Southern Splendor

SET IN THE CHARMING MOUNTAIN TOWN OF Highlands, NC, the Old Edwards Inn and Spa serves as an enchanting setting for a relaxing getaway. Welcoming guests for more than a cenAtury, the historic property introduced The Spa at Old Edwards Inn after an extensive two-year restoration and expansion in 2004. The European-style spa, designed by Summerour & Associates of Atlanta, was so embraced by guests that two years later it was upgraded with the addition of 15,000 square feet. The expansion added men's and women's locker rooms, rainfall showers, whirlpools, steam rooms, a women's sauna, a solarium, a nap-reflection room, spa terraces, two additional luxury spa suites, and a spa café.

Incorporating old world luxury, the spa features handcrafted wood paneling, domed ceilings, crystal chandeliers, custom fabrics, and hand-selected furnishings. European antiques can also be found throughout the spa along with custom-designed pieces, such as the cabinetry and the settees in the apothecary. "The classic beauty of our spa, the amenities, the fine cuisine of the spa café, and our elegant spa suites, which offer our guests the option of staying entirely in the spa throughout their stay, make our spa experience a world apart from most," says spa director Laurel Fleming.

Guests can apply clay and mud masks in the spa's Rainforest Rejuvenation Room, which includes a mosaic-tiled  shower and steam chamber.
Guests can apply clay and mud masks in the spa's Rainforest Rejuvenation Room, which includes a mosaic-tiled shower and steam chamber.

Attracting spa enthusiasts and seasoned travelers alike, the spa offers a host of pampering treatments, several of which use native herbs from the spa garden. The Sweet Mountain Metamorphosis ($275, 110 minutes), one of the spa's signature treatments, features an exfoliating body scrub made of crushed lavender, chamomile, rosemary, and peppermint. It then incorporates 10 massage modalities from around the world to lull the body into a relaxed state before it is wrapped in a hydrating cocoon. "Many avid spa-goers are looking for your basic massage or facial treatment," says Fleming. "But they won't find them here—even our basics are fabulous." From the Journey to Bliss Facial ($100, 80 minutes) to the Hot Soufflé Manicure and Pedicure ($165, 110 minutes), the menu features numerous options for guests interested in being totally spoiled.

Plush furnishings invite spa-goers  to relax in the lap of luxury.
Plush furnishings invite spa-goers to relax in the lap of luxury.

The spa's chosen product lines also help instill a sense of indulgence to the spa. "We chose Babor skincare for its refinement and luxury," says Fleming. That's not to say that the treatments aren't geared to be results-oriented as well. "The Cosmedical line is a problem-specific dermatology formula that addresses issues such as acne, rosacea, and sun damage," she adds.

Click for larger image and caption
Click for larger image and caption

Retail also plays an essential role in the spa. In fact, 15 percent of the spa's profit is generated from retail sales. "Our apothecary offers our guests the opportunity to take home the same facial and bodycare products that our professionals use during services," says Fleming. "Unique products that cannot be found just anywhere grace our shelves. We have a well-trained staff of professionals ready to answer our guests' every question and feel that retail is an important part of sales and service in our spa."

At full capacity, the spa can accommodate approximately 100 guests in a single day. Catering to the Inn's spa-goers is a staff of 30 employees, most of whom work full time. According to Fleming, hiring can be difficult. "In this beautiful but remote area in the mountains of North Carolina, staffing options are limited," she says. "Once that right employee for the area is found, however, he or she tends to want to stay. We have definite seasons and staffing to accommodate the large number of guests visiting in season is probably our greatest challenge."

Challenges aside, Fleming is focused on continuing to anticipate and exceed guests' expectations. Offering indulgent and results-oriented treatments is just one way she plans to do that. Says Fleming, "Our menu of services is to be revised shortly, and we intend to offer even more luxurious and unique ideas to relax, spoil, and pamper our guests."