With a permanent home in the woods and weekly hikes in the hills, I’m not one to get too excited about visiting other mountain retreats, but after hearing from savvy travelers that Blackberry Farm was a must, it was time to see it first-hand. Never that simple, I discovered the Blackberry brand was now two as the farm had expanded with a sister property that encompassed an entire mountain, appropriately called Blackberry Mountain. “Which one should I visit?” I asked my new travel agent whom I call when I’m stumped. “Why not visit them both?” she suggested. They are only 30 minutes apart near Walland, Tennessee, outside of Knoxville and on the neighboring mountain to the Smokey Mountain National Park.
Let’s just say Blackberry Mountain is marketed to the middle-aged fitness elites who want a getaway. It’s like Orange Theory enthusiast meets Tennessee mountain retreat. It’s not a health spa per se, but activity and health are certainly promoted. There are healthy snacks in your mini bar, a long list of fitness classes, and outdoor activities with miles of private trails all over the mountain. Before my stay and after perusing the website, I went out and bought new athleisurewear just so I wouldn’t embarrass myself. Keeping it light, so as not to exacerbate my fitness insecurity, I took my first class of guided stretching using massage balls. No joke, the muscle tension release was equal to a deep tissue massage, and I was impressed. This still wasn’t enough to tempt me to sign up for their heavily promoted Nada Yoga, a yoga involving deep mediation and sounds, that I was told was life changing. Instead, my husband and I enjoyed our cozy stone cottage, hiking, and the most delicious health-conscious curated meals while overlooking gorgeous views. Seriously creative dishes like venison carpaccio with shaved pickled beets and wild ramps were nods to the skill of the chefs as I don’t even like beets. With a focus on wellness, culinary and adventure, Blackberry Mountain was a continuation of the vision of Blackberry Farm where we ended our trip.
Blackberry Farm is a 4200-acre stunning expanse of ground in the Smokey Mountains which has an established feel, quite the contrast of the newer, slightly modern mountainside property. It was developed by the Beal family as a luxurious retreat and carried on by their son Sam who had a vision for fresh and local food, wine and, more importantly, living life to the fullest. This is exactly what he did until a tragic ski accident claimed his life at the age of 42. His footprint is all over the property with gardens, livestock and the U.S.’s second largest private wine collection, as well as his grave adorned with mementos from friends near and far. Today his wife carries on the legacy and it’s not unusual to see the Beal family on property or someone famous for that matter. An acquaintance of mine told me during her stay it was well known among guests that Ariana Grande was also there. It was funny comparing notes because my husband and I suspected Jessica Simpson was on the mountain during our stay.
Forget elbow rubbing, Blackberry Farm is about the experience. Yes, you’re on a farm, but it feels very estate-like in your private cottage where staff will come in and build a fire while you are dining. Half the fun is exploring the expanse of the property, but readers know I always circle back to the food and may have experienced a “food coma”.
My travel agent said I’d have a clear favorite after staying at both, as most people do. For her, it’s the mountain, but my husband and I agreed: it was the farm.