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A Weekend In Highlands, NC

Over the long weekend, Lee and I decided it was time for a little getaway and we booked a stay up in Highlands, North Carolina - a small mountain town about 2 hours away from our house.

After a busy start to the year it was just the trip we needed to reset and recharge.

Where We Stayed

If you're familiar at all with Highlands, you'll know that Old Edwards Inn is pretty much the premier place to stay. They have three or four different properties around the area and a world class spa. This time around, however, Lee and I didn't stay in any of their properties but rather a charming, recently renovated inn called Highlander Mountain House.

Only a handful of rooms situated in a main house and then a bunkhouse out back make this property one of the coziest we've ever stayed in. The decor is inspired by the English countryside with botanicals, vintage pieces, and moody colors meticulously woven into the design of all the rooms and common areas.

A tavern sits downstairs with tables nestled among stone fireplaces, creaking wooden floors, and stuffed pheasants (but more on that in a moment).

After stalking them on Instagram for a few weeks before going I had a pretty good idea of what to expect and it definitely exceeded my expectations. A quick, rather informal check-in process welcomed us into Room 10 - a Standard Queen Room.

They have four levels of rooms - Deluxe King down to Standard Queen - and when I booked the trip about a month ago this was the only room available. It was definitely large enough to hang out in but one of the smaller rooms we've stayed in.

*the next time we go back I would want to try at least a Standard King Room if not a Deluxe King Room just to give us a little more space*

I didn't realize it was a long weekend until about last week so I assume that's why they were at capacity, but if you're going in peak season - March-September - I would recommend booking a few months out to get the level of room you want.

A few things we didn't realize that was really lovely was the inn is right on Main Street. You can walk to the heart of Highlands in about 30 seconds and since we didn't do any hiking this trip we didn't need to drive our Jeep at all. The inn also serves coffee and fresh made pastries in the mornings at their bar downstairs which was a lovely surprise.

Overall, we would give the Highlander Mountain House a 9.5/10 with just a couple things missing:

  • we did wish there were robes in the room. Maybe the deluxe rooms have robes? But hotel robes are one of the best things on the planet and our room didn't have them
  • I wish you could choose the room you're staying in. You can choose the level of room if it's available but not the exact room. This is one of those places where if you came back consistently I could see wanting to have the exact same room each time and you just can't guarantee that with their current booking system.
  • you have to stay 2 nights - not necessarily a con but something to keep in mind

But a few things we loved:

  • surprise coffee + pastry spread in the mornings
  • a few cozy common areas to sit and chat with other guests, read a book, etc.
  • a really lovely outdoor space when it gets warmer to sit in the sun
  • a delicious restaurant on the ground floor so all you have to do after an amazing meal is walk upstairs to your room
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Where We Ate

Dinner 1 – The Ruffed Grouse Tavern: Like I mentioned above the Highlander Mountain House has a tavern on the main floor called The Ruffed Grouse and when we made the room reservation we went ahead and booked a table at 6pm the first night as well.

It was an incredibly enjoyable, laid back meal (nothing and no one is exceptionally formal) with delicious foods from starters to dessert. We had a 6pm reservation and stayed for a solid two hours enjoying the food, warmth from the crackling fireplaces, and great company. If you want to look at the menu they have it on their website and in addition to dinner they also do a Sunday brunch and a Friday/Saturday lunch.

Lunch – Four65: A bistro and bar that's part of the Old Edwards Inn, this ended up being the perfect lunch place. They don't take reservations but you can get seated pretty quickly and the bar is first come first serve. They do wood fired pizzas (which was delicious) and a few other entrees like pasta and hot subs. We split a salad and pizza and walked away stuffed.

Dinner 2 – Wild Thyme: Our least favorite meal of the trip. This was a "must eat" place on every other travel bloggers list, but Lee and I found it generic and expensive. Where we live in Greenville we're definitely spoiled with some of the best chef, farm-to-table restaurants around and we visit them often so our culinary preferences definitely lean toward unique dishes with local ingredients. This place was just not that, so I wouldn't recommend a meal here. Our waitress was very nice but the rest of the staff seemed very frazzled which just threw off the ambience for us.

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What We Did in Highlands

Because we were only in Highlands for one full day we didn't really explore too much. From what I understand there are some incredible hikes around the area if that's your thing, amazing fishing opportunities, art galleries, and antique stores. We spent the morning strolling along Main Street and popping into the stores that were open (a lot of stores seemed to be closed for a Winter Break) Then after lunch we just headed back to our room, grabbed our books and read for the reminder of our afternoon until dinner.

It was the perfect little reset day for us after a busy start to the year and we were glad for a space to just do nothing. But HMH staff seemed very knowledgeable about the area and even offered to pack a hiking lunch, give us wellies for creek wading or send us out on complimentary bikes. All things we would do on another trip at another time!

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Overall, the trip was a lovely little getaway a little less than 2 hours from our house so it was the perfect Friday to Sunday adventure. Sunday morning after check-out we headed north about 45 minutes to Waynesville to check out a coffee shop we've been wanting to visit (Orchard Coffee) then headed into Asheville for the most amazing hot/cold wellness experience at the Sauna House. Overall, it was an amazing long weekend and one we can't wait to repeat in the future.