by Whitney Rife
Blackberry Farm is a renowned 4,200-acre country estate in the Great Smoky Mountains known for its gourmet food and luxury accommodations. The resort has an air of seclusion and relaxation. The plantation offers many activities for families who want to stay on the go, from mountain biking to hiking the trails to canoeing. The Barn serves upscale meals that utilize many ingredients grown on the resort.
Many types of accommodations are available at Blackberry Farms. Families can stay in an elegant Estate Room, a more spacious Hill Cottages or Holly Glade Suites. Accommodations can fit many people, as the largest is a full guesthouse. No matter where you stay, you’ll be provided with feather-topped beds, wood furnishings, fireplaces and pantries.
Our Editor Loves
- Suites, cottages & guesthouses
- Farm activities for everyone
- Lots of mountain property
Our family had been wanting to visit BBF for a long time and we were all very excited about staying at this bucket list hotel. Two of our family members on our trip had stayed at the hotel for the wine geek weekend previously and absolutely loved it.
Our stay started on the wrong foot when our hotel arranged driver did not have our names at the
airport. We approached the man holding a Blackberry Farm sign and told him we were staying at the hotel and gave him our name. He said he
was picking up someone else and that he thought there was another BBF driver outside. We checked outside and there was no driver so went back to the
initial driver and he had been given the wrong names for pickup by the hotel. No worries at this point...mistakes happen right.
At check-in the hotel had all of our group’s reservations discombobulated and it took some time
to sort things out (although they were never entirely sorted). This was somewhat baffling because our hotel confirmation via email had all of the information correct with the right people staying in rooms together and the right names.
The rooms were fine but dated and the grounds were not well kept (for $2,000 per room per night). Lots of dead and dried up shrubs and flowers surrounded the main part of the hotel. We certainly expected better.
The breakfasts and lunches were very good with really great service. We did have some issues with finding hairs in dishes and the staff not wanting to serve anything outside of “normal” lunch hours (they charge extra for that). If guests are hungry after 2pm because they had a late breakfast or scheduled a massage during normal dining times the hotel should accommodate. Another issue with this area of the hotel is that the staff makes everyone walk to the front of the restaurant to the hostess area before being seated. Many of the guests’ path to this particular restaurant guide them directly to where you are seated before walking through a maze of rooms to the hostess. Why not just seat the guests when they are already by the tables??? This was not a hardship on me but for some of the less mobile members in our family it was an inconvenience.
The bar staff in the main building are completely
inadequate. If you would like a cocktail or glass of wine before or after dinner you have to literally hunt someone down. It is so bad that it’s actually easier and quicker to go to your room and order a drink from room service. We had terrible service from every person in the bar area we encountered in the bar area during our stay. These particular staff were very nice when you could find one....they just aren’t trained properly. We heard many guests complaining about the lack of service in the main house/bar area.
We did have a great farm tour with a really lovely young woman who had been working at BBF for many years. She’s fantastic and really made the tour special. If staying at the farm I would recommend booking this on the first day or so to orientate yourself with the grounds. The wine cellar and truffle puppies were our favorite moments on the farm tour.
The Barn is the more formal dinner restaurant and is where we had all but one of our dinners during our stay. The food was superb. The wine lists and sommeliers were great as well. We had great service 2 of our 3 nights dining in The Barn. Unfortunately, the last night, the service was lacking. I had to get up and find the restaurant manager to ask for someone to check on our table as our waters and wine glasses were all empty for over 20 minutes. Service was perfect from that point on for the rest of the night. The sommelier was even kind of enough to bring us a bottle of wine on the house for the trouble (he was exemplary in all of our encounters). At that point, we thought that the gesture was grand enough to more than make up for the earlier part of dinner service. Upon check out, we learned that we had actually been charged for the bottle of wine that should have been on the house.
We did visit the new sister property, Blackberry Mountain, for lunch one day. If you are choosing between the two properties I would recommend staying at Blackberry Mountain. The facilities are much newer and the grounds are much more well kept. The staff at BB Mountain also seemed to be much better. Perhaps some
of the good long term employees from the farm had several hotel employees comment
to us unprovoked that turnover at the hotel was high and that could be the
In September, we returned to Blackberry Farm, in Walland, TN, and also a return to their charity culinary event, “Passing The Torch,” in commemoration of the late owner, and a driving force in Blackberry Farm, Sam Beall. This event featured Chef José Andrés, with several Michelin stars for his restaurants, such as MiniBar, in Washington DC, and his excellent é by José Andrés in Las Vegas - we have had the opportunity to dine at both of those.
This was a different sort of visit for us, and a different sort of culinary event, from those we have attended in the past, but it was still excellent.
First, we stayed in two of the “cottages” on the Blackberry property on this visit. We had been able to come in a day before the event, but had to stay in The Lucy Braun Cottage, in the Hill Cottage group, which was next door to another Hill Cottage, The Lancaster, in which we had stayed maybe three trips back. This was not an issue, as The Lucy Braun is a lovely, large cottage, near the Main House, and the Oak Cottage registration/concierge area. While it is a bit more expensive, than the Singing Brook Cottages, where we usually stay, it does offer quite a bit more.
The floor plan of the Lucy Braun is almost identical to the Lancaster, so we immediately felt at home, having spent almost a week in that almost identical other cottage.
The Lucy Braun Cottage is large, at approximately 1,100 sq ft (opposed to the Singing Brook Cottages at about 700 sq ft), and includes a screened-in porch, with its own fireplace. There are two comfortable lounge chairs and tables, on either side of, and facing the massive stone fireplace. Besides the built-in lighting, there are two lamps, as well, so the mood of the lighting can be altered. Though the weather was nice, we again did not get to spend any time on the screened-in porch, since we were in this cottage for but one night, and were dining at The Barn (our only non-event dinner of the visit), so returning late, before the start of the culinary event.
The Lucy Braun is divided by a tiled entryway, which leads to the small kitchenette area, with a very large closet (it runs for about 1/3 of the width of the cottage) and full bathroom to the left, while the spacious bedroom/livingroom is to the right. The screened-in porch is located off of the bedroom/livingroom, with a separate fireplace, to that in the bedroom. It has a very comfortable King bed, chest of drawers, and desk area, while the adjoining living room has a small dining table, and comfortable sofas w/ chairs. The closet has ample hanger space for a week’s worth of clothing, plus enough drawer space for a full week of folded clothing, plus a safe. There was an iron, ironing board, and several flashlights, which are useful on-property, after dark. There is also a clothing steamer in that closet.
The kitchenette had a Nespresso coffee maker (can be swapped out for the large Keurig unit, if desired), an electric water kettle and flatware, and dinnerware, with varietally correct wine glasses, a small refrigerator (stocked with wines, Blackberry Farm’s beers and beverages*) and a sink.
*The beverages, and snacks are included, though the wines, liquors and brews are at a price, listed on a card, above the ‘fridge.
The bathroom has a large soaking tub, a double walk-in shower, dual sinks and large counter, plus a separate “makeup” counter and seat. The floors in the bathroom are heated, though we did not use that feature during this early Autumn stay - it was warmer at Blackberry during this trip, than what we left behind in Phoenix, AZ. There is also a hair dryer and curling iron provided, along with a full compliment of the Wellhouse (Blackberry Farm’s signature amenities, formulated for their Spa, the Wellhouse), bath products. It featured two magnifying mirrors – one at the twin sinks and the other on the small makeup table. One little warning - the chair at the makeup table is on wheels, and will move rapidly, if pushed. Be a bit careful, when seating yourself in it.
The Lucy Braun, like all of the Hill and Singing Brook Cottages, comes with a golf cart, which we used often. During this visit, my wife signed out one of the free Lexus GX-460's, to go to church in near-by Townsend. Being beside the Oak Cottage reception building (with a small retail store), and across from the Main House, it is very conveniently located – except to The Barn and Bramble Hall, but that is where the golf carts come in handy. If the weather is inclimate, or one is in another part of the property, there is a staff of drivers, with Lexus LX-570's, to get you around.
There are 3 TV’s in Lancaster: one in the bathroom, one in the livingroom/sitting area, and one, across from the foot of the bed. The TV in the sitting area also has a DVD player, plus full surround sound. All had full cable input connections, so one could use their tablet, or similar device, to power the two in the livingroom/bedroom.
We had a “welcome” fruit basket, and a basket of lavosh crackers and Blackberry Farm’s own Pimento-Cheese spread.
For the remaining nights of our stay and event, we moved to our “old friend,” Nubian (named for a goat), in the Singing Brook Cottages, and closer to The Barn, and Bramble Hall, where most of the event activities were taking place. This was our first cottage, at Blackberry Farm, many years ago, and though we are more fond of Speckled Sussex (named for a chicken), across the cart path, due to its lower bed, we were fine, and Blackberry Farm had a step-stool for my wife, when we arrived at Nubian. The keep a good portfolio on returning guests.
Since our last stay in Nubian, it had been redecorated a bit, and had new carpeting. While not as large, or quite as well furnished as Lucy Braun, it is ideal for us, with a combined sitting room/bedroom, a spacious bathroom and closet, next to a small mini-bar with the Keurig coffee maker and mini-fridge.
The walk-in shower is a single head unit, and the floor is not heated, but the twin sinks are in a spacious vanity, with plenty of flat space. The TV in its bathroom is smaller, than in the Hill Cottages, but adequate. The walk-in closet is also smaller, but still very large, with the same safe, umbrella and flashlights. Nubian also has a DVD player for the one TV in the sitting/bedroom area. Personally, I like the floor plan better, in Speckled Sussex, where the sitting area extends from the foot of the bed, but Speckled Sussex had already been booked.
During our stay, we had several great breakfasts in the Main House, plus one event dinner there, as well. All were excellent. With the exception of our first night’s dinner, all but the welcome event, were in The Barn. We did manage to spend a bit of time in the Dogwood Bar, and again marveled at the expansion of the patio. On our previous trip, it had been expanded some, and a canvas canopy added to part of the patio. This time, the expansion extended out several more feet, from the upper-level. The stones in the new areas looked to be a perfect match for the old, and only a regular would likely be able to tell where the new addition started. As always, the patio area was beautifully planted.
We took advantage of the spa, the Well House, for a couple’s massage, and nail treatments. Once more, everything was perfect.
Our events started early, and usually in Bramble Hall, or The Barn. We did many wine tastings with Spanish wines from the portfolio of Eric Solomon, and his European Cellars. We were fortunate to have these for both the tastings, and for the meals in the event, and for a few, we were consuming the last available bottles, of that particular vintage, from so esoteric and small producers. Great wines, which is a hallmark of Blackberry Farm.
The part of this year’s event, featuring Chef José Andrés, was a bit different, in that we had the opportunity to listen to him describe his efforts through is World Central Kitchen charity project, to feed the survivors of the devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico, accompanied by a full AV program, detailing his organization’s efforts to feed victims of many natural disasters.
On the second morning of the event, we entered Bramble Hall, to the strains of Procol Harum’s “Conquistador,” with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, taxing the audio system (installed for live concerts by many noted musical stars). We then proceeded to taste 18 wonderful, small production Spanish wines. Not a bad way to start a morning.
We did not get to see Chef Andrés really cook, until the final night, when he ran the kitchen at The Barn, and did several sessions on his techniques (such as carving the Jamon Iberico, on the giant commercial carving stand, that he brought with him), however, his World Central Kitchen project presentation made up for that. During that final dinner, he also brought out a few of his gastronomical tricks, what we had been able to experience a both é and MiniBar.
In all, another amazing culinary event, and another fabulous stay at Blackberry Farm. During the stay, even with a move in the accommodations, we wanted for nothing, and all service was spectacular. Little touches, such as having the footstool for my wife, in Nubian, were appreciated. Oh, they also knew that she like Dove Hypo-allergenic soap, and had that in both cottages, just for her!
Because of the intensity of the culinary event, the only activity that we participated in was the Well House Spa, but have done sporting clays, fly fishing, carriage rides, hiking and wine tastings on previous visits, but have not done archery, bicycling, climbing, yoga or other equestrian events, available. All of those activities are in addition to the price of the room w/ 3 meals per day, exclusive of wine/alcohol.
All too soon, it was time to head into Alcoa, for a one-night stay, prior to flying back home.
We have already booked our return trips for 2020, including next year’s Passing the Torch.