom suite, I felt like I was home. The decor is mountain chic accented with classic furniture like a roll-top desk in the living area and modern touches like a heated floor in the bathroom and Frette bed and bath linens.
After relaxing by the fire and enjoying that wine, I grabbed my in-room umbrella and walked down to one of my favorite casual dining spots, The Ugly Dog Pub. As a fitness teacher at Exhale Spa, I’m all about moderation and wellness. But, sometimes I just crave a good burger and fries — and when it comes to this combo, Ugly Dog always delivers. I returned to the room with a full belly and just enough energy to enjoy a soak in the stand-alone tub in my palatial bathroom before bed.
I woke to the same “pitter-pat” of rain that I fell asleep to the night before. But, that was fine by me. I grabbed a to-go breakfast biscuit from Art’s at the Lodge and headed down to the main inn area to enjoy a complimentary cup of tea and continue reading my book by a fireplace in the Hummingbird Lounge.
Since I wanted to squeeze in a quick workout before my day at the spa, I made a stop at the two-level fitness center for a run on the treadmill. However, if you have time, I recommend checking out their fitness class schedule, which includes everything from yoga to guided hikes.
Then, it was time for the main event: my afternoon at the spa. And trust me, you want to allocate a chunk of time to spend here because the amenities are everything. (FYI, the spa has a strict no electronics policy. So, be prepared to put away any phones or tablets.)
After donning my spa uniform of snuggly robe and sandals, I made my way to the cafe and enjoyed a leisurely lunch of chicken salad on a croissant and a glass of sauvignon blanc. Then, I changed into my bikini to spend some time in the whirlpool/steam room area. (Oh, and don’t miss the 14-head Swiss Showers, which are outfitted with Molton and Brown bath products.)
But, one of the best parts of any visit to the Old Edwards Spa is settling into one of the two relaxation rooms to read or nap. The main one is located downstairs and is appointed with chaise lounges facing picture windows that look out onto the trees, fireplaces, and the best snuggly blankets. Personally, I like to head to the other room, which is upstairs and similarly decorated — but fewer people are aware of it.
The spa offers a broad menu of services ranging from massages to make-up application. On this day, I was getting a pedicure and enjoyed every second of the experience. The nail suite is tucked away from the rest of the spa where armchairs serve as pedicure chairs, and you’re treated to a mimosa and hot neck wrap. I left feeling rested and ready to eat again.
The property offers a variety of dining spots including its fine dining option, Madison’s. But, Old Edwards had just opened a new concept, Four65 Woodfire Bistro + Bar, so I decided to give it a try. I found a seat at the bar where I dined on tastes like Brussels sprouts and meatballs with ricotta and chatted the evening away with fellow guests and the friendly bartender.
I woke up to blue skies and decided to take one of my favorite Highland hikes before breakfast. The Satulah Mountain trailhead is tucked away at the end of a long uphill road behind the hotel that takes you through a neighborhood of multimillion-dollar homes.
The walk to the trailhead takes about 20-30 minutes, and the beautiful views as I hiked my way up the road were a welcome distraction from the workout burn my legs were feeling. The trail itself was pretty soggy after all of the rain, so I took my time as I made my way down. But, about 25 minutes later, I made it to the clearing — and, boy, was the 360-degree view of the valley worth every slip and slide I’d made navigating the trail.
Eventually, my stomach reminded me that breakfast was in order before my noon departure. So, I headed to Madison’s where I treated myself to a garden omelet of spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, goat cheese, and herbs, with a housemade cinnamon bun on the side. It was the perfect way to end to another endearing Old Edwards Inn and Spa experience.