Added: Sun. Dec 09, 2012 11:11am
Nashville, Tennessee has become one of the south’s biggest draws in recent years with a variety of attractions to visit and one on top of many lists is the Belle Meade Plantation.
Belle Meade Plantation is the type of destination that has something to appeal to all of us. Whether it’s the beauty of the architecture, the lay of the land, the history, or even the gift shop, Belle Meade is a crowd pleaser. Decked out now in holiday splendor, Belle Meade is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon.
Located on 30 acres 6 miles west of Nashville, the Plantation once encompassed 5,400 acres and was the home to several families, many winning race horses, survived the Civil War and has its share of both happy and not-so-happy endings.
We started our visit with a look around the gift shop, which features a wide selection of books, prints, children’s items and local arts and food. Pick up a Belle Meade Plantation Honey Jelly-great for gift giving, and take in the monthly art show.
It had been a long drive, so we dined at The Harding House Restaurant, the southern inspired restaurant on the property where we delighted in topping off our meal with house made bread pudding.
In 1807, John Harding started the farm when he purchased 250 acres. He had a keen interest in Thoroughbred horses and started by boarding stallions for others. That love of horses continued through many generations and the most famous horse came years later, Bonnie Scotland (1853-1880). William Giles Harding acquired him in 1872 and he became a popular stud-his descendents are still racing today and have included: Northern Dancer, Sunday Silence and Triple Crown winner, Secretariat.
Iroquois was another famous horse purchased in 1886. He was the first American horse to win the English Derby (1881). Many other famous horses trace their roots to this plantation (including Smarty Jones, Seabisquit and Barbaro) and you can learn more about this on the mansion tour and in the stables.
The mansion and grounds:
The mansion was built in 1853 and today it has been restored to its late 19th century splendor. Period furnishings, fixtures and family portraits tell the tale of the lives lived and lost within these walls. Costumed interpreters take you through the two floors of the mansion and you will hear the stories of four generations of the Harding and Jackson families who resided at Belle Meade.
The timed tours last approximately one hour and you’ll leave with a real sense of how these families lived, of their highs and lows and, finally, how the property came to be a popular destination for tourists, locals and school groups today.
The grounds feature several buildings in addition to the mansion. The stables and carriage house were a treat with numerous carriages on display as well as historical facts about the number of famous horses who are connected to this property, an original 1790s log cabin, a slave cabin, the dairy and several other buildings-including the now empty family crypt.
Gardens and green spaces are in abundance-lovely even in the late fall chill-and you can really get the sense of what life was like during the Plantation’s heyday.
The Winery at Belle Meade Plantation is a recent addition, but wine-making has been part of the Plantation for over 150 years. Muscadine grapes still grow wild throughout the property today. Wine tasting is including in the tour price and there are several to try, all from grapes grown nearby. Gifts and art are also available to purchase.
Belle Meade Plantation is just one of Nashville's great destinations. For more information about planning your Nashville vacation, visit: www.visitmusiccity.com
Belle Meade Plantation, 5025 Harding Pike, 615-356-0501, admission charged. www.bellemeadeplantation.com