It was the stunning splendor of the land that Deener Matthews and her husband, Dan, discovered in the Great Smoky Mountains near Waynesville, North Carolina, in 1969 that led them to purchase 250 acres here. It proved the perfect site for the eight-bedroom log house they built as a family getaway on the bald at 5,000 feet, named for the dip, or swag, between two mountains.
In 1982, by popular demand, the Matthews began to welcome guests at their home, unintentionally kicking off nearly 40 years of running The Swag as an inn. Dan and Deener finally decided to retire in 2018, around the same time that Annie and David Colquitt were looking to buy a business. Though Annie’s grandfather had been good friends with Dan Matthews for decades, it wasn’t until their honeymoon in 2011 that she and David first visited The Swag. There they fell in love again—this time with the land’s natural beauty and what Annie calls the site’s “true deep-soul rest.” When they heard The Swag was for sale, they jumped at the chance to carry on the warm hospitality for which the Matthews were known.
Over the past couple of years, the new owners have made some changes to enhance the guest experience. For starters, you now check in at the new welcome cabin, where a glass of wine sets the mood for your visit. After parking your car, you and your luggage are transported via golf cart up to the original dogtrot cottage that serves as the inn’s main building.
We don’t want to change the heart of The Swag, that feeling of community … we want to continue the Matthews’ legacy of welcoming, rest, and community.
The addition of a lovely outdoor dining porch enabled the Colquitts to open last summer during the pandemic, and the bar adjoining the living room has become a favorite gathering spot for guests (try The Swag 75, a refreshing cocktail made with gin, lemon, seasonal fruit syrup, and Cava). A new spa downstairs in Chestnut Lodge offers facials and massages—much appreciated after a day of hiking. Below the main lodge, the Colquitts built a fire pit, and plans for next season include a hot tub and workout room.
Among the things that haven’t changed is the final two-mile approach to the lofty lodging. The sign claiming that steep, narrow Swag Road accommodates two-way traffic as it winds like a rattlesnake up to the welcome cabin is wildly optimistic. Annie and David also kept beloved Swag traditions like the Wednesday (and now Saturday, too) lunchtime picnic atop lovely Gooseberry Knob, the Thursday night outdoor barbecue, and evening wine and hors-d’oeuvres on the dogtrot.
Set in historic chink-log cabins relocated to this site, 16 rooms are scattered around the grounds. Rooms have no TVs, enabling guests to completely unwind and disconnect from everyday life. That’s easy to do here, as the property borders Great Smoky Mountains National Park, just steps from a web of hiking trails.
“We don’t want to change the heart of The Swag, that feeling of community,” says Annie. “For The Swag’s next chapter, we want to continue the Matthews’ legacy of welcoming, rest, and community, and elevate them.” The couple’s contemporary amenities complement the rustic charm of The Swag, enveloped, as it has always been, by lines of majestic ridges that seem to stretch on forever.
The Swag, 2300 Swag Road, Waynesville, NC. (828) 926-0430, theswag.com. Open late April to late November; rates, which include all meals, start at $770.
Ask an Expert
Never fear that you’ll be bored at The Swag. Whether you’re looking for a wildlife expert to guide you on a hike, an Appalachian singer/songwriter to regale you with music by the fire, or a seasoned chef to hone your skills in the kitchen, The Swag’s Experts in Residence program can oblige. This program, started by the original owners and expanded by the Colquitts, also features watercolor painting lessons and talks on Appalachian history and local folklore.