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American Southern Charm

Buff Strickland A view of Old Walland Pond and its boathouse, at Blackberry Farm, outside Knoxville.

Photo: Buff Strickland

Fearrington House, Pittsboro, North Carolina

Some hotels should come with a warning label. Fearrington's would read: INCLUDES MASSIVE RETAIL AND RESIDENTIAL COMPONENTS. Shops in a purpose-built "village" sell everything from books to folk art to groceries. A 1,300-acre sub­division has 1,000 attached and freestanding houses, with many more to come. The development lacks poetry, but as a guest at Fearrington, you can keep the sprawl at bay—once you figure out where not to look.

The property's soul and anchor is the gastronomic restaurant, folded into a plain but elegant center-hall farmhouse, built in 1927 with the requisite columned porch in the shadow of a still-extant 18th-century silo. Don't expect goosebumps from chef Graham Fox, just runaway enthusiasm (apple brûlée soup with raspberry baked Brie!) and an Englishman's heartfelt curiosity about North Carolina foodstuffs (white shrimp, yellowfin tuna, country ham).

The next-best thing about Fearrington, located eight miles from Chapel Hill off busy U.S. Highway 15-501, is its grounds. They feature a traditional English knot garden, an all-white garden, a perennial garden, a wildflower garden, and a charming kitchen garden. Opened in 1986, the hotel is housed in an agglomeration of buildings by the architect who designed the subdivision. The good news is that general manager Theresa Chiettini's purview now extends to the interiors. A handful of guest rooms have already been redone in a happy and unpretentious mix of checks and toiles. Once they all are, Fearrington's stock will be way up.
2000 Fearrington Village, Pittsboro, N.C.; 800/ 277-0130 or 919/542-2121; www.fearrington.com; doubles from $240.

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