TEXT BY HEATHER DOWDY
PHOTOS BY MICHELLE CONNER
It is an early evening in June as my husband Chris and I meander up a grassy slope, our dogs Briley, Shelby and Molly trotting happily ahead of us to explore the many new scents and sounds. They are somewhat “city” dogs, unaccustomed to these endless rolling hills and the plethora of frog calls resonating from the nearby pond. We make our way past a charming old outhouse, complete with crystal chandelier, and a historic log cabin embraced by rows of boldly flowered bushes. Ahead of us, a hand hewn branch pavilion points toward the darkening sky, its adornment of tiny gold lights sparkling against the ripples of the pond below.
We make our way into the magical ambiance of the pavilion, settling into cozy chaise lounges with cool drinks in hand. After a long, hectic week, it is a heavenly retreat offering a romantic glow and the soothing sounds of nature. We sit and listen to the summer breeze rustling through the thick trees, to the plops of frogs dancing in the water. The dogs are wide-eyed with excitement, noses raised high to sniff in unison.
Hidden among these twenty-one private country acres, it feels like we’re a million miles away. In fact, it’s hard to imagine that we are only minutes from the hustle and bustle of downtown Franklin, Tennessee—which is why Moonshine Hill Inn is the ultimate “getaway” in our own back yard.
A Heavenly Pet-Friendly Retreat with a Colorful Past
Nestled among so much comfort and beauty, it’s hard to imagine that this place was once a dilapidated cottage and the center of an illegal moonshine operation. When Ann Johnson purchased the property in 2000, it wasn’t much to boast about, but Ann had a vision of something greater. As she once explained in an interview for Country Living magazine, “It was a dump. I turned the dump into a shack. I turned the shack into a cabin. I turned the cabin into a retreat. And now it’s paradise.”
Paradise, indeed. The once small and shabby white house is now a breathtaking country cottage, sporting a charming red tin roof, rustic log exterior and gorgeous stone tower. Located just two miles from historic Leiper’s Fork Village and just five minutes from scenic hiking along the Natchez Trace, the 1,500 square-foot cottage features a fully stocked kitchen, cozy living and dining spaces, plenty of reading nooks, a magnificent master bedroom, two baths and a small office, making it a quaint and comfortable couple’s stay.
Best of all, the furry family is always welcome. Says Ann, “When we opened the cottage for accommodations, I thought, ‘What a great place for the entire family to come, including dogs and cats!’” After all, Ann considers her own canine companions to be beloved members of her family.
“Our black lab, Gertie Girl, was rescued from the woods by Dr. Michelle Preston (owner of nearby Animalia Health and Wellness) and her husband, Aubrey, in 2006. Our blue heeler, Hardy Boy, came from Williamson County Animal Control,” she says. “We never like traveling without our whole family, so I wanted our guests to be able to include their animal companions, too.”
Moonshine Hill Inn truly caters to pets, with cozy pet beds, bowls, treats and more waiting your arrival. Bottles of EcoDiva Doggy Shampoo are provided lest your pet pal return muddy after a swim, and chew bones, tug toys and chew bones are offered to keep pooch pals occupied. While the sprawling grounds are not fenced, dogs are welcome to roam off-leash to enjoy the shaded private acres.
Human guests will appreciate the 1,000 thread count sheets, luxurious bathrobes, gourmet chocolates, custom coffees and thoughtful toiletries and bath products. Rustic elegance abounds in every room and vintage treasures can be found in every nook and cranny. Available to rent by the night or by the week, the Inn belongs to you and you alone during your stay, which includes breakfast for two at nearby Country Boy Restaurant in Leiper’s Fork Village.
Throughout our stay, we cook meals in the kitchen and roast food on the patio’s open fire pit. We lounge away the afternoon on the front porch swings and soak our troubles away in the garden tub. The dogs enjoy romping and roaming and afternoon swims in the pond. And at night, we all gather upstairs in the beautifully decorated master bedroom, drifting off to the songs of crickets and to the glow of lightning bugs fluttering just outside our window.
Lazy Days in Leiper’s Fork Village
Less than two miles down the road from Moonshine Hill Inn lies a short but sweet stretch of charming small-town America, known as Leiper's Fork. Free breakfast at Country Boy Restaurant is just the beginning; once you’ve started your day with fresh biscuits, blueberry pancakes or a cornbread omelet, enjoy a stroll along Old Hillsboro Road to enjoy local art galleries and quaint boutiques. Leiper’s Creek Gallery displays an eclectic variety of work from locally to internationally recognized artists, while The Barn at Leiper’s Fork features paintings by local artist David Arms. Built as a general store in 1914, Serenite Maison offers 19th and 20th century chandeliers, farm tables, textiles, jewelry and more for antique lovers.
Enjoy a fresh farm-to-table lunch at Joe’s Natural Farm Store & Café, which offers local and organic cuisine as well as locally produced jams, eggs, cheeses, breads and coffee. A local Farmer’s Market runs each Saturday from June through October, while Jailhouse Industries host free outdoor movies at the Lawnchair Theatre every Friday at dusk during June, July and August.
Home-cooked country fare can be enjoyed on the pet-friendly patio of Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant, founded by the Puckett family in the 1050’s as a general store to serve the local community. From fresh farm groceries and home cooked meals to offering a place to fuel up on gas, the legendary one-stop shop continues its tradition as the local gathering place. Looking for some festive evening fun? Join locals for Puckett’s After Hours on Friday and Saturday nights, when live music is showcased alongside a delicious dinner menu.
Accommodation Rates: Moonshine Hill Inn rates range from $335 - $350 per night, plus a $100 pet fee and $125 cleaning fee. Cats and dogs of all sizes are welcome, and there is no limit on the number of pets.