“You don’t choose Asheville… Asheville chooses you.”
This enigmatic insight from Peter White, co-owner of the Black Walnut Bed and Breakfast Inn, was a perfect summation of our fascination with what was then still a burgeoning little Blue Ridge mountain town.
By our second visit to Asheville in 2014, you could really feel the bustling energy of the town’s progressive movement. From great music and art scenes to green restaurants and endless outdoor activities, it immediately felt like the sort of place we could call home.
White and his wife, Lori, were among a new wave of entrepreneurs who first visited Asheville in the late ’90s and early 2000s. At the time, they were nearly 30 years into running the Old Stone Bakery in Martha’s Vineyard.
They fell in love with the beauty of Asheville’s surrounding natural beauty and vibrant culture, bought a historic home in the Montford neighborhood in 2004, and invested their entire live savings into restoring it to its former glory.
Within a few years it was one of the most beloved bed and breakfasts in Asheville NC, earning features in Travel & Leisure and 1000 Places to See Before You Die.
It was easy to see why upon our first visit. The Black Walnut Inn offers a great mixture of historic charm and modern luxury, from lovingly landscaped gardens and a newly renovated carriage house to the elegant dining room and gorgeous guest rooms.
So here’s a guide to this historic Asheville B&B, including its intriguing architectural design, excellent amenities, and some of the awesome activities available nearby.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: After this piece was published, we learned that the Black Walnut B&B Inn had been sold to a new owner, Alicia Wilson, in 2019. We leave our story intact to reflect our personal experience at this beautiful Asheville bed and breakfast.)
READ MORE: The Best Things to Do in Asheville NC
BLACK WALNUT INN INFO
ADDRESS: 288 Montford Avenue, Asheville NC 28801
ACCOMMODATIONS: The Black Walnut B&B offers eight guest rooms, including two pet-friendly rooms in the restored Carriage House.
All guest rooms have private baths en-suite, and most offer in-room fireplaces.
Guests also receive lavish breakfasts in the Inn’s elegant, antique-filled dining room, as well as afternoon tea served with delightful homemade treats.
DIRECTIONS FROM BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY VISITOR CENTER: Turn right onto Hemphill Knob rd, then another right on the Blue Ridge Pkwy, and follow it for .6 miles until you reach the US-74-A W ramp to Asheville.
Turn right to merge onto US-74 ALT W, then continue on I-240 W for 4.7 miles. Take exit 4C toward Haywood St/Montford Ave, then merge onto Cherry St N.
In 148 feet, turn right onto Montford Ave. The Black Walnut Bed and Breakfast Inn will be on your left in approximately .6 miles.
RESERVATIONS: Check Rates for the Black Walnut Inn via Booking.com.
READ MORE: The Best Downtown Asheville Restaurants
HISTORY OF THE BLACK WALNUT B&B
Located just north of downtown Asheville, the Montford Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Most of the 600+ historic buildings in Montford were residences built between 1890 and 1920, with cosmopolitan architectural styles ranging from Arts & Crafts and Neoclassical Queen Anne and Victorian.
The Black Walnut Bed and Breakfast Inn was built in 1899. Like many homes in the area, was designed by Richard Sharp-Smith, who was also the supervising architect for the world-renowned Biltmore House.
The Asheville bed and breakfast is a sensational showcase for Sharp-Smith’s unique take on the English shingle style, with half-timbering, pebbledash (a.k.a. roughcast) exterior, and the original diamond-paned windows.
After Lori and Peter White bought the B&B (which Lori described as her “dream home”), the Black Walnut Inn was lovingly restored to enhance the building’s historic character.
At the same time, they introduced modern creature comforts such as air conditioning, Wifi, and private en-suite bathrooms.
The Whites’ labor of love also included renovating the home’s old Carriage House to create two additional guest rooms for the pet-friendly B&B.
ACCOMODATIONS & AMENITIES
The Walnut Room, in which we stayed, is the largest of the 8 rooms available at the Black Walnut B&B. Measuring 20 X 22 feet, it is one of only two rooms that can hold up to 3 people.
Located on the second floor in the northwest corner, where it overlooks the tranquil gardens and koi ponds, this was originally the house’s master suite.
It’s a gorgeous suite with a more masculine touch than you’ll find in some of their smaller rooms, all centered around a ginormous King-sized wooden sleigh bed with a cozy down mattress.
Warm peachy tones are offset by luxurious black, gold, and sage fabrics, with antique wooden tables, lamps, and a mirrored armoire adding to the Inn’s historic appeal.
The room includes a large seating area, with sofa and armchairs in front of the flat screen TV and romatic roaring fireplace.
The bathroom boasts a big granite vanity and a porcelian tub that’s big enough for two (with overhead shower for those who don’t enjoy baths). The lush, large Turkish towels and Aveda toiletry products add an extra touch of indulgent luxury.
But what makes the Black Walnut one of the best bed and breakfasts in Asheville, North Carolina is the breakfast itself.
At many B&Bs we’ve visited during our international travel adventures, the morning meal feels like a perfunctory service. But at the Black Walnut Inn, it’s truly an event worth savoring.
After nearly 30 years running a critically-acclaimed bakery, Lori & Peter White clearly take pride in the pastries and other products their kitchen produces. Their delightful 3-course meal was easily among the best breakfasts in Asheville we’ve ever had.
NEARBY ASHEVILLE ATTRACTIONS
The Biltmore Estate
Finished in 1895, multi-millionaire George Washington Vanderbilt II’s 135,280 square foot, 250-room Biltmore Estate is the largest privately owned house in the United States.
The centerpiece of the Vanderbilts’ 125,000-acre retreat soon attracted famous friends such as inventors Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, and Presidents William McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson.
That infusion of wealth funded much of the art deco-style architecture that made downtown Asheville one of the fastest-growing towns in North Carolina.
The Biltmore remains the most beloved Asheville attraction today. Guests can tour its Châteauesque-style architecture, lushly landscaped gardens, and wineries.
It’s especially popular during the holidays, with Christmas at Biltmore lasting from early November to January.
Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is the longest linear park in the USA, stretching 469 miles from Great Smoky Mountains National Park in NC to Shenandoah National Park in VA.
The most visited unit of America’s National Park System for 70+ years, the parkway passes right through Asheville (under 7 miles from the Black Walnut Inn).
The possibilities for day trips from Asheville along the BRP are endless, with popular overlooks such as Craggy Dome, Graybeard Mountain, Looking Glass Rock, the Cradle of Forestry, and Mt. Mitchell all within easy driving distance.
There are also some amazing Blue Ridge Parkway hikes in the area, including the Graveyard Fields Loop, the Crabtree Falls Loop, and the Craggy Pinnacle trail.
Downtown Asheville Restaurants & Breweries
After four visits to the city over the last 8 years, we’re continually blown away by the downtown Asheviille restaurant scene, which is full to bursting with creative culinary talents.
Want Southern fare with a dash of flair? Try Tupelo Honey or 12 Bones Smokehouse (the Obamas’ favorite local BBQ joint). Healthy options? Check out the Green Sage Cafe, Plant, and Chef Peter Pollay’s Posana.
In the mood for more exotic fare? Try multiple James Beard Award nominee Meherwan Irani’s excellent Indian at Chai Pani, or the farm-to-table French bistro, Bouchon.
READ MORE: The Best Downtown Asheville Restaurants
Pisgah National Forest
Encompassing over half a million acres, Pisgah National Forest spans 12 counties (from Brevard north to Boone) and essentially surrounds Asheville.
Incorporating land that was originally part of the Biltmore Estate, the forest also includes parts of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Great Balsam Mountains.
This haven for nature lovers is beloved for its picturesque scenery, including majestic mountains, old growth hardwood forests, and some of the best Western NC waterfalls.
It’s also a hotbed for outdoor recreation, including a seemingly endless array of excellent hiking trails and camping opportunities.
River Arts District
Encompassing 23 historic industrial buildings lining a one-mile stretch of the French Broad River, the River Arts District is at the heart of Asheville’s thriving cultural scene.
From the Asheville Cotton Mill and Curve Studios to Foundation Woodworks and the North Carolina Glass Center, each is home to an array of galleries and artist studios.
Whether you’re looking for Appalachian folk art, museum-worthy fine art, or unique candles, clothing, and jewelry, this area is a shopaholic’s dream come true.
It’s also home to some of Asheville’s best restaurants, including All Souls Pizza, 12 Bones Smokehouse, and VIVIAN Restaurant. –by Bret Love; photos courtesy Black Walnut Bed and Breakfast Inn unless otherwise noted