on December 1, 2003
The High Hampton Inn and Resort seems like the kind of place that might find itself on the cover of an L.L. Bean catalog. The setting is its greatest asset. It is anchored by a beautiful mountain lake and framed by rugged peaks. The rolling green grounds are home to the largest Fraser fir in the world, and some of the largest Norwegian spruce. According to the friendly boathouse attendant, L.L. Bean is one of many companies who have sponsored photo shoots in his humble boathouse. High Hampton has a patina that only comes with age. Its history goes all the way back to the antebellum South. Wade Hampton III was one of the wealthiest, most influential, and most complex men of the Old South. He was outspoken in his opposition to secession and slavery, freeing all his own slaves, yet as a fierce fighter and financier, he rose to the rank of Major General in the Confederate army. After the war, he was elected governor of the state of South Carolina, and later he became a U.S. senator. This Hampton family retreat got its start way back in the 1830s.
Clad in chestnut-bark shingles, the current lodge dates back to the 1930s. It is a rambling old structure that even today requests that gentlemen wear a coat and tie to dinner. The formality ends with the dinner dress code. This place is as comfortable as an old shoe. Don't expect saunas and Jacuzzis. Our simple room on the back of the main lodge was adjacent to a 30-foot-long wooden deck that was lined with rocking chairs. The bright wood-paneled room was completely lined with windows on two sides. The view was fabulous, but it did feel a little like a fishbowl. Thankfully, simple white linen curtains made the little room downright cozy. All rooms have private baths. The large deck became our favorite place to enjoy evening cocktails overlooking the rugged Chimney Top Mountain and its reflection on the lake. (BYOB) Our favorite diversion, on a perfect fall day, was a row around the lake with the obligatory daredevil moment when you get close enough to the dam to peer over the steep drop. More active pursuits include hiking to the summit of Chimney Top or Rocky Top. Both impressive, rocky peaks are on the property of the resort. The George W. Cobb-designed golf course attracts the largest crowd at High Hampton. For tennis buffs, there are six excellent clay courts that actually predate the current lodge itself. Swimming is done in the beautiful 35-acre lake with a beach and swimming area next to the playground.
Lodging includes all meals. The food was on par with mainstream cruise-ship cuisine, quite tasty and filling. Expect to pay around $100 per person per night, with reduced rates for kids and additional adults. The pumpkin soup was stellar, and I am usually not a fan. As you might guess, the recipe is 100 years old.
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