The Swag — a real getaway with out going too far away

By Carol Viau | Jun 30, 2014
Photo by: Paul Viau photos THE PINNACLE OF PICNICS  — One Swag picnic-goer said, "This is absolutely gorgeous." Below, the chef's bountiful Wednesday picnic is served on picturesque Gooseberry Knob.

People flock to the mountains of Western North Carolina in the summer to get away from heat in other areas of the country and experience the natural beauty of the mountains. There are many ways to explore the mountains and find adventure this summer.

One enticing option is to plan a mountaintop getaway — not too far away, but worlds away from city and town life. There is a real treasure of a getaway — The Swag Country Inn, nestled in the Western edge of Haywood County, bordering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Picture a rustic, yet upscale inn, where hiking, bird watching, wildflowers nature walks, gourmet picnics and storytelling are the main activities of the day. Picture a setting so serene, that sitting and reading or contemplating the breathtaking setting of the Smokies feeds the soul and soothes away the cares of city life.

The Swag is a remarkable mountaintop inn at 5,000 ft. in Waynesville. Now in its 33rd season, it is the vision of Deener and Dan Matthews, who bought more than 250 acres in 1969 and transformed it to a high-end travel destination. The Swag has built such a good reputation, it has been named to Condé Nast’s Gold List.

Travelers come to The Swag from across the country and around the world, seeking the peace, tranquility and privacy of The Swag’s surroundings. The rooms, which were redecorated during the past winter, are rustically appointed and the grounds are idyllic, allowing visitors to take in the beauty of the mountains.

The Matthews named Brooks Bradbury as general manager this spring. Bradbury brings a wealth of experience in boutique hotels and inns, having managed Sunglow Ranch in Arizona, Primland in Virginia and the Quinnipiak Club in Connecticut. While he brings a zest for marketing and attention to detail, Bradbury wants to continue the high standards and direction pioneered by the Matthews.

“I’ve been watching the progress of The Swag over the years,” Bradbury said. “I want to continue the direction Deener has laid out for the property, with its high level of service. The Swag is beloved by its clientele.”

Deener said she is having fun with Bradbury at the helm. He has kept the Swag current with online marketing and is developing the property’s relationships with recognized high-end hotel collections, including the Southern Living Hotel Collection, Select Registry and the Andrew Harper Alliance.

“He has a marketing mind and a hospitality heart,” she said.
Several event leaders are presenting programs this season for the inn’s guests, including “Bears We’ve Met, with Joel and Kathy Zachary, popular “Walk and Talk” sessions with renowned storyteller Donald Davis, “Birding and Wildflowers,” with avid birder Bob Collier, and Walks in the Woods,” with naturalist Esther Blakely.

The annual 4th of July weekend includes a mix of patriotism and fun, such as the Pledge of Allegiance at the property’s wooden flag pole, prayers for the country, offered by Dan Matthews, music by the Hill Country Band and fun and games with the staff including a raw egg toss and sack races.

There is a way to enjoy The Swag’s location with just a day trip, too  — the Wednesday gourmet picnics. The chef and staff put on a bountiful spread at Gooseberry Knob that is more than a “picnic” — it’s a gourmet meal, complete with spectacular views of the mountains and Jonathan Valley below.

“Deener makes everyone feel welcome,” said a return guest.

At a recent picnic, there were guests from Asheville, Waynesville, Salisbury, San Antonio, several towns in Florida and South Carolina. Some were celebrating anniversaries, birthdays or had heard about the beauty of The Swag and wanted to experience it themselves.

Bradbury said the Wednesday picnics are “a way to get a taste of The Swag.” The picnics book up, so call in advance for reservations.

“Consider The Swag for a romantic getaway, a special event or just to getaway from the city,” Bradbury said. “It’s close to home, but really a dramatic change from Asheville.”

The Swag is at 2300 Swag Road in Waynesville, easily accessible from I-40, U.S. 276 and Hemphill Road. Meals are included with a stay. The season continues to Nov. 29.

For information, call The Swag at 800-789-7672, or visit