The build up for Blackberry Farm was big. The Relais & Chateaux property had been our list for years, but the stars never aligned for actually making the trip to Walland Tennessee. As the world started getting back to normal, we decided the time was right to venture down South to give it a try. I asked my Travel Agent to book us a Cottage (we had been told the Hill Cottages were the way to go) any time during the month of June. Because domestic travel is off the charts this summer all he could get were two nights midweek, and we were advised to grab them. There is a little confusion regarding Blackberry- there is the original Blackberry Farm, and the newer Blackberry Mountain , both located on the same sprawling property. Blackberry Mountain consists of all Cottage accommodations, and has a younger vibe. We were unable to book during June (we did decide to visit just the month before), but we both agree we would happily return at a later date to experience Blackberry Mountain.
Blackberry Farm is the perfect getaway if you love Southern charm, delicious food, and spectacular scenery. It is a photographer’s dream.
The one thing Blackberry Farm is not, is easy to get to from the NY area. Take a look at flight options before you book your stay. The closest airport is Knoxville, TN (about a half hour away).
We arranged for a transfer from the airport and rolled up just before lunchtime. Meals are included in the daily rate (which is quite pricey- but worth it), though only dinner on the arrival day through lunch on the day of departure. We were fortunate that our Cottage was ready for us upon arrival, and we were invited to join for an à la carte luncheon in the Main House. Every single person we encountered was unfailingly friendly, helpful and enthusiastic. Their staff is very young, but very competent.
Our Cottage was Vintner, and it was utterly charming.
The Cottage was spacious, nicely decorated, and impeccably clean. We had not a single complaint!
There was even a gift of Pimiento Cheese and (gluten free) crackers to enjoy with a host of complimentary other snacks. I am a sucker for pimiento cheese!
We quickly unpacked and set out for lunch in “the Main House”.
The dining room is very traditional at the Main House, think quintessential Ralph Lauren Hunt Club circa the 1990s. That did not detract from the quality of the menu choices, but is a little like stepping back in a time machine. As before, all the staff we encountered were excellent.
All the options sounded tempting, I ultimately settled on the Field Green Salad, which was not only outstanding, but also gorgeous.
The Avocado toast was also a step above ordinary!
You can gather a sense of the decor here.
The Hickory Club Room is in close proximity to the Main House. Its is a cozy place to grab a drink, play some pool, and lounge around. It also looks like it is straight out of a Ralph Lauren ad.
Following lunch, my husband went to shoot some clay targets, which he said was well worth it. I set out to take a tour of the property which is truly stunning. I was able to say hello to the resident sheep, as well as a friendly donkey named Daphne.
Before long it was time for dinner. While dinner is included with the daily rate, you get to choose whether you want to eat in the Main House (best for families) or The Barn (more formal). We booked both nights at The Barn. It is a very impressive space, and a short distance from our Cottage. There are golf carts that each accommodation has access to throughout the stay, but we chose to walk, attempting to burn some extra calories. There was no shortage of vegetarian options for me, and my husband had plenty of meat to choose from. The food was not only photogenic, but incredibly tasty as well. The offerings change daily so that you can’t get bored if you dine there several days in a row.
It isn’t hard to see why these are called the Great Smoky Mountains. The early morning views from breakfast are quite dramatic.
Breakfast brought us back to The Main House. The dishes didn’t disappoint.
Our morning activity was the Farmstead Tour. We were told this was a can’t-miss activity, and that was true. It does lead me to one aspect of Blackberry farm which is always mentioned whenever people recount their stays. A stay at the property is quite expensive, and although it includes meals as well as use of the property, it pretty much doesn’t include a single activity. Everything is tacked on to the room rate. There is a lot of tempting options, but guests might assume some things would be included…such as a tour of the property. While it was an extensive tour, it was also billed out at $125 per person. The Clay Course was $250, which my husband deemed reasonable based on the quality of the course and the guide. I am not going to linger too long on this point, but just be aware that activities (and a mandatory 20% service fee and taxes) quickly add up.
Our tour of the property was given by Cheri who primarily works with the Lagotto Romagnolo Truffle dogs on property. Many years ago the owners of Blackberry brought some of these famed Italian Truffle Hunting dogs to the property, and they were such a hit with the guests that there is now a breeding operation going on with an 8 year waiting list. Cheri brought along a puppy who proved to be a (delightful) distraction.
We were able to meet an array of these adorable dogs, and get to see the newest litter of week-old pups. Pretty irresistible. Following the puppies we met some of the other Blackberry ambassadors including Tom the Turkey. We also paid a visit to the Larder where meats are cured, vegetables are pickled, and cheese is made. Blackberry Farm beer is also a burgeoning business. We learned about what is currently in production, and got to do some tasting. Following that tasty respite we headed to the massive wine cellar that runs beneath the Barn. There is an impressive collection down there.
To cap off the tour we were able to visit the property’s Master Gardener John Coykendal (bottom right photo below) who was absolutely delightful. I could have sat and listened to him share his knowledge and stories for hours.
Blackberry farm has a relationship with Lexus, and there is a fleet of cars you can borrow as a guest in order to tour around the area. This activity is free! There is a super-cool convertible in the line-up which we reserved to go for a ride in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Hotel packed a lunch for us, gave us some directions and set us on our way. We were heading for a drive called The Tail of the Dragon which is an 11 mile section of the road filled with twists and turns, showing us just what our Lexus LC 500 could do.
The drive was a lot of fun, and we got a good sense for some of the striking vistas within the National Park. This may come as a surprise to you (it certainly surprised us), The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited National Park in the US!
When we returned to Blackberry we decided to explore a bit more. We happened upon even more impressive photogenic spots, and then it was Spa Time. The shop at the spa was very well stocked (as were all the shops on premises) and the Deep -Tissue Massage my husband enjoyed received the thumbs up. I happily went back to the room to work on a Stave Puzzle.
There were several more enjoyable meals to be devoured, and again, there was absolutely nothing I could find fault with- something that rarely happens. We spent our last morning eating, and hiking, and eating some more before we were set to leave at 2:30.
Daphne was waiting at the fence to bid us adieu. We really enjoyed our stay, and look forward to returning, perhaps in the Fall. I have heard that the change of seasons is magnificent.
If you have a special occasion to celebrate, or just want an indulgent getaway, I would wholeheartedly recommend Blackberry Farm. Next time I will report back on Blackberry Mountain.