“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking successive autumns.” — George Eliot
My thoughts exactly! And if I were a bird, my first flight would be to the incomparable Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tenn., a multiaward-winning haven on a 4,200-acre pastoral working farm, nestled at the northern foot of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Imagine being invited for a country weekend to a friend’s elegant home where every comfort, every amenity is provided. The finest gourmet cuisine is served, organic and fresh from the farm. And with every imaginable activity at your beck and call — all seasoned with Southern hospitality. This is Blackberry Farm.
Enjoy carriage rides, horseback riding, hiking over unlimited backcountry, as well as canoeing, kayaking, cycling, swimming, tennis, golf, motorcycle rides through mountain hairpin curves, and rainbow and brown trout fishing. Orvis-endorsed fly fishing and a challenging sporting-clay course are a short ride away.
To unwind, the Farmhouse Spa will restore your spirit with massages ranging from Galvlati (the Cherokee word for “heaven” — a dance of four hands weaving patterns of blissful relaxation) to Chakras (the ancient healing art of India). Yoga sessions overlooking Hesse Creek invite you to relax and meditate on the beauty of nature surrounding you.
Owner Sam Beall was trained as a chef, and his focus is definitely on food. He has brought together a rare collection of artisans to create culinary delights wandering the line between refined and rugged — often described as “Foothills Cuisine.”
Dining in the candlelit charm of the imposing Red Barn, you’ll enjoy the mouth-watering cuisine — a combined result of the farm’s master gardener, the cheesemaker, the livestock manager (aka Mother Hen), the baker, the butcher, the preservationist (aka Jam Lady), the chocolatier, the sommelier and, last but by no means least, Joseph Lenn, the executive chef. A meal in the Red Barn is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Whether in the main house or in one of the cottages dotted throughout the property, each room is decorated individually and with great care by the owner’s wife, creating a never-want-to-leave feeling the minute you walk through the door. On chilly fall evenings, give the office a ring and a warm, crackling fire in the fireplace will await you upon your return from dinner.
If all this tranquility and pampering get you itching for a bit more activity, just hop in the car and head over the mountains for the 45-minute drive to Pigeon Forge and Dollywood theme park, the phenomenon of rides, crafts, country music, shows and a country fair created by Dolly Parton — another phenomenon.
About 15 minutes farther south is Gatlinburg, a love/hate tourist destination (trap?) that has to be seen to be believed. More than 10 million people clamor into Gatlinburg annually — enough to send me scurrying back over the mountain.
A more civilized suggestion would be to take advantage of the Lexus Experience, the farm’s standard on-property transportation. Guests also can take a Lexus off-property to tour the breathtaking vistas of the Foothills Parkway or to search out the mountain streams and waterfalls of the Smokies (called “Smokies” because of the natural fog that hugs the mountain range, appearing as smoke plumes from a distance). Brilliant yellows and oranges, deep purples and reds intermingle and contrast the dark green canopy of spruce and Fraser firs.
I’m told that every season here is beautiful, and I’m sure that’s true. But as much as I love fall and as many falls as I have experienced in my life, I can’t remember one that has enchanted me more. An unforgettable escape from modern-day frenzy.
To the splendor of autumn!