McLemore hotel opens for business ‘above the clouds’ on Lookout Mountain

Staff photo by Olivia Ross / The ribbon is cut Thursday during the grand opening of the McLemore's Cloudland hotel.
Staff photo by Olivia Ross / The ribbon is cut Thursday during the grand opening of the McLemore's Cloudland hotel.

Note: This story was updated March 1 to correct the attribution of a quote.

The doors of the 245-room Cloudland at McLemore Resort hotel were officially opened to its first guests Thursday, a milestone in the development of Lookout Mountain's luxury golf resort in Rising Fawn, Ga.

"As of today, we are now open, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, hopefully forever," Duane Horton, president of McLemore, said to a crowd of about 100 before the hotel's ribbon-cutting.

Part of Hilton's Curio Collection of hotels, the Cloudland will feature two full-service restaurants, a cafe, spa, 20,000 square feet of event space and six meeting rooms. The hotel joins another restaurant, bar and pro shop already operating on the property.

The guest amenities are centered around the resort's mountaintop golfing experience: McLemore's Highlands Course and short course open now, and another 18-hole golf course called The Keep opening later this year.

In a follow-up interview in the resort's library, Horton said management is getting a good response when it comes to bookings for events and individuals. He said that's especially promising because most people haven't even seen the property.

"Next weekend, we have a complete sell out, 245 people," he said. "We have our first wedding on March 15, the next weekend. We're very excited about the response that we're getting."

The original idea for the resort was developed 17 years ago, Horton said, but McLemore first opened in 2017 after Scenic Land Company bought and rebranded an existing resort. The resort continues to add to homes.

Horton said Cloudland's nightly average for leisure travel rooms is more than $400, with some of the suites priced from $700 to $900 during peak season. That puts McLemore among some of the most expensive stays in the Chattanooga area, according to online travel agency Travelocity.

In March, Horton said the hotel offered discount rates of $199 for weekday rooms and $249 for the weekend room while the hotel was opening up.

Opening doors

Inspired by Scottish castles, the hotel's main doors weigh about 2,00o pound apiece — but are easily moved due to high-tech hinges, Craig Peavy, a principal at the Chattanooga-based architecture firm Tinker Ma, said at the hotel.

The property's name and its castle-like doors are a nod to Charles McLemore, he said, who arrived in the area from Scotland in the early 18th century.

The entry sequence to the hotel was always intended to restrict the view, Peavy said, and build anticipation as guests move closer to the cliff edge. The idea started with a sketch from nearly a decade ago, and he said it's rare that a project maintains an early idea all the way through its completion.

Hotel tour

IV Whitman, executive vice president for marketing at McLemore, gave a tour before the ribbon-cutting, showing how the hotel was constructed to maximize its mountaintop location.

"The further you walk into the hotel, the closer you get to the edge," he said, overlooking McLemore Cove and Lookout Valley below. "The idea was to create this journey where you go through the doors, through the great room and continue out to the edge."

Throughout the resort, Whitman said, the Lookout Mountain location is featured — be it on The Keep's mile and a half of cliff-edge holes, infinity pool or an under-construction bar perched over the cliff, tentatively named The Sky Bar.

Beyond showcasing the view, Whitman said the hotel features locally sourced stone, photographs of native plants by Chattanooga-based Kim Hubbard and a three-dimension map of the area's landscape. It's an effort to bring the outside inside the hotel, he said.

"We have a 20 foot wide by 12 foot topographical relief map that's being made right now and being installed there," he said, gesturing to an open spot on a the hotel's wall. "It's eight layers deep, an inch each layer, veneered in walnut, and it's all of the Cove, including Lookout Mountain, Pigeon Mountain, back to Chattanooga."

The Cloudland's spa, he said, has five massage therapists on staff, as well as a sauna, steam room, and a cold water deluge. A library is filled with classic books, part of the hotel's mission to educate guests on the history and natural features of the land.

The hotel's two restaurants and a cafe offer different options for guests, he said.

The Pocket Café will offer coffee, morning grab-and-go items, as well as afternoon beer and wine service, he said, while The Croft is a three-meal restaurant named after a type of Scottish farm.

Auld Alliance is a fine dining restaurant that will open later this spring, Whitman said.

Inside capacity for The Croft is 150 people, he said, which expands to 200 when the weather allows outdoor seating. Auld Alliance will serve about 100, he said, and 150 when its outdoor seating is included.

The Skybar, he said, is also under construction and has a planned opening for this spring.

Future impact

A release from Cloudland management projects annual spending of $43.5 million from guests when the hotel is at full operation. Walker County is expected to net about $1.79 million in new revenue per year from McLemore resort.

Valor Hospitality is a global company that partnered with McLemore to train and manage the hotel’s 200 recently-hired staff. That’s added to the previous staff of what Horton said was about 100 at the resort’s preexisting amenities.

Mike Burton, managing director of Cloudland, also addressed the crowd before the ribbon-cutting.

"To everyone who comes here, it will be something different and something spectacular," Burton said of McLemore's hotel and golf opportunities. "It will be a renewing experience for those individuals. And they will get to play with us above the clouds."

Contact Andrew Wilkins at or 423-757-6659.

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