Good sleeping weather, comfy bed, pleasing views: These were my husband’s criteria for accommodations on our end-of-summer driving tour. Because we were headed for southwest Virginia and he was entrenched at the wheel, I suggested that we push on a bit farther into North Carolina. At the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, surely at least two out of three of those demands could be met.
We pulled into the circular driveway at Gideon Ridge Inn an hour or so before sunset. Set way back from and above the main thoroughfare that runs through the low-key town of Blowing Rock, N.C., the bed and breakfast looked even more inviting than the scenes on its Web site.
As solidly set into the ground as the house was in front, a quick walk through the entrance hall to the broad stone porch in back revealed instant serenity. To the south, beyond purplish ridges, we saw the lights of Hickory and maybe Charlotte; to the east, Pilot Mountain; to the west, Grandfather Mountain and the remains of the day. We dropped off our bags in the Blue Room, one of 10 suites with private baths, and headed back to audition the porch couches and chairs, a la Goldilocks, till we found the ones that were just right. We’d missed afternoon tea, but manager Donna Biles sent out a tray just for us.
She explained later that the inn sits on about five steep acres that once belonged to Moses H. Cone, a North Carolina textile magnate in the late 1800s who bought a considerable amount of Blue Ridge real estate. He married Bertha Lindau, who eventually sold or gave the Gideon Ridge land to her sisters. Her Bostonian nephew, a lawyer named Norman Lindau, was the one who had the house built with rock from a quarry at Grandfather Mountain. Lindau used it as a summer residence, bringing cooks and other staff down from Boston. He invited his celebrity clients here — possibly including W.C. Fields, Milton Berle, Mae West and Bob Hope, whose autographed photos once added to the scenery — to retreat from the heat.
Seclusion, coolness, glamour. Lindau had a set of criteria in mind as well.
The house changed hands through the years; Cobb and Cindy Milner’s parents bought Gideon Ridge in 1984, and now the younger Milners run the place and live on-site in a separate house “down the cliff.”
Our room lived up to expectations with accented royal blue chintz and navy velvet reading chairs. South- and west-facing windows afforded coolness that lulled us to sleep, snug in a lovely bed with pillows that responded to custom smooshing. If the evening had been a tad chillier, we might have lighted our gas fireplace.
Breakfast was civilized and relaxed; we had a choice of sitting in the dining room, called Restaurant G, or on the terrace that surrounds it. We could help ourselves to muesli, juice, tea and coffee. Printed menus and a charming server named Christopher informed us of the choice of an egg dish (a strata that day) with bacon or sausage, or Gideon Ridge’s signature cornmeal pancakes. It was nice to have an in-house option for dinner, but because that would have involved the effort of dressing up (no jeans allowed), we dislodged just long enough to grab a bite at the casual Canyons Historic Restaurant & Bar a mile or so closer to town. Sunset views were pretty impressive there as well — the kind that make you squint into the distance, eventually close your eyes and think soothing thoughts.
The only hitches about Gideon Ridge Inn seemed to be the almost-nonexistent WiFi and the scarcity of electrical outlets that could handle three-pronged plugs. Manager Biles was polite but unapologetic.
“We get hit and miss cellphone service,” she said. “We’ve talked about boosting our signal, but people need to unwind and relax. There’s a trend for hotels to ‘detox,’ and we just decided we’re ahead of our time.”
So there we were, in a no-tippety-tap zone. Brochures touted fly-fishing, hiking, biking, white-water rafting, golf. We could have visited Cone’s original manor house, a short drive away and now a shop for artisan goods.
We did none of those things, yet we left, after a few days of reading and napping, as contented as players who’ve hit their trifecta.
Gideon Ridge Inn
202 Gideon Ridge Rd.
Blowing Rock, N.C.