Above: Overlook near Whiteside Mountain between Highlands and Cashiers, North Carolina

Hotels in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains

The lovely Blue Ridge Mountains extend from southern Pennsylvania to northern Georgia and contain the highest peak east of the Mississippi, 6,684-foot Mount Mitchell, which rises from the Pisgah National Forest, 20 miles north of Asheville, North Carolina. Part of the larger Appalachian range, they owe their poetic name to isoprene, a volatile organic compound released by certain species of trees, which is responsible for their characteristic bluish haze.

My previous visit to the region was in summer 2019, when I flew to Knoxville, Tennessee, in order to stay at the superb new Blackberry Mountain resort, as well as to revisit its illustrious sibling, Blackberry Farm. Both properties are owned by the Beall family, whose patriarch, Sandy Beall, amassed his fortune as the founder of the Ruby Tuesday restaurant chain. Apparently, while their children were growing up, the Bealls would take an annual summer vacation at the historic High Hampton resort, located 100 miles to the southeast of Knoxville, in the highlands of North Carolina. There, they purchased a home on the 1,400-acre estate. The connection was to prove enduring. About two years ago, I learned that High Hampton had new owners and that the Bealls and the Blackberry team engaged to restore the property to its former luster. I resolved to pay the place a visit as soon as the work was complete. Then, the pandemic intervened.

High Hampton

View of Rock Mountain, High Hampton resort, Cashiers - Photo by Andrew Harper editor

In June of this year, a window of opportunity opened, so I caught a flight to Asheville. From there, I drove for 90 minutes southwest to the tiny village of Cashiers, along a road that became progressively more serpentine, with breaks in the trees revealing vistas of receding misty ridges. High Hampton is located at an elevation of 3,850 feet next to 35-acre Hampton Lake and is overshadowed by sizable wooded peaks. The principal building is an imposing bark-sided inn with wraparound porches, which crowns the top of a low hill. First constructed in 1922 and rebuilt after a major fire in 1933, the structure is now included on the National Register of Historic Places — which doubtless made its restoration a complex and somewhat problematic affair. In addition to the hotel, the High Hampton estate includes a country club and an expanding residential community.

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Above: Overlook near Whiteside Mountain between Highlands and Cashiers, North Carolina

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