Some friends from Knoxville returned recently from a long weekend at The Swag, and we noticed a number of notable improvements to an already wonderful experience. We are told that even more upgrades are on the way.
The Swag, a breath-taking 250-acre property located just 90 miles from downtown Knoxville, truly is a magical place. At 5,000 feet above sea level, it’s usually about 10 degrees cooler there than in Knoxville. Alan and I try to go there during three seasons — spring, summer and fall — because every season at The Swag offers a totally different experience.
The Swag has only 18 unique accommodations, giving it a warm, intimate atmosphere. Something about it just allows guests to “breathe out” a little, no matter the stresses of their normal lives. Since 2020, The Swag has been a member of Relais + Chateaux, a collection of 580 properties around the world dedicated to “creating a better world through cuisine and hospitality.” How’s that for a motto?
Our friends, Annie and David Colquitt, own The Swag, having purchased it in 2018 from original founders, Dan and Deener Matthews.
Changes this season include:
- Open season lengthened. The resort is open this year until Dec. 10.
- All buildings are now on generators, eliminating power outage issues.
- A new vegetable garden, including mushrooms and bees for honey. According to David Colquitt, the logs for the mushrooms have been inoculated and will actually produce the mushrooms next season. “Our goal is to grow 50 percent of the consumed produce on site, with the remainder purchased locally,” Colquitt said.
- New bathrooms on Gooseberry Knob. Water and power have been extended to the popular picnic area, located a quarter-mile from the main house, making proper restroom facilities possible. “It’s a small but important upgrade for anyone forced to use the old composting toilet,” Colquitt laughed. (As someone who has experienced both situations, I can tell you he is correct!)
- Trinity Cottage, a newly remodeled three-bedroom cabin that formerly was the owners’ lodging, has opened to guests.
- Kitchen expansion. Exterior work on the project was completed this past off-season. Next off-season will see completion of the kitchen’s new interior. “More space will allow us to continue to elevate and enhance the food experience,” Colquitt said.
On the horizon for next year: The Swag will open earlier (March 8) and nearby Cataloochee Ranch also will be open by that time, giving Swag guests the opportunity to experience all that the ranch has to offer. (Cataloochee also is owned by the Colquitts.)
Here are some tips from some experienced Swag visitors.
When you go to The Swag, try to be there on Wednesday or Saturday for the picnic lunch at Gooseberry Knob. You can hike the easy quarter-mile path to get there, or you can catch a lift on one of the Swag-branded Volvos.
One of the best parts of the Swag experience is the included exposure to a number of so-called “experts in residence” who come and stay for a week at a time. On this visit, Doug and Kathy Peters were there. He’s a lawyer from Atlanta who also is a talented singer-songwriter and an expert on hikes and other experiences at The Swag.
There’s usually a complimentary tasting of some kind on at least one of the afternoons of your Swag visit. In our case, there was a beer tasting on one of the first days.
If your stay at The Swag happens to include a Thursday night, you are in luck! That’s the day of the amazing barbecue buffet.
The food at the The Swag is something else. It’s not fussy so-called “tweezer food,” but it’s definitely special. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, a cookie break at 3 p.m. and hors d’oeuvres at 6 p.m. Plus, if you want, s’mores at the fire pit after dinner! Suffice it to say, you will not go hungry!
Every evening you get to choose from a beef dish, seafood option, poultry or vegetarian, in addition to an amuse-bouche, soup, a second course and dessert. Wine pairings are available for $85, an option I highly recommend.
I absolutely love their soups.
So, that’s just an example of the yumminess that is the food at The Swag.
Here’s a tune from Hill Country: