Every destination wedding needs a destination town to explore, and at Castle Ladyhawke, the mountain town of Sylva is just that! It may be quaint, but there’s no shortage of things to do and sights to see. If you’re unfamiliar with what Sylva has to offer, read on and you’ll soon be able to blend right in with the locals!
The town of Sylva was initially founded in 1889 when E.R. Hampton, who owned much of the land that present-day Sylva occupies, chartered a new post office in Jackson County. When he asked his young daughter, Mae, what he should name it, she responded “Sylva”. Sylva was the last name of an employee of her father’s at the sawmill he co-owned; a man she had taken a liking to. Except Sylva wasn’t actually his last name. According to an article in The Sylva Herald, his real name was William Demetrius Sylvey. Whether he changed the spelling at some point or he was simply misheard is unclear, but the name stuck and the mountain town of Sylva was born. The town would soon be elected as the county seat in 1913, which led to the construction of the Historic Jackson County Courthouse a year later. Since then, Sylva has become a hidden gem among the multitude of destinations in the Appalachian Mountains. Multiple movies have been filmed there, such as Deliverance (1972), The Fugitive (1993), and Paradise Falls (1997). Some of Sylva’s most notable natives include former NFL player Ed Sutton, country music artist Matt Stillwell, and Olympic medalist Michael Bingham. Pretty impressive for a small town with a population under 3,000!
Things to Do
Sylva may be small in size, but it’s not short on activities. For starters, the Historic Courthouse on Main Street isn’t actually the courthouse anymore: It’s now a library. The 26,000+ square foot facility underwent renovations and re-opened in 2011, making it a great place to dive into the town’s history and snap some beautiful pictures. The Historic Courthouse/Library is the perfect starting point for any adventure in Sylva, because from the top of the courthouse steps, Main Street unfolds before you. From there, the possibilities are endless. If you love the outdoors, Pinnacle Park is a great place to start. The 1,400-acre park is home to a 3.4-mile trail that leads to The Pinnacle, where you can take in breathtaking panoramic views of Jackson County from 5,000 feet of elevation. Along the way, you’ll find campgrounds, waterfalls, and some great fishing spots. If you prefer cruising over hiking, the Blue Ridge Parkway is just a few miles from downtown and offers a fun route to drive, incredible mountain views, and plenty of points of interest along the way. If you just can’t keep your eye off Sylva’s picturesque Main Street from the Courthouse, take a stroll right down the 107-step staircase and you’ll find plenty of restaurants, breweries/wineries, and shops to explore.
Food and Drink
For a small town, Sylva’s culinary scene is very impressive. We’ve mentioned some of our personal favorites here! Ilda is the spot for Italian-Appalachian cuisine from our friend Chef Santiago, and Jame offers a unique and healthy Mediterranean-inspired menu. Other popular local spots include Lulu’s, Guadalupe on Main, The Coffee Shop, and Baxley’s Chocolates.
Sylva is also home to plenty of great places to grab a drink or two. The Wine Bar and Cellar, Ilda’s sister location, has an impressive selection of fine wines and delicious culinary options to pair them with. There are also four breweries in town: Innovation Brewing, Balsam Falls Brewing, Lazy Hiker Brewing, and Nantahala Brewing Company’s Sylva Outpost. Between them, there are over 120 locally crafted beers on tap. So, if you wanted to take the bridesmaids for wine tasting and charcuterie or the groomsmen for a brewery tour and tasting, Sylva is the perfect place!
Adventuring in a new town wouldn’t be complete without some shopping. With five antique stores, three bookstores, and more, Sylva is a great place to browse and find unique keepsakes and gifts. One store that caught our eye is NOON, which sells locally made, handcrafted goods. You can browse some of their items on their website, but some items can only be found in store. Whether you’re looking for something meaningful for you and your partner to remember your special day or a gag gift to bring home to a friend, you’re bound to find something special!
If the natural beauty and atmosphere of Castle Ladyhawke has you hooked, let the charm and liveliness of Sylva reel you in. It may be small in size and population, but there are countless memories to make and experiences to enjoy. This beautiful mountain town will give you and your partner plenty of reasons to return and reminisce about your special day for years to come.
Photos courtesy of romanticasheville.com and Kelly Donaldson