Home ReviewsHotels and Resorts Indulge in gourmet meals at this all-inclusive luxury inn with mountain views

Indulge in gourmet meals at this all-inclusive luxury inn with mountain views

by Jan Schroder
exterior view of The Swag in Western North Carolina.

The Swag, a 250-acre luxury property in Western North Carolina, is the kind of place where you can relax in luxury and enjoy impeccable, unpretentious service, you’ll find hand-crafted wooden puzzles rather than TVs and gourmet meals with mountain views.

This Relais & Chateaux property with 18 rooms borders the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a mile for easy access to hiking. There is also a spa, horseback riding, yard games, wine tasting and yoga. The chef’s picnic overlooking the mountains was a highlight.

We enjoyed two amazing days here hiking, playing games, relaxing, recharging and dining on gourmet meals.

Accommodations at The Swag

Our bedroom at The Swag. We had plenty of firewood cleverly stored underneath the fireplace.

Located on property that used to be a potato farm, The Swag was opened in the early 1980s by Dan and Deener Matthews. Annie Colquitt visited as a child and came with her husband on their honeymoon in 2001. When the Matthews were ready to sell in 2018, the Colquitts bought it and were welcomed into the Relaix & Chateaux family in 2020.

The collection of buildings that make up The Swag are cabins made of rough-hewn logs with six guest rooms in The Swag House, five in Chestnut Lodge and seven more rooms and suites in cabins.

The library in the Lodge where we stayed in Will’s Room. (Photo by Chelsea Lane Photography)

We stayed in Annie’s Room in Chestnut Lodge and had a large bathroom, fireplace and outdoor shower. It was cool enough on the day we arrived to relax by the fire and enjoy lunch, while on another day we sat on the front porch to take in the mountain views.

The Lodge has a library, large common room with a dining table and fireplace. Every room is different and some include balconies with mountain views.

Activities at The Swag

Chris Schroder relaxes in one of the hideaways, his personalized hiking stick in hand.

When we checked in I noticed small wooden disks with a leather tie with our names on them. “Pick out a walking stick and place your name on it,” the front desk staff member told us.

Can I tell you how special that made me feel – having my very own walking stick? And we put it to good use, too, hiking all around the 250-acre property and then for miles through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which borders The Swag for a mile.

The firepit is popular during the cooler months. At 5,000 feet elevation, it can also sometimes be used in the summer. (Photo by Steve Yocum)

We were there in mid-March and discovered how much we like hiking in the winter months. With fewer leaves you have better views and even better, no bugs. One day we headed out on a guided hike with the Expert in Residence, professional hiking guide Matt Dobson. He shared some of his tales of the trail during the hike and during evening sessions.

The Swag brings in Experts in Residence for short periods who share their expertise in nature, gardening, cooking and wildflowers at day and evening programs.

A short walk from our room, Gooseberry Knob has plenty of places to lounge and enjoy the spectacular mountain views. The Chef’s Picnic is held here twice a week. (Photo by Steve Yocum)

We also took the short hike up to Gooseberry Knob, a giant cleared area with restrooms, tables, chairs and umbrellas and the most amazing mountain views, layers and layers of mountain ranges stretching out before us. North Carolina has six mountain ranges and you can see four of them from The Swag.

The wine cellar where I enjoyed a wine tasting and a yoga class. (Photo by Chelsea Lane Photography)

I made Chris play badminton and we also worked on our minimal cornhole and croquet skills. I took a yoga class one morning in the wine cellar with an upbeat instructor who told us, “Prepare for joy! and returned to the wine cellar later in the day for a wine tasting.

Other activities include horseback riding, fly fishing and croquet. There’s a spa with three treatment rooms called The Still. I got a chuckle out of that because when I think of a still in Western North Carolina I think of a different way people relax.

Dining at The Swag

Although everyone eats dinner at 7:00, we all had our own tables reserved for us. (Photo by Chelsea Lane Photography)

Growing up, I spent almost as much time in my best friend’s house as my own. A sign in her kitchen read, “Eat to live, don’t live to eat.” I never really got behind that sentiment – I find few things more worth living for than food.

Fortunately, my husband is on the same page. We joke that we’ll never run out of things to talk about because we can always talk about our next meal. During a trip to St. Simons, we encountered the baked potato of our dreams and talked about it for most of the length of 1-16 during our drive home.

Chris enjoys an Old Fashioned at dinner. As you can see, there’s no dress code for guests.

We found plenty to talk about at The Swag where the food was beyond spectacular and we enjoyed every meal.

As we were perusing the menu at breakfast the first morning, our server brought us coffee and two small pastries, tiny baby ham and cheese pastries. I restrained myself from calling out, “Hey, just ten more of these and we’re good!”

Menu items include a chef’s daily special, breakfast sandwiches, steel cut oatmeal and Mexican scramble. On our last morning, Chris indulged himself with the cinnamon-vanilla French toast and a cinnamon roll and had no regrets. Side dishes include house-made yogurt and granola, bacon, grits and a biscuit with sawmill gravy, which is a delectable dish made with cornmeal rather than flour.

We selected lamb one night for an entree. It’s hard to see but we had a mountain view before the sun set.

If you want to get a head start on day drinking, check out The Swag Marty, Mimosa, Citrus Sunrise or Kir Royale cocktails. Or have a fancy tea or coffee drink with house made syrups and milk selections that include almond, oat and cashew that my lactose-intolerant husband was happy to see.

Lunch is always a picnic with items you select from a short menu the night before. You can choose to have it packed in a basket or backpack if you’re planning on eating on the property and you can pick it up in the morning.

I loved drinking coffee by the large fireplace in the dining room.

I loved the picnic for several reasons:

  1. You are not tied down to certain dining hours.
  2. You can take your picnic on a hike or just sit on the front porch like we did one day.
  3. You don’t need to leave the gorgeous outdoors for a prolonged sit-down meal.

Definitely make sure you are at The Swag on a Wednesday or Saturday for the Chef’s Picnic up on Gooseberry Knob. Even though we checked out on a Wednesday they graciously allowed us to stay for lunch and wow, so glad we did.

We took the short hike up to Gooseberry Knob and grabbed a table while waiting for the picnic to begin. And what a feast it was. Burgers and salmon on the grill, several salads and fried chicken.

Travel tip: If you aren’t able to book a stay at The Swag, try a day pass for $50. Day guests are welcome from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. where they can enjoy the property and lunch and even their own Swag walking stick.

Guests at the Chef’s Picnic on Gooseberry Knob.

Afternoon tea is served on the buffet and include some sweet items and lemonade.

Dinner is a four-course gourmet meal that changes daily and you make your selection of appetizers, entrees and desserts in the morning at the front desk. Cocktail hour starts at six, which includes a sideboard set with cheeses and charcuterie.

The sunsets at The Swag were fantastic!

Promptly at 7:00, the general manager, Will Jones, rings a bell, makes a few short announcements and all the guests head to their assigned seats.

Chef Jake Schmidt develops his menu around locally available products. We enjoyed entrees like char and beef tenderloin along with delicious soups and salads. The meals rivaled those we’ve enjoyed in the finest restaurants.

And if that isn’t enough, you can always grab cold drinks and homemade ice cream out of old metal containers by the front desk.

If you get hungry or thirsty you can grab an ice cream or drink any time.

Alcohol is not included in the rate, but there’s a bar right off the main dining room. And you can bring your own beverages to store in your mini fridge.

The Swag is located about 20 minutes from Waynesville so you could leave the property to eat a meal there, but I don’t recommend it. As they say, why go out for hamburger when you can have steak at home?

Jan Schroder, Editor-in-chief

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