Road & Travel, July 15, 2003 (Read more Accolades)
By Rachel Miller
As a tried-and-true urban dweller, my idea of solitude is measured in city blocks. Open space to me is the three-block-wide park five minutes down the street, or at the most, a nearby Metropark that offers a predictable manmade lake and a few hiking trails.
Of course, I’m not entirely delusional. I knew that when traveling in the Western North Carolina mountains, I’d encounter real wilderness – forests, streams, towering evergreens, the whole nine yards. And when I made a reservation for a night at the Spring House Farm – a luxury B&B located 20 minutes from Chimney Rock and Lake Lure – I was well aware that I was apparently going to be spending the night in the forested mountains.
And perhaps it has to do with my city roots, but I’ve always automatically associated luxury with vast resorts and glistening glass tower hotels. So how could a series of cottages – located in the middle of the mountains, miles from the nearest town – be luxurious? A truly secluded – and virtually untouched — mountain setting is one only accessed by die-hard campers who like to rough it, right?
Tell that to Zee Ann and Arthur Campbell, the owners of Spring House Farm. Their vision began when they happened across the 175-year-old Albertus Ledbetter House and decided to lovingly restore it. With the house came over 90 acres of unspoiled beauty – streams, rolling hills and valleys – throughout which the couple carefully built five cottages that they now rent out to solitude-seeking guests.
But these cottages aren’t run-of-the-mill by any means. First of all, they were built in an eco-friendly manner, (for example, using trees felled on the premises for construction lumber) making Spring House Farm North Carolina’s first genuine eco-retreat according to ECOCLUB.com – International Ecotourism Club. And in addition to that proud achievement, the cottages are truly spectacular, giving guests every amenity they’re accustomed to enjoying in any luxury hotel…and then some.
Our cottage – “The Outrigger” – boasted not only a two-person shower in its spacious bathroom, but also a rare antique “mini” queen claw foot bath tub. And then there was the bidet, which neither my guest or I dared to try. The full kitchen was stocked with fresh farm eggs, a plethora of snacks and Zee Ann’s delicious homemade bread. A wood-burning fireplace was in view of a king-sized bed (handcrafted from cherry and walnut); nearby was a comfortable leather couch, a Weber gas grill and our favorite – the soft terrycloth robes.
And did I mention that there’s a hot tub on the deck? Oh yes. And that the large deck offered a most splendid view of the surrounding woodlands, but not a single trace of another guest…or of another cottage?
Of course, this level of seclusion was intended by Arthur and Zee Ann, who are well aware some guests prefer limited interaction with others while staying at a B&B. But for those who are interested, the couple serves wine and cheese at 5 p.m. daily in the farm’s gazebo overlooking the pond. And they also like to make sure they’re readily available to their guests throughout the day.
“We’re not the type of place that’ll just hand you a key to a cabin in the woods and just say, ‘Go to it’,” Arthur told us as he gave us a tour of the grounds. “We like to be very hands-on with our guests. If there’s anything you need, we like to be able to help.”
The Campbells faithfully stick to that vow, with Zee Ann extending a kind offer within moments of our arrival. “I’m going to town in a few minutes…can I bring you back anything?”
We declined, but asked her to elaborate on some of the famous faces that have reportedly checked in to the Spring House Farm cottages. And laughing, it was her turn to goodheartedly decline.
After leading us up the steep, twisting dirt road to our cottage, Arthur provided us with a packet containing directions to nearby restaurants, attractions and a map of the Spring House Farm’s hiking trails. Ranging from simple to strenuous, but never failing to be scenic, there’s an option for every fitness level. Guests can also canoe and take part in bird watching, if they so desire. Hot air balloon rides can be arranged, as can massage therapy.
We settled in and I soon found myself on the deck. Reclining in a tall wrought-iron chair, I propped my feet against the wood railing and just relaxed, enjoying the crisp mountain air and the sound of a light breeze tickling the leaves. At first the complete quiet was a bit unnerving, especially since I’d never experienced such silent privacy before, but as the day wore on I found myself wondering how I’d ever lived without it.
We simply enjoyed the hot tub and caught up on our sleep, easily dozing off as a light summertime drizzle danced on the roof. With Arthur’s handy instructions as a guide, we drove out to Lake Lure for a late dinner, just in time to watch the last hint of the sunset’s residual pink linger on the hilly horizon.
It was comforting to return to our cottage, which already felt like home after a mere day. Night blanketed our view from the deck in complete darkness, with not a single light in sight. We thumbed through the WWII-era Life magazines placed on the coffee table, getting lost in a bygone era as crickets and other critters hummed outside.
The next morning came too soon. We had to be on the road early, but not before stopping by the farmhouse to say good-bye to Arthur and Zee Ann…and promising to return someday.
See this article on the Road and Travel Web site.