On our first visit to Half-Mile Farm in Highlands, North Carolina, we were impressed to find that parent company, Old Edwards Hospitality Group, had found a way to combine a pastoral setting with the same touches of luxury that characterize their signature, award-winning Relais & Chateaux downtown property, Old Edwards Inn and Spa.
A magnificent renovation and warm welcome
Our recent return to this luxury inn in Highlands left us nothing short of “wowed” to see what an $8.2 million renovation can accomplish.
The upgrades have added new rooms, expanded service areas and a touch of elegance throughout the property. We would have been content to stay in our lovely fireplace suite, but were drawn away to sample the outdoor heated pool and hot tub with tumbling waterfall as well as the redesigned sunlit dining room where breakfast is served.
Also new on the property is the stand-alone Garden House and its outer patio with a grape arbor overhead. This space seats 35 people and is popular for group receptions, special events and family reunions (although the property is only open to guests ages 18 and above, unless rented out in its entirety).
The Garden House, with a floor-to-high-ceiling stone fireplace and exposed white beams, felt like our own living room mountain sanctuary. A large, light-gray, farm-style table held reading material that invited us to curl up with a book and a cup of coffee from the in-room Nespresso machine.
A great property is all about great people and the staff here is exceptionally accommodating, detail-focused and attentive to any need – like providing dinner menus from town eateries. New members have come aboard, but we were pleased to find innkeeper Vivian Littlejohn is still on duty. It’s been three years since our last visit, yet she again greeted us with a big hug and that same ear-to-ear smile. “Welcome back,” she said. “It’s nice to be home,” we replied.
A Blue Ridge Mountains getaway
“The old-timers say that Half-Mile Farm got that name because it was a half-mile from downtown Highlands as the crow flies,” Ms. Littlejohn said. By road, it’s a mere five-minute drive to the “big city,” and if you aren’t in the mood to drive, Half-Mile Farm offers an evening shuttle service.
For those unfamiliar with the destination, Highlands is aptly named.
The picturesque town of Highlands sits at 4,000+ feet, straddling the Eastern Continental Divide. It’s the highest incorporated town east of the Mississippi River.
A popular getaway in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s easily reachable from all of North Carolina and South Carolina, as well as Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi, and Georgia; it’s a favorite of Atlantans and anyone else wanting to escape summer’s heat or take in magnificent fall colors. The year-round population of 3,000 swells to 15,000 in high season, June through October.
Reaching Highlands requires some driving on a winding, climbing two-lane road with foliage all around and a rushing stream along one side. Coming in from the east, we usually stop at the large parking area and restroom facilities at Dry Falls. When time permits, we take the stairs leading to the waterfall and enjoy the walk behind it. Just outside of town, a turnout road behind Bridal Falls rewards those who take it with an impressive photo.
A chance to unwind and relax
At check-in, we were welcomed with flutes of champagne as we noted the beautifully updated furnishings in the main house. A quick tour revealed the much-anticipated, complimentary, late afternoon hors-d’oeuvres, offered in a new bar area where craft cocktails, beer and wine are available for purchase. Fortunately, the updated dining room is still home to a complimentary, farm-fresh country-style breakfast. The brown sugar bacon is addictive.
The property grounds are delightful, and the welcoming front porch offers a perfect view of 6-acre Apple Lake just past the sprawling, bright-green, front lawn with white Adirondack chairs circling a new fire pit.
Half-Mile Farm’s 14 acres are perfect for walks or hikes to reconnect with nature in a lush forest and stream setting or on a lake. In warm weather, there are horseshoes and corn hole outside, and inside, a community puzzle awaits in the parlor.
We picked up complimentary fishing poles at reception, and set out for the lake. Passing abundant wildflowers and impeccable landscaping lining the wide gravel drive, we reached the bright red, complimentary canoes. While Kathy paddled leisurely around the lake, Fletcher dropped a line in the water but was soon coaxed into climbing aboard for paddling à deux. Upon our return, we greeted fellow guests enjoying the water view.
Other options to get outdoors nearby include rafting, kayaking, horseback riding, hiking in the Nantahala National Forest, ziplining and golf. One of our favorite late-day activities is to visit Sunset Rock and Ravenel Park, just three miles from Half-Mile Farm. A half-mile hike up a gravel road or careful, slow drive to the top rewards visitors with views of—guess what?— Sunsets to write home about.
Guest room splendors ensure sweet dreams
Rooms at this luxury inn in Highlands are in two-story buildings that face an inner courtyard full of foliage and are laced with stone walkways leading to the main house. Rear balconies face woodlands. Accommodations are splendid, from original art chosen by the owner to floor-to-ceiling drapes and plantation shutters. Beds feature luxurious linens, and rooms have a large-screen TV, electric fireplace, writing desk and more. Our walk-in closet’s safe had a brilliant feature: a light inside, which we’ve yet to see elsewhere in our extensive world travels.
Our expansive bathroom felt opulent thanks to a soaking tub with European-style faucet, including hand-held sprayer, heated Carrera marble floors, oversized shower with rimless glass-surround, double sinks, and heated towel racks.
For rustic elegance, there are several cabins for rent on the property. Two have three bedrooms; the other has two bedrooms. Each is an easy walk from the main house but secluded for romantic getaways. Some have wood-burning fireplaces.
Don’t let the rugged board/log exterior fool you, the furnishings inside are still luxe and even sport a fun pop of color.
A getaway from the everyday in a setting that’s inspiring is what awaits guests at the bucolic Half-Mile Farm. The great news: There’s no scrimping on luxury.
Next for the company: An historic home to host guests on a 160-acre property that’s part of a sustainable farm dating to the early 1800s. We hear there is a well-stocked trout lake. Can’t wait.
What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?
- Half-Mile Farm, a luxury inn in Highlands, North Carolina offers peace and quiet with a handful of like-minded, well-traveled guests, with the option to interact or not
- Outstanding service coupled with lovely surroundings
- There is no meal service beyond breakfast at Half-Mile Farm but reception will happily arrange a complimentary shuttle for dinner downtown, including at Madison’s, where reservations are suggested.
Disclosure: The authors were guests of Old Edwards Hospitality Group.
All photo credits: Old Edwards Hospitality Group, except as noted.
IF YOU GO
Half-Mile Farm Website