Hotel review

Blackberry Mountain hotel review: Luxury wellness and adventure in the heart of Dolly Parton country

Every detail has been considered at this resort in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains, finds George Clode, with cosy interiors and a range of outdoors activities

Sunday 03 March 2024 06:57 GMT
Blackberry Mountain resort is nestled in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains
Blackberry Mountain resort is nestled in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains (Blackberry Mountain)

In a nutshell: Hidden in the rugged beauty of East Tennessee, this lodge-style hotel may be pricy but it offers an enchanting blend of luxury and adventure


The Great Smoky Mountains, East Tennessee side. You can drive there in three hours from Nashville on a good day, or make a pit stop at Dollywood – the country legend’s theme park in Pigeon Forge – for thrills, spills and good ol’ Southern comfort food. The mountains themselves are breathtaking, and the views from the front of the hotel stretch far above the surrounding forest and out to the peaks beyond.

The vibe

Think hunting lodge, but for hunters with exquisite taste and a passion for the finer things in life. Timber, slate and stone, with wooden beams, roaring fires and floor-to-ceiling windows. The extreme cosiness of the interiors would normally make venturing outside wholly unappealing. But with the Great Smokies on your doorstep and innumerable ways to explore them laid on by the hotel, getting outdoors is a must. Even if it is just for a dip in the heated infinity pool.

Blackberry Mountain, so cosy that you’ll be tempted to stay tucked up inside (Blackberry Mountain)

The service

Attentive but not intrusive. In fact the highly personalised nature of the service and the impressive knowledge of the team was a highlight of our visit. Special mentions to Scott from the grounds team for his tour and history of the site; Alex from the Fire Tower restaurant for being infinitely accommodating and friendly; and Andy from the Valley cycling club, who essentially taught me how to mountain bike while identifying all the sounds of the forest.

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Bed and bath

The hotel has 23 stone cottages named after plants, 14 treehouses named after butterflies and moths, and 10 rental properties named after trees. Built using resources from the mountain, these properties blend naturally into the landscape, ensuring undisturbed views for hikers and bikers from nearby lookouts.

Our substantial stone cottage, Bittersweet, was built at treetop height, giving us an outstanding perspective above and across the green canopy. The way the cottage is laid out means that you can enjoy this view from the massive bathroom with a glass of wine in the bath – which I did, many times. Bonus points for the secret TV hidden behind a painting above the wood burner.

Treehouses make for an immersive nature experience at Blackberry Mountain (Blackberry Mountain)

Food and drink

The first thing to mention is that breakfasts and dinners are included in the price of your room, which goes some way to explaining the top dollar tariff. The hotel’s main restaurant is Three Sisters. The menu changes regularly and, as with everything, the service team are more than happy to go off-menu.

I heard people requesting all kinds of unlisted food items and designing their own breakfasts, all of which were delivered with unflappable courtesy. I stuck to the script: avocado on toast stacked with shredded veg, and a pastry that tasted like a lightly-fried Krispy Kreme doughnut.

The dinner menu offered fresh crab with snow peas and broccoli; medium rare lamb with citrusy faro; and a delicious Basque cheesecake with a 20-year-old tawny Niepoort port.

Blackberry Mountain has two excellent restaurants (Blackberry Mountain)

For an extra special dinner, you can be driven in a Lexus to the mountain’s summit, where the Firetower, a more exclusive restaurant built around a restored 1950s lookout tower, awaits. Book a sunset table and enjoy the celestial spectacle with some seared octopus and nduja hollandaise, Gulf shrimp carbonara with golden beet aioli and a bottle of keenly priced Swiss Glou Glou – and a Oaxacan Old Fashioned.


There are an intimidating number of activities and pastimes beyond the standard morning hikes (keep a lookout for bears) and state of the art gym (open 24 hours for you midnight pump fiends). An art studio caters to your creative side, with Camp Blackberry doing the same for little ’uns; basketball, pickleball, tennis and climbing for sports fans; sound bathing, yoga and more body therapies than you could shake a gong hammer at for wellness; and a list of adventure opportunities that would satisfy Indiana Jones – from horse riding and fly fishing to hiking, biking and treetop rope walks.

The exclusive Firetower restaurant is built around a 1950s observation tower (Blackberry Mountain)

Disability access: Minimal, but over at sister property Blackberry Farm you’ll find wheelchair access, reduced mobility rooms, and facilities for disabled guests.

Pet policy: Service animals only.

Check in/check out? Check in at 4pm, checkout is at midday.

Family friendly? Kids under four years old can stay in parents’ rooms gratis; any older than that and you’re looking at a $250 nightly rate. There are specific dining hours for children under 10, but other than that it’s very relaxed. The Valley is just a short buggy ride from the main lodge, and here you’ll find the family pool, various lawn activities and the pond, where two water slides, a floating dock, paddleboards, kayaks and more await adventurous kids.

Families will love the water slides, pond and family pool at Blackberry Mountain (Blackberry Mountain)

At a glance:

Best thing: The setting and the service.

Worst thing: The price. Despite most meals being included, this is still an expensive getaway, with many of the activities adding hundreds of extra dollars to the final bill. You’ll come away refreshed, relaxed and invigorated, but with a considerably lighter wallet.

Perfect for: An unforgettable luxury mountain adventure.

Not right for: Fans of staying indoors.

Instagram from: The top of the old lookout tower. On a clear day the view spans the borders of four different states.

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