The story below is excerpted from our Nov./Dec. 2014 issue. For the rest of the story download our FREE iOS app or view our web-based digital edition for FREE today!
It’s Mary especially – between innkeepers Roger and Mary Wolters – whose artistic sensibilities and penchant for romance make for a place with rose petals on the bed, a gauzy cover around it and welcome notes on parchment.
Day had turned to dusk when Roger Wolters pulled up to the Grainary Cottage at The Red Horse Inn. The light above the broad horse pastures around the inn was starting to fade, and the warm air was beginning to turn crisp. Wolters got out of his sedan and brought a tray of freshly prepared supper to guests sitting on the porch. Beneath an immense sky, cooling as the sun set over the Blue Ridge Mountains, their conservation was muted, almost hushed. Another restful night was descending on The Red Horse Inn. Soon, no doubt, all would be in bed.
Grainary Cottage, Hayloft Cottage, Stables Cottage – the names of all six widely spaced cottages near the inn reflect the horse country that surround them. About 15 miles outside the tiny town of Landrum, South Carolina, the inn counts horse farms among its rural neighbors, many discreetly hidden behind the long white fences that mark horse farms everywhere. It is just such a fence that guides guests along a white gravel drive off Winstons Chase Court to the inn. The long driveway, passing through acres of mowed pasture, is the first of many invitations to slow down.
Somewhere along the drive may be your cabin. Or you may be staying at the inn itself, a large country estate with six rooms that is also home to the innkeepers, Roger and Mary Wolters. The inn, perched on a knoll draped with pastureland, has a commanding view of the Blue Ridge. And there, just inside the front door, is Mary greeting guests with a smile as bright as the crushed quartz in the circular drive out front. Blond hair perfectly arranged, she graciously directs them to their quarters. An artist by training, it is she who painted the hunting and hounds scenes that chase each other above the chair rails in many of the cottages.
Mary’s artistic sensibilities make themselves known in other ways. Rose petals lay scattered on the bed, whose posts or timbers are wrapped in the kind of gauzy fabric that is meant to get lost in. A silver tray on the bedspread presents a piece of parchment. “We hope this magical property reveals itself to you as it has to us,” a recent invitation said by way of welcome.
The Red Horse Inn is the kind of place for people who want to hole up with a bunch of books or a book to write, with only each other for company and a pressing need to slow down. Broad porches and rocking chairs inspire quiet conversation and may yield a glimpse of the Wolters’ horse, My Little Secret. The cabins have galley kitchens big enough for simple meals. Landrum has grocery stores and a few restaurants (one not to miss, Mary says, is Stone Soup, whose patio attracts diners on pleasant evenings and whose inside rooms are decorated with photos of equestrian hunters and jumpers).
Breakfast is done a little differently at The Red Horse Inn. Instead of being served in a common dining room, the Wolterses stock the small fridge in each room and cottage with orange juice, fresh fruit, muffins and an egg dish. Packets of oatmeal and grits are near the microwave, and the breakfast closet is well-supplied with coffee and tea.
The inn had its beginning many years ago, over “way too much coffee” when Mary and Roger were art students at The School of Visual Arts in Manhattan “talking about what we wanted to do when we grew up,” Mary says, sitting in the inn’s beige and white conference center and gathering place. “We dreamed of building an artists’ retreat that would be so beautiful that they could get in touch with their muse. Then we’d laugh and say, this is a stupid plan because artists never have money. But that’s where the vision first came from.”