highlands, nc

A Regal Night's Sleep: A Peek inside a Trio of High Country Luxury Lodgings

 

Nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Cashiers-Highlands Plateau holds as many allures as there are stars in the sky high above Whiteside Mountain. From a romantic escape to a weekend adventure, what often draws visitors to the Cashiers-Highlands Plateau are the picturesque views, enchanting waterfalls, temperate climate, charming collection of shops and restaurants, and incredible array of exciting events and outdoor activities. Of course, once they arrive, these sightseers are often pleasantly surprised by the caliber of our accommodations and the fact that Southern Hospitality is still alive and well. Whether seeking rustic refinement in a rental lodge or a posh place along Main Street to rest one’s head for the night, our lodgings serve as a sophisticated sneak peek into what life might be like as a regular high country homeowner. To that end, NC Living Magazine is proud to shine the spotlight on three of our finest proprietors of repose to aid you in planning your next visit to our beautiful little corner of the world…

 

Old Edwards Inn & Spa
This five-star oasis at the heart of Highlands’ renowned Main Street has garnered the attention Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, U.S. News & World Report, Forbes Magazine, Southern Living and TripAdvisor, among others – making its mark as one of the best hotels in the state, the South, the nation and the world. Boasting Old World-inspired architecture, Old Edwards Inn touts itself as a “casually elegant” resort. At center stage lies the historic inn with its individually appointed guest rooms featuring period antiques, fine European bedding and Italian linens alongside thoroughly modern conveniences such as free WIFI, heated floors in the bathroom and flat-screen TVs. Radiating out from there is the award-winning Spa with a number of sophisticated Spa Suites, a variety of quaint Cottages and an awe-inspiring assortment of Guest Estates. Not far away, the Old Edwards Club showcases 18 holes of golf that are as scenic as they are challenging, as well as an outdoor heated mineral pool, clay tennis courts and state-of-the-art fitness center. In perfect balance with the stylishness of the surroundings and the superiority of the guest experience is the diversity of the culinary encounters. Presenting farm fresh local cuisine crafted using ingredients harvested as close as Old Edwards own gardens and a number of regional farmers, Old Edwards showcases seven sophisticated restaurants, eateries and watering holes, including the highly-touted farm-to-table Madison’s Restaurant, The Wine Garden, Hummingbird Lounge, Arts at the Lodge, The Spa Café, The Grill Room at Old Edwards Club and seasonal opportunities for poolside dining. Eat, Drink, Play, Sleep and Repeat.

 

200 Main
A sister property to Old Edwards Inn, this rustically refined mountain retreat currently features 40 guest rooms and one chic suite – some of which boast private balconies overlooking Main Street. In order to keep up with growing demand, 200 Main will throw back the curtain this summer on two additional buildings to include 20 new guest rooms and a state-of-the-art fitness room. The new guest rooms will comprise two queen beds, a fireplace and a choice of either patio or balcony. In keeping with the tranquility of its setting, 200 Main offers an overwhelming sense of leisure with its heated outdoor mineral pool, fire pit on the terrace, friendly cornhole competitions on the lawn, and so much more. Adventure abounds within mere miles of 200 Main, including hiking trails, waterfalls, zip lining, boating at Lake Glenville and an active arts scene – not to mention the unique boutiques and excellent eateries of Highlands and the neighboring village of Cashiers.

 

Half Mile Farm
This self-proclaimed “country inn” is also owned by Old Edwards Hospitality. Like its sister property at 200 Main, Half-Mile Farm has undergone significant property enhancements – all of which will be revealed June 2017. Imbued with the sense of an authentic Bed & Breakfast experience, Half-Mile Farm provides complimentary chef-prepared breakfasts and afternoon social hours featuring delectable wine and hors d’oeuvres on the house. In addition to a spectacular collection of rooms and suites in the historic main inn, Half-Mile Farm also boasts a number of surprisingly sophisticated cabins. As a member of Old Edwards Hospitality, Half-Mile Farm guests are afforded room signing privileges at each of the restaurants at Old Edwards Inn, as well as access to the amenities at Old Edwards Club. However, with 14 acres of fields, forests, streams and lakes for the exploring, there’s rarely a reason to leave the Farm in search of distractions. While here, guests can take a dip in the heated outdoor mineral pool, wander along a creek side trail, go fishing or canoeing on the 6-acre Apple Lake or simply relax and soak up the serenity of their scenic surroundings. 

Estate with Guest House and Mountain and Valley Views

Tranquil and picturesque long range vistas abound from this 22-acre Blue Valley estate in Highlands. Positioned at an elevation of 3,780 feet, the property features excellent privacy and incredible panoramic views of several mountain ranges, with layered ridges that turn a cool, misty blue in the distance.

Taking advantage of the beautiful surroundings, the main home offers several inviting outdoor living spaces for entertaining friends and extended family. To the front, a huge open deck makes the perfect place to savor morning coffee as the sun rises over Queen Mountain, the Satulah Mountains and the Small Fodder Stack Mountains beyond, plus several ranges in the Chattahoochee National Forest. On the terrace level, a large patio with a stone fireplace, built-in grill, putting green, horseshoe pit and shuffleboard court promises fun for all ages. The kitchen is completely remodeled and centrally located, while the newly added sunroom with wall-to-wall windows boasts a satellite kitchen with two dishwasher drawers and its own grilling porch. Three bedrooms, three baths, a living room, two dining areas, a playroom, den and two office spaces complete this 5,000+ square foot home. A whole house generator is included.

The guest cottage has one bedroom and one full bath, with an adorable kitchen, bonus room, half bath and rocking chair front porch. A large storage/equipment building sits nearby. With its own well and septic installed, the third home was purchased for additional acreage and is being sold as-is. It has gorgeous views looking over the Chattahoochee National Forest from the back of the house and Brushy Face and Little Yellow Mountains from the front.

Although only four miles from downtown Highlands, this spacious estate feels like a distant magical getaway. Sitting on top of the mountain plateau, it adjoins lush national forestlands filled with native flora, as well as deer, turkey, many species of birds and other wildlife.

Old-Fashioned Family Fun

Trending today is the idea of strengthening the family bond by sharing more memorable and meaningful moments together. Families are increasingly electing to put down their smartphones and turn off their televisions in order to find group activities away from screens. In the new year, if you and your family resolve to find quality time together then the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau has several terrific options to enjoy good old-fashioned family fun outdoors. The small town of Highlands, surrounded by national forest and nestled in the mountains at 4118’ in elevation, may appear like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. The town plan lays out ideally for visitors and residents alike to easily walk the sidewalks and enjoy the quaint shops and plentiful restaurants, or sit on a bench to watch the world go by (perhaps with an ice cream cone in hand). Steepled churches, rhododendron walkways, and front porches adorned with rocking chairs make for a handsome picture-perfect postcard. Adding to the charm and character of the town is the newly opened ice skating rink that draws more families to experience the fresh air and find fun on the ice. Sandwiched between Main Street and Kelsey-Hutchinson Founders Park, the town green space named after Samuel Hutchinson and Clinton Kelsey who founded Highlands in 1875, the state-of-the-art rink was a gift to the town by Art and Angela Williams of Old Edwards Inn and Spa. Open from November to March, Thursday through Tuesday, the ice rink entices people from families to singles to wrap themselves in fleece and don their skates. People of all ages take to the ice amid gleeful faces and peals of laughter. While lively background music plays, you’ll see some young and old holding hands, solo skaters finding their own magic, and observers on the sidelines snapping photos of loved ones and sipping hot chocolates. While there is the option to use your own skates, the $5 entrance fee includes skates, making it an affordable form of entertainment. And for those with more limited skating abilities, plastic Skate Helpers are available to assist in keeping everyone upright on the ice. One visiting Atlanta family staying in town was thrilled to find amusement of this kind for their five kids ranging in age from 5 to 13. They loved the accessibility of the rink and the beauty of its surroundings. While the rink hosts birthday parties, after-school gatherings, and events, “date night” has become popular on Friday and Saturday nights when the rink remains open late. No matter who is on the ice, bliss and delight seem to be a common theme. If you need to be outfitted for chilly weather, go to Highland Hiker in Cashiers or Highlands to find the best brands in outdoor apparel. Around town or at the rink, you may just run into an old-timer who recalls many years past when ice skating on local lakes was commonplace. Neighbors and families would gather to enjoy a good skate, but not before shoveling lots of snow off the ice. Times have changed because winters are not as cold as they once were, but this area is fortunate to have two manmade rinks on the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau, along with other outdoor sport offerings for you and your family. With the summer crowds gone, winter is a perfect time to enjoy the beauty this area holds. Don’t let time skate by before you and yours find some adventure on the ice.

A Good Walk Spoiled: A Self-Proclaimed Duffer Continues Her Golf Struggle

By all rights, I should have given up the game of golf years ago. There was the time, in the beginning, when I dutifully followed my husband to the practice range and proceeded to hit every golf ball in my bag with robotic precision. It was only as I swung at the last one that I noticed the huge baskets of range balls provided beside me.
There was the time I unknowingly wore a pair of my husband's many golf shoes that I had nervously pulled from the trunk of our car upon arriving at a friend's course. It was maybe on the second hole when I noticed I was sliding a bit in my backswing and I was too embarrassed to say a thing. Note to self: I can play a full round in a pair of men's size 10 shoes, though not very well.
Perhaps I should have hung it up when I got a big laugh from my foursome when I asked my young caddy for my “five arm,” or the day I discovered that my 51 handicap was the highest of all the women in our club, including one extraordinary lady who happened to be legally blind.
Why, 35-plus years into my golf odyssey, do I continue the struggle? Quite simply, I live on this beautiful plateau in the Blue Ridge Mountains and giving up the game would be like cutting off the proverbial nose to spite my face.
It's not enough that drop-dead vistas of waterfalls, craggy mountains, lakes, and streams gift wrap each one of the public and private golf courses in the Cashiers-Highlands area. It's the rare place where you can ask a good golfer (of hole-in-one stature) to name her favorite hole, and she chooses a particular one because of the breathtaking flowers planted around the green.
It's the place where Justin Thomas can break the course record at Mountaintop Golf and Lake Club one day, shooting a 64, and a University of Alabama sophomore, Robbie Shelton, can go out the next day and shoot a 61, according to Micah Hicks, the private club's director of golf. He also remembers the Bryan Brothers (George and Wesley) agreeing to caddy for the club's member/guest tournament and using the time up here to shoot a trick shot video at Mountaintop and Old Edwards Club. The video went viral on YouTube, raising enough money for Wesley to go on tour, where last year he won the RBC Heritage championship.
There is a laid-back culture in this mountain air that attracts players of all levels. Tom Fazio, who is renowned as the golf course architect of more than 120 courses worldwide, is a part-time resident of western Carolina and a frequent local player. The designer of both the Mountaintop and Wade Hampton golf courses, he and his wife are partial to Mountaintop which allows family dogs to ride along on a round. Their dog Maggy frequently accompanies them and avails herself of the dog treats that are available at the course's comfort stations.
The setting here allows golfers to get up close and personal with all sorts of wildlife as well. Golfers at the Country Club of Sapphire Valley remember the year that a mother bear and her cubs took up residence in a covered cart bridge on the sixth hole. After several heart-stopping encounters with golfers, the mama bear was “nudged” to a more remote area by a team of maintenance staffers. 
For years, there were sightings of a three-legged bear called “Tripod” by the locals, and area golfers experience the occasional sightings of deer, bobcats, and turkeys. A sun-worshipping garter snake hung out on the same drainage pipe day after day one season, to the point that he came to be known as Freddie.
People like me, as well as the good golfers, find pleasure in the “good walk spoiled” as John Feinstein famously wrote in his book of the same name.
For someone new to the Plateau, there are numerous golf venues. The immediate area features 15 golf courses, three of which are public. The public courses are all different but together can provide an overview of the special nature of mountain golf.
v The oldest is High Hampton, recently purchased by Daniel Communities, which is planning an extensive upgrade of the golf course-among other major improvements. A fun local legend explains the fact that for years the golf course had only 11 holes. The story goes that a previous owner, E.L. McKee, got the bill for those first 11 holes, was shocked by it, and cut off the project there. It would be decades before the other seven holes were added. High Hampton boasts some recent color, too, as the television version of the classic Dirty Dancing was filmed there in 2016, and many people on the staff were enlisted as extras.
v Sapphire National Country Club offers a true traditional mountain golf experience. Rated four and-a-half stars by Golf Digest, the course showcases mountains, valleys, and waterfalls and a memorable fifteenth hole island green.
v For a real change of pace, check out the Red Bird Links in Sapphire Valley. An executive course, which consists of six par three holes and three par fours, it's a great course for beginners as well as more seasoned players interested in polishing a short game. A weekly golf clinic is available during season, as well as a junior golf program, and the winter finds the course used for “foot golf,” a family-friendly game utilizing soccer balls.
Like all golfing paradises, there are funny stories in those majestic mountains, another factor that keeps people like me coming back. One full-time resident, who has been know to tee it up on “mild” days in January, recalls an older gentleman who loved the game and had, in fact, “shot his age” several times. On one memorable outing, everyone drove onto the fairway from the tee box to hit their second shots. The gentleman struggled to find his ball, temporarily stopping the play, until he remembered that he hadn't hit a tee shot.
There are countless stories of determined golfers falling into water in search of errant golf balls. What these stories all seem to have in common is white pants. I also heard the story of one friend trying to help another who had fallen into a pond, only to fall in himself for a double-whammy.
Water, of course, is a huge component of the mountain golf scene, to the extent that one local golfer walks a course early some mornings, retrieving lost underwater balls as he goes. He donates his considerable yield to the First Tee Foundation which promotes values like integrity and perseverance in young golfers, a comforting thought to golfers like me who have left many a ball behind in the water.
Then there was a gentleman from Japan who had very limited experience with the game. His host explained that the containers of sand on the cart were for divots. At the end of the round, the host discovered that his guest had carefully placed each and every divot he made into the container.
As I write these stories, I'm beginning to feel better about my golf game. Did I mention the time I won a nine-holer season championship, only to be informed, post-award ceremony, that I had not played enough rounds to qualify? I can't make this up, but my Waterford bowl prize was taken away and handed to the second-place winner as I sipped my celebratory champagne. 
And still, as long as I live in this beautiful place, I can't find the heart to quit. Nine and dine anyone?