I began hearing about Blackberry Farm perhaps ten years ago. Stories of a place with great food and great wine in the mountains of Tennessee. It sounded interesting. Thoughts of "that's a place I'd like to go sometime." Over the years, reports of special events at Blackberry. And when there was a chance to gather with friends from all over the southeast, we seized the opportunity to spend a weekend at Blackberry Farm.
Interestingly, before we went a lot of people expressed interest..."tell me how you like it." To save the suspense, I liked it...a lot.
Perhaps I should issue a caution up front. Blackberry Farm is not for the faint of wallet. It's expensive...even when you reserve the least expensive room (which we did). Rooms range from a low of about $1000 per night up...(presumably, up quite a bit, but since the bottom was a stretch for us, I didn't explore the top). That DOES include your food--dinner the night you check in, breakfast and lunch the next day (and dinner and breakfast and lunch since there is a two-night minimum at least most of the time if not all). Of course, it does not include wine or liquor. And it does not include a 19% service charge or a sales tax that appears to be close to 9%. So going in, you need to be prepared for a bill that will be plussed up 25% to 30%. As I said, not for the faint of wallet.
If you can get past that, we can talk about all that Blackberry Farm offers. First, as perhaps this sunrise photo suggests, it is a lovely property. Blackberry Farm itself consists of over 4000 acres in the Smoky Mountains...but because it is surrounded by perhaps 5000 more virgin acres, in essence, Blackberry Farm is its own mountain oasis with nothing else in view. It is a real, working farm...with acres of forest and meadow, pasture and garden, pond and stream. Beautiful. Beautiful during the day. Beautiful at sunset. And especially, beautiful at sunrise with the mist coming off the mountains playing out in shades of blue-gray as they catch the first rays of the sun.
When you arrive, your car is surrounded by a team that welcomes you, gathers your things and sweeps away your car...not to be seen again until you check out. But 4000+ acres, you say? Not to worry. Blackberry Farm has one of the largest fleets of golf carts I've ever seen. You'll encounter one immediately, as you're driven to your accommodations. Once you're settled, you can check out your own cart and explore the grounds. Is your ambition to go further? Perhaps into Great Smoky Mountain National Park? There's a fleet of Lexuses as well as golf carts. We took a new Lexus 600hL for a spin in the park. Pretty cool.
But the point of this is not the vehicles. It's the dedication to service. I didn't check. But my guess is that there must be perhaps 4 or 5 employees for every guest at Blackberry Farm. During our entire visit, I can't recall a single time we had to hunt for someone to help us. They were more than plentiful...plus cheerful and helpful. It's not the most elegant service I've ever had. And I don't think it tries to be. I'd describe it as casual gracious. And on reflection, that seems about right. It's a farm. Too elegant would come across as fussy and pretentious.
If I did the math right, there are about 62 accommodations at Blackberry Farm. Some (perhaps ten or so) are rooms, like our's in the Guest House. Lovely rooms. Not large, but well decorated and comfortable, with a lovely big living room downstairs. But the majority of accomodations are cottages spread around the lovely grounds. And that's where we get into the cost per night going up...as I said "presumably, up quite a bit." But they provide options from a couple having real privacy to a family or friends sharing a multi-bedroom house.
There are all kinds of activities on the Farm...from horseback riding to guided bird watching...and fly fishing to kayaking. And there is a beautiful new wellness center and spa (called The Wellhouse) with all the things that go with that. Some are expensive. But some of the most enjoyable activities (at least in my opinion) cost nothing. Walking--or golf carting--around the lovely grounds. Relaxing in the boathouse or canoeing around the pond. Swimming or playing tennis. Observing farm activities. And especially, watching the sunrise and sunset.
But perhaps more than activities, Blackberry Farm is a place to relax. To enjoy nature. And to enjoy yourself. A very good place to relax, to enjoy nature and to enjoy yourself.
Oh...and there is food. Great food. Lots of great food. So much great food that at times our stay seemed a bit like it was divided into meals and naps between meals. But that's for the next post.