The Hemlock Inn

Last night after I hit publish on that post about the typewriter I started thinking about when I was younger.  And I thought: if I could take Boo anywhere this summer where would it be?  And I remembered a sweet country inn in Bryson City, NC… the mountains of NC almost to the Tennessee border.


We went to the Hemlock Inn for a few years when I was a little girl….and you can see how little I was by the photos…..but I remember it almost like it was yesterday.  I looked it up today….holding my breath for possible disappointment….and it’s still there.  I. am. ecstatic.

Me at the Hemlock c. 1981
The Hemlock Inn Bryson City, NC c. 1981 via

I called my Aunt Sharon tonight to tell her I’d found the website. I knew she’d have some stories for me.

Sharon: You know all the pewter that your grandparents served dinner on?
Me: Yes
Sharon: That was started at the Hemlock Inn.  That’s how they served the family style meals. That’s where all the pewter dinner sets came from.
Me: I remember the country ham. They still serve it! It’s in a photo on their website.on the same platter and with the same pitcher grandmother had!

I even called the Inn tonight to make sure they were still serving that way.  The woman who answered the phone at the Inn said they still were. So. Awesome. (I could hear the dinner chatter in the background!)

We first went there as a family because it was about halfway in between Charlotte, NC (where we lived) and Nashville, TN (where my aunt and uncle lived). And ended up going a few more years….until my grandmother Marge passed away.  My Aunt said tonight that her last memory of her mother healthy and happy was at the Hemlock Inn. I’m sure it was the same for my grandfather. Maybe that’s why we stopped going….it would have been too sad for him. For me it’s a connection to them though….and one that I want Boo to know.

I remember the meals were family style and they would make us little box lunches if we were exploring locally or going on a hike. Mr. Shell (the owner) even said the blessing before dinner at night while all the guests stood behind our chairs. There was a little candy store….where you placed your money in a white plastic bin with a hole cut in the top.  It was the honor system. One night we were there a bear tried to break in and get to the candy. I remember laying on my bed the following night looking at the window worried I’d see that bear pass by!

A few of my favorite memories include playing shuffleboard and a wooden Skittles game.   Also, the owner Mrs. Shell would make me a treasure map around the hotel premises and I’d go hunting for it. It was an amazing map.


Shuffleboard with my Uncle Steve, Aunt Sharon, and my Dad


The whole family:
Dad, me, Mom, Uncle Steve
“Paw-Paw”, Aunt Sharon, Grandma Marge

So many recipes from when I was younger came from the Hemlock. My Aunt Sharon sent me my grandmother’s copy of the Hemlock’s recipe book when Mr. LBB and I were married:


It’s even has an inscription from the Shells:

The sovereign nation of Cherokee is nearby….and you can learn the history of the Cherokee Indians:

c. 1980 Me with Chief Henry and Princess Patty

Update: I got a note from Princess Patty’s niece saying she is still in the area and works at the Cherokee Indian Hospital.  Chief Henry passed away years ago sadly, but hopefully I can reconnect with Patty again.

Here I am a few years later with my brother…..ringing the dinner bell for all the guests:



My grandfather and I at the Hemlock

It’s a great setting for photos!


Tonight as I read more into the Inn’s website and I came across these words:

For many years now, we have be discussing the future of Hemlock Inn debating how much change we need to make to be attractive to the newer younger traveler. It is a compelling discussion, because there are things that do need to change, but we never want to mess with the underlying character of the inn. This includes a quiet peaceful setting, simple pleasures such as hot coffee around a fireplace and homecooked family meals preceded by a blessing. We believe in family vacations, couple get aways, and a wholesome place where everyone feels comfortable and at ease. We want to embrace many of the values Andy Griffith evoked in mythical Mayberry. We still think that many folks are looking for such a place…maybe even you.

Dear Hemlock, you read my mind….I’m looking for that place!

It’s funny about timing because I spent all last night thinking about how great the good ole days were.  How sweet things were when I was younger. How I want that for Boo. How I wish we could just disconnect more often. Places like the Hemlock Inn are places that we should want to thrive….small town, family run, home cooked meals….I just don’t know that people remember how special places like this are.

The Inn is still running the way I remember it. There are no TVs, phones or Internet at the Hemlock. Large, home-cooked breakfasts and dinners are served family style at large tables with lazy susans (I remember those lazy susans!) And I love that everyone stands around the tables until the blessing is said….and all the guests sit at the same time.

Even the box lunches are exactly as my Aunt Sharon described on the phone to me this evening…every detail:

The lunch includes a pimento cheese sandwich (or peanut butter and jelly), two ham biscuits, hard boiled egg, apple, and two homemade cookies, plus napkin and salt.


Anyway, I know that I was meant to stumble upon the this memory tonight. Maybe some of you will call and make a reservation and see it for yourself.  Take your families. Disconnect.  Hold hands at the family table and count your blessing.



P.S. If you do go….make sure to make a day trip to the Biltmore House as well. It’s one of my favorite places in the whole world. If you’ve never heard of it you’ve definitely seen it in a movie. Take the behind-the-scenes tour too….it’s like Downtown Abbey on steroids!





  1. Kristin says

    *sigh* Love this. What great memories and how fun to be able to share with Boo. Makes me want to go for a visit as well.

  2. lbreid25 says

    Ahhh, The Great Smoky Mountains! I have such fond memories of going to Maggie Valley and Cherokee almost every summer as a child. My Grandparents went with our family…such great memories. We never made it to Bryson City, but we almost always visited The Biltmore. It’s just as amazing and magical to me now! My children grew up with the same trips to the places I visited as a child. It is still one of their most requested vacation destinations. I love how there is limited wifi and we can all unplug. Walking a mountain stream, visiting Cherokee (Unto These Hills and The Oconalufte Indian and Farm Museum – both favorites of my grandparents, parents, sister, myself and my own children), or just sitting on a porch soaking in the beauty while sipping apple cider or hot chocolate (if it’s a little chilly). :) Such peacefulness! Such precious, simple memories. Sorry to write you a little book here on your post…but I have strong feelings about the memories made in those Mountains. Have fun! I’m sure Boo will soak it all in …and she too will always remember!

  3. Kelli says

    I have lived in NC my whole life and we just discovered The Hemlock Inn last year when we took my daughter to ride The Polar Express. What a great little place!

  4. Tausha says

    The Biltmore is my most favorite place to visit, too.

    I just moved back to Virginia 3 weeks ago. I will indeed put the Hemlock Inn on my list of things to do.

  5. Jennifer says

    Thank you for sharing about the Hemlock Inn! What a rare and perfect treasure from simpler times! I can’t wait to book a visit. The Biltmore, by the way, is awesome. There is so much to see in the house, but the gardens and winery are pretty impressive too. I highly recommend going around Christmas time! The decorations are gorgeous and they have live choirs singing in the house. Simply magical!

  6. says

    Hello! My name is Chad Gilbert. John Shell Is my Grandfather (and still owner of the Hemlock Inn). if you look in your cook book my mother Dianne drew all the pictures in that book! John is still alive and living in Waynesville just around the corner Ella Jo passed away my Senior year of high school! My aunt and uncle have been running the business for the past 26 years and my wife and 2 boys moved here 2 years to keep it in the family! We have a facebook page as well! please follow and come visit!

    • says

      Hi Chad! I’m so glad it’s still in the family! I have such great memories of that place and all of my childhood vacation photos are from there :) I just realized I spelled your grandparents names wrong….so sorry! It’s fixed now!

      I read your uncle’s blog and it made me a little sad that so many people probably haven’t experienced a place like Hemlock. I’d much rather visit a place like that than Disneyland or any of the big tourist attractions. The Hemlock Inn is what I remember from family vacations….not any of the other places we visited. It made a lasting impression. We spent such quality time with family members and have so many wonderful photos of us all together.

      I’m sure you’ll be seeing us soon….and hopefully some other family members too!

  7. says

    I so enjoyed your memories of Hemlock Inn! I loved the part about my Dad drawing you a treasure map. My parents, John and Ella Jo Shell bought the Inn when I was 12. My husband, Mort and I have been here since 1987 raising our family and working at the Inn. As you have heard, very little has changed! We still serve country ham on Wed.and Sat. and the small chair you are sitting in (in the photo) is still here, although we did paint it red and a few cats have made their mark on it! We all look forward to seeing you again,meeting your family and maybe drawing another treasure map!! Lainey Shell White

    • says

      Oh wow! I have to get a photo of my daughter on that chair now. I love that very little has changed. You know, my aunt also told me that my grandfather there by himself one time and he had a gallbladder attack. Someone from the Inn took him to the closest hospital and they told him that because the hospital was so small…. he probably would want to have surgery back home. So two girls (not sure who they were….maybe someone you know) drove my grandfather all the way back to Charlotte….one of them following with his car…..and he had his gallbladder removed back home. I wondered if anyone remembered that. Thanks so much for writing and stopping by! My daughter would love a treasure map…..that was such a great memory (and I’ve always been picky about ham since the Hemlock…I’ve never had any ham that was quite up to my standards after that!) I loved reading Mort’s blog last night….lots of things to think about….

      • says

        Ashley. I have been in touch with my Dad about the gallbladder story and he is digging deep to remember who drove your grandfather to Charlotte! We also are finding out more about the Indian Princess! I think she is Patty Grant… Isn’t this fun?

        • Brandy M. says

          All of this is bringing tears to my eyes! What wonderful memories, and to know that Ashley, Brett, & Boo will be LIVING there in a few months…!

          This story (The Boo family selling in the desert & moving to N.C.) is so touching.

          Thanks for sharing, Ashley – I’m SO happy for you!!! We may have to visit the Hemlock Inn if we ever get back to Charleston, S.C. (where I was born) for vacation!!


  8. says

    I know how you feel about the Hemlock Inn – I, too have had that feeling of nostalgia and want my children to feel the same way about the Hemlock Inn. It is a magical place – one that I hope will never change too much! I want to take them back this summer sometime – maybe also this fall! We had a family reunion there a few summers ago, and I just wish I could go more often!

  9. Terry Carter says

    Loved this post. Love the way you write. I could feel your memories. Love the “olden Days”.

  10. shelley says

    I am truly shocked that the Hemlock Inn has survived so long! What nostalgic wonderful memories for our family. God bless you , Ashley, for posting these.

    I pray this post will revive the business and keep it going for many years without changing a thing. I can’t wait for another reunion there. mom

  11. Mary Lemon says

    I loved reading about this inn. My daughter and family just moved to Charlotte last August from Nebraska. I’ve made 3 trips there and planning another one soon. Hoping to get my husband to move there in the next couple of years so we can really spend time with 3 young grandchildren and build lots of memories. I would love to check out the Hemlock Inn some time. We love simple places like that. I’m amazed it still exists. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Amy Elliott says

    I want to go there. NOW. I love, love, love that this place has remained the way you remember. :)

  13. Melinda in NC says

    My mom took my son (7) to the Biltmore for the day after he got out of school this year. He LOVED IT! He has told me several times it has been his favorite day of the year so far!

  14. Nilu says

    I want to take my girls there..but it’s 13 hrs away…maybe when they get a bit older and we do roadtrips..sounds like the perfect place!!

  15. Leah says

    My husband and I have been looking for something like this to do with our kids, 10 and 5. I am so glad I read your post and am researching on when to go right now!! This is only a few hours away from us in Columbia, SC. I am hoping to make a trip in the next few weeks. And how awesome would it be to meet you!!!

    • Beth Krietemeyer says

      Leah – I am also from Columbia. You will love the Hemlock Inn. It is so child friendly, so much to do at the Inn and in the surrounding area. Hope you can get there soon.

  16. Beth Krietemeyer says

    My husband and I actually spent the last 2 nights of our honeymoon at the Hemlock Inn in 1991. In 1995 we returned with our 2 children and have gone at least once, if not twice, every year since. When our children were young they thought the Hemlock Inn was “our” mountain house. Our children, as well as my husband and I, have so many wonderful memories of our stays there. All of the things you mentioned about the Inn, Ashley, are the reasons we love it so much. And I will add one more – the Inn keepers. Mort and Lainey, and now Chad, make you feel so welcomed and like part of the family. It is definitely a piece of paradise that everyone needs to experience.

  17. mary smith says

    Ashley- Your piece made me teary. I love capturing moments of the past that I remember so fondly and want to share with my husband and boys. The DISCONNECT to reconnect with a treasured past is not done enough these days. It’s full speed ahead and that wears me out and my family too. Thank you for reminding us about sometimes not living in present and rather bathing yourself and your loved ones in the past.

    I will definitely look up the Hemlock Inn- it sounds old world- simple and fun.

  18. shelley says

    Ash…I am so moved and touched by the entire blog on the Hemlock Inn! I am sure the Whites are thrilled with the photos and write-up! You truly captured the essence and magic of the Inn and how when we truly interact with others with love, we sense the love of God and His presence!
    Thank-you so much for all your work. We all love and deeply appreciate you listening to the Lord’s leading. mom