Sure, you could stay at hotels when you’re getting away this summer, but typically they’re not nearly as nice—and personable—as bed and breakfast inns.“People come here, and they’re happy,” said Helene Siegel, who owns 4½ Street Inn in Highlands with her husband. “They’re on vacation. It’s just nice to be around people when they’re happiest. There’s a lot of generosity of spirit when people are in an inn.”
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]nns are often in beautifully restored,historic buildings that started out as family homes. Owners and innkeepers take great pride in welcoming guests to stay in rooms that have comforted families for generations. Service tends to be a bit more personal at inns, interactions with other guests a little more intimate and interesting.
“When the owner lives on the premises and does the cooking, they usually want to do the best they can to give the inn its own special flair,” said Beverly Lait, owner of the Banner Elk Inn near Beech Mountain. “Motels are fine, but they tend to all be the same.”
Not so at bed and breakfast inns, which vary with the tastes of its owners and the preferences of its guests. Meals are often the kind that a very skilled mother might have served to her family on special occasions. Recommendations of sites to see and restaurants to try typically come from people who know the area well.
“It’s a bit more expensive to stay in a bed and breakfast,” said Billy Sanders, innkeeper and co-owner of Reynolds Mansion Bed and Breakfast Inn in Asheville. “But they have more to offer.”
Red House Inn
266 W. Probart Street, Brevard
Close to Brevard Music Center but closer to Brevard College is the Red House Inn, a beautiful bed and breakfast that’s within walking distance of everything that makes Brevard a delightful destination for music, restaurants, and art.
An English-style inn, Red House Inn provides an insider’s perspective on all things wonderful about this Transylvania town, largely because its owners live upstairs and know the region well. Tracie Trusler grew up there and married Daniel Trusler, a native of Cornwall, England. It was he who glowingly talked about Brevard’s attributes recently.
“I’ve been lucky,” he said. “I grew up in an amazing place in England, and now I live in a beautiful place here.”
The Red House Inn was built by Leander Gash in 1851 as a general store, serving cattle drivers and others. It served as a station when the railroad was built and later became the county courthouse and school, as well as a family home. The house was stuccoed and painted red in the 1880s and has been red ever since. Because the Inn was built to be a commercial building, it has none of the fussiness of the grand homes nearby. Rather, it is simple and elegant in its utility. That suits the Truslers fine, as it does their decorating tastes. The Inn’s aesthetic could be described as classic with a lot of contemporary features. The Truslers undertook extensive renovations a few years ago, gutting the bathrooms to put in custom-built tile showers with glass enclosures (they left an original clawfoot tub in one of the rooms).
The Inn has four bedrooms, each named for a historical figure, and one cottage on the grounds. Elsewhere in downtown Brevard, it has three vacation homes, each with three bedrooms and two baths. The Inn and cottage can accommodate up to 12 people. Rooms have private bathrooms, refrigerators, WiFi, cable TV, and controllable heating and cooling. They’re decorated with paintings, photographs, and sculptures produced by local artists, which may give guests an idea of where to go if they want to include artwork in their stay. People often ask to buy the bed linen, which the Inn can accommodate. But the Turkish towels, they stay with the Inn, Trusler said.
“One of our main things is to have really comfortable, high-quality beds and really good bathrooms. And great breakfasts,” Trusler said.
Breakfasts are a treat here. Eggs come from local chickens, while English muffins are baked daily at Bracken Mountain Bakery in Brevard. The bacon and sausage for English-style breakfasts come from a farm in Lumberton, North Carolina, that pasture-feeds its livestock. The owners handpick blueberries for fruit salad, and they caramelize locally grown apples for made-from-scratch pancakes. Even the coffee is local, sort of. It’s roasted by The Brown Bean Coffee Roasters, which is located on Main Street in Brevard.
Breakfasts (served in the Inn but not in the vacation homes) make an excellent foundation on which to hike the area’s trails and waterfalls. Many guests prefer strolling into downtown Brevard. Excellent options for lunch and supper are just a block away, such as MARCO Trattoria and Hobknob, located in neighboring cottages on Main Street. “We have so many guests who are really amazed that they can walk to downtown. Where they live, they don’t have that,” Trusler said. “They can walk downtown and walk home. That makes their vacation.”
Other local attractions include the famed Brevard Music Center, as well as DuPont State Forest and Pisgah National Forest. “Our uniqueness is we’re well-placed to send people to experience different things,” Trusler said. “The town has grown into a year-round tourist destination.” On Saturdays, some guests opt to tour the new Oskar Blues brewery in town, then board the free four o’clock round-trip brewery shuttle to Asheville for supper there. The Inn is pet-friendly upon approval by the innkeepers.
“The level of detail is so much higher here than at a hotel, where someone being paid minimum wage is cleaning your room,” Trusler said. “We really enjoy where we live, and we can pass that along.”
4½ Street Inn Bed & Breakfast
55 4½ Street, Highlands
An easy bike ride to The Bascom Center for the Visual Arts and nearly neighbors with Highland’s Performing Arts Center is 4½ Street Inn Bed & Breakfast, a former boarding house that now welcomes guests from all over. Here among masterfully manicured grounds, guests stroll in late afternoon while waiting for wine to be poured, signaling an evening ahead sure to include a wonderful meal a short walk away.
People have long loved the Highlands-Cashiers area, located on a plateau surrounded by national forest, because of its hiking, touring, and theater. Many stay at 4½ Street Inn while taking in exhibits at The Bascom Center for the Visual Arts or taking classes at the Center for Life Enrichment.
The Inn was built in 1910 by Irvin Rice, a butcher who owned a meat market on Main Street. A member of the family that founded Rice and Baylor universities, Rice and his wife, Lily, had an 11-bedroom house but only two sons and a daughter. They utilized the extra space by renting rooms during summer. Their daughter, Edna, inherited the house and used it as a summer home. She sold it to a member of the Potts clan, an old Highlands family. “They say in Highlands there are more Potts than pans,” said Helene Siegel, who owns 4½ Street Inn with her husband Ricky. The Pottses ran it as a boarding house for people who would come to stay for the summer. The Siegels have owned it for 18 years.
The Inn, which can accommodate 22 people, is in a quiet residential neighborhood a half mile from Main Street. Surrounded by hemlock and mountain laurel, it’s hard to believe it’s so close to downtown. Ricky Siegel, a master gardener who has done beautiful things with the 1.3-acre grounds, has kept the landscaping simple. There are no formal gardens here, just a lot of shade beneath century-old oak trees and behind screens of rhododendron.
The Inn has four rooms on the first floor, four on the second, and two on the third. All have private bathrooms. Helene Siegel credits the previous owners, who also ran it as an inn, with the superb restoration. They preserved the wainscoting and the original oak floors. The big wraparound porch, also original, has all manner of rocking chairs and tables for cool drinks. Out there, people tend to talk.
“It’s kind of what you would imagine it would have been like when the house was built,” Helene Siegel said. “People sit out here and find some peace and tranquility. People like going out there before breakfast. It’s nice when there’s a soft rain. You can be under there and be protected and still hear the birds. And enjoy the fresh air and all the smells that come with that.” The deck on the back is where the Siegels serve wine and hors d’oeuvres at 5:30 each afternoon. She often sees people strike up friendships that last for years.
The Inn is decorated with whatever catches her fancy. Many of the antiques came with the house when she and her husband bought it. Much of the rest came from forays into Asheville or wherever. The result is colorful, casual. Siegel likes to think of it as a happy place. People tell her that merely walking in makes them feel better. As is true with most inns, each room is different. The Treehouse Room on the third floor is filled with light. The Rhododendron Room, one of three bedrooms with a fireplace, has a bed made of stout rhododendron branches.
Siegel so skillfully runs a meatless kitchen that many guests don’t notice. It’s hard to miss anything when she serves up breakfasts that can include lemon soufflé pancakes with homemade strawberry syrup; asparagus strata with peppers, mushrooms and swiss cheese; and garlic grits soufflé. She made all of those on a recent morning, serving them with biscuits, homemade granola, fresh fruit, and Greek yogurt.
Though pets aren’t allowed, the Siegels keep guests happy with a basket of fresh-baked cookies in a basket on the stairway newel. Fruit, coffee and tea are always available, as is WiFi and a handicapped-accessible room. Amenities include bicycles, an outdoor hot tub, a morning paper, fresh flowers, and terrycloth robes. The Inn closes after Thanksgiving and reopens April 1st.
Banner Elk Inn
407 Main Street East, Banner Elk
One of the few single-stoplight towns around, Banner Elk has long ambled to a slower beat. That’s what makes it such a great place to get away to.
It’s hard to miss the Banner Elk Inn, a large pink farmhouse set amid award-winning gardens across from the town park and a short walk to the village center. People have long come to Banner Elk for the skiing on Sugar and Beech mountains and the hiking in Grandfather Mountain State Park. Many also come for the Inn and its grounds alone, a pleasing respite to their hectic lives at home.
The Inn, open year-round, was built in 1912 by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In the 1940s, a local artist bought it and named it Shawneehaw Inn, using the Indian name for the creek nearby. She added a second story and then the third, eventually selling it to a family that raised seven boys there. A Columbia, South Carolina, developer bought it, painted it its signature pink color and reopened it as an inn. The Inn is to be repainted again this summer, owner Beverly Lait said. She’s considering a color “not so pinkish.”
Lait, who speaks Spanish and some German, has added bathrooms, a cabin, and the three cottages. She can accommodate up to 25 people, which makes her Inn a destination for weddings and family reunions. “I’m a romantic at heart. I like everything pretty,” she said. The house has historic features such as original oak floors, a stone fireplace in the living room and beadboard paneling in the coffee room and hallway. The house still looks like the farmhouse the church designed long ago.
[quote float=”right”]“I’m a romantic at heart. I like everything pretty,” she said. [/quote]The house, filled with antiques from around the world, has six bedrooms. There are private bathrooms in all except two bedrooms, which share a bathroom. The Briarwood Cottages, which sleep two or three, and the Bark House Cabin, which sleeps four, have whirlpool tubs and fireplaces. All beds have soft sheets and down comforters (nights can be chilly, even in summer). The cathedral-ceilinged cabin is paneled in pine, clad in poplar bark, and close to a waterfall rolling over natural boulders. The cottages have Palladian windows, high ceilings, antique European stain-glass windows, gas log fireplaces, and wood- or gas-burning stoves, as well as their own entrances. The Inn’s library has classic movies guests may borrow to play on the VCR or DVD player in their rooms.
Full breakfasts are served on fine china on holidays and weekends. Lait makes delicious cottage cheese pancakes on Saturdays, serving them with fresh blueberries, bacon and sausage, and fresh fruit. On Sundays, she often serves up an egg, sausage, and cheese casserole. Other Inn favorites include baked stuffed granola cinnamon apples and a parmesan omelet soufflé with cheddar cheese sauce. Simpler fare fills out weekday mornings. Lait can accommodate gluten-free diets. She recently planted an herb and vegetable garden for the pico de gallo sauce she makes to serve with egg dishes.
The Inn can seat 10 people around the big table in the dining room. During the warm months, people often eat on the side porch, enjoying the fresh, high-elevation air. Some prefer to take their breakfasts back to their rooms. And sometimes “but not always,” Lait said, she’ll serve breakfast in bed.
Lait was destined to be an innkeeper, it seems. The wife of a foreign service officer for 17 years, she hosted government functions in Peru, Uruguay, England, and West Berlin. “I had all this furniture and fine china and didn’t know what to do with it,” she said. So she decided to open an inn, something she’d contemplated before. She’s pretty good at it too. She decorated the coffee area, a cozy nook inside the Inn burnished with tongue and groove paneling, with antiques. Several buffets hold the coffee, tea, hot chocolate, biscotti, and other baked goods that guests can help themselves to around the clock.
“There’s always something like a lemon cake,” she said. “It’s a big plus. Everyone likes to eat.”
Reynolds Mansion Bed & Breakfast Inn
100 Reynolds Heights, Asheville
“If you like history, you’re going to like Reynolds Mansion,” said Billy Sanders, innkeeper and co-owner of Reynolds Mansion Bed and Breakfast Inn in Asheville. “We put it back to the way it looked when the Reynolds family lived here. People always mention it’s like stepping back in time.”
This immaculately preserved, 18,000-square-foot inn has some 3,000 feet of deep porches. On the ground level, the porches wrap around the house, tying the front to the courtyard in back. On the second floor, the porch has long-range views of Cold Mountain and other peaks. The house was built for Colonel Daniel Reynolds in 1847 by slaves who made bricks on site and stacked them three deep to form the stout walls of this three-story Colonial Revival inn. The walls are so thick that a profound quietness and deep sense of peace pervade the Inn. Sixteen-foot ceilings on the first floor add to the air of expansiveness.
Sitting on a knoll that ascends to Reynolds Mountain between Asheville and Weaverville, the Inn has eight guest rooms and 11 bathrooms. The carriage house has three more guest rooms, and there are two in the cottage. The Inn can accommodate 34 people, making it one of the largest in the Asheville area.
Reynolds Mansion Bed & Breakfast Inn is one of the few pre-Civil War era homes still standing in Buncombe County. It has been a home to a large family, a rooming house for local workers and a sanitarium. After several lives, the Inn has been restored to its former glory, with modern conveniences such as WiFi.
A “double pile” brick home (meaning that the rooms on either side of the central staircase are mirror images of each other), the house was built in Federalist style. Reynolds and his wife, Susan Adelia Baird, filled the home with five girls and five boys. When the colonel died, the house and 140 acres that remained of the 1,500-acre estate went to a son, William Taswell Reynolds. He and wife Mamie Spears had a son of their own, Robert Rice Reynolds, who would become a United States senator from 1932-1945. Senator Reynolds, an adventurer who was also a professional wrestler and motion picture producer, was married five times. His last, at 57 years, was to 19-year-old Evalyn Walsh McLean.
Additions done some 80 years ago now place the Inn in the Colonial Revival style of architecture. Eighty percent of the furnishings are original to the Reynolds family. Family portraits still hang in many rooms. The gateway to the guest rooms is grand—a hand-carved stairway of molded handrails and turned balusters. Each room on the first and second floors has a fireplace. All rooms on the three floors have private bathrooms. There are common bathrooms on each floor for guests’ visitors.
The heavy wooden table in the dining room can seat 34 people. Using mostly local ingredients, Sanders and his staff whip up sumptuous breakfasts that start with fruit and biscuits and include dishes like sweet pepper scrambled eggs, apple stuffed french toast with hard sauce, and the Inn’s own “back to basics” Southern breakfast, all served on one of its 16 sets of china. Eggs come from the chickens penned in back, near the Inn’s vegetable and flower gardens.
What makes this an especially nice inn is that it’s just north of Asheville and yet not part of the busy city. Its address puts guests close to all that attracts people to Asheville. But it’s also near the hiking, biking, and other outdoor opportunities of northern Buncombe County, as well as counties further north. “People like the convenience of being able to get to downtown, but they like to step away from it and not be next to crowds and the noise,” Sanders said.
[quote float=”right”]“I can’t tell you how many times late at night people are reading in the library, watching the fire in the fireplace,” Sanders said. “At night, people are on the porch watching the lightning bugs. You just do not get that at a hotel.”[/quote]Every afternoon, there’s a wine and cheese social that prompts guests to mingle in the brick-lined courtyard that Sanders has meticulously filled with hollyhocks, coreopsis, roses, and bachelor buttons. On chilly nights, they might gather in the front parlor or the library. The Inn respects its guests’ desire for quiet by referring potential visitors with children to other inns in the area.
The pet-friendly carriage house has a Jacuzzi. The cottages have kitchens. The small pool, built in 1925, is thoroughly updated. Coffee, wine and goodies are available to guests around the clock. The Inn is open all year.
“I can’t tell you how many times late at night people are reading in the library, watching the fire in the fireplace,” Sanders said. “At night, people are on the porch watching the lightning bugs. You just do not get that at a hotel.”
IN THE SIDEBAR THAT BEGINS BELOW, you’ll find a various assortment of the Bed & Breakfasts in Western North Carolina (but certainly not all). Considering that many now employ talented chefs, they serve decadent dinners and lunches, the gray area between inns and B&Bs is widening. We like to think that all of the “establishments” found in this article offer the spirit and intimacy of a true Bed & Breakfast, regardless of their title.
While the terms “B&Bs” and “inns” are often used interchangeably, the Professional Association of Innkeepers International differentiates between the two in that the former offers only breakfasts, while the latter may also offer lunch and dinner. The two most important factors of B&Bs are their uniqueness and sense of social environment.[twocol_one]
1900 Inn on Montford
The Aberdeen Inn B&B
Bed of Roses B&B
Bent Creek Lodge
Biltmore Village Inn
Biltmore Village, NC<
Banner Elk Winery & Villa
Banner Elk, NC
Buck House Inn on Bald Mtn Creek
Inn at Ragged Gardens
Blowing Rock, NC
Bryson City, NC
The Fryemont Inn
Bryson City, NC
The Chalet Inn
Echo Mountain Inn
Elizabeth Leigh Inn
The Mainstreet Inn
Mountain Magnolia Inn
Hot Springs, NC
Mountain Magnolia Inn
Old Fort, NC
The Oaks Bed & Breakfast
The Orchard Inn
Mountain Laurel Rest
Scaly Mountain, NC
1906 Pine Crest Inn
Taylor House Inn
Valle Crucis, NC
Valle Crucis Bed & Breakfast
Valle Crucis, NC
Brookside Mtn Mist Inn B&B
Herren House B&B
Dry Ridge Inn
Inn on Main Street