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Check out our exclusive sneak peek of Ancient Lore, an upscale rural retreat set in a fantasy world

Ancient Lore Village at Boyd Hollow isn’t the sprawling fantasy-world resort businessman Tom Boyd proposed back in early 2019 — complete with 150 huts and treehouses.

Even leprechauns, it turns out, are subject to zoning regulations. 

Boyd and the leprechauns are cool with it.  

Knox News got an exclusive preview of the $12 million property, now an exclusive event destination with a small number of overnight dwellings where affluent families and groups can immerse themselves in a secluded, fantastical world for a time. 

Inside the Orc Home at Ancient Lore Village in South Knoxville on Monday, April 12, 2src21. Nestled into a manmade ledge on a hillside at 71src7 Sevierville Pike sits the Village, comprised of eight buildings looking out onto mountain views.

“I don’t believe (there’s) anywhere in the world that you can find a place like this, where you rent a whole village,” Boyd, 83, said.

“You own the village for the day, you have the entire staff that’s here to make sure that whatever you need is taken care of,” said Melissa Blettner, general manager. 

Small, rentable destinations are an emerging trend in hospitality as consumers crave more outdoor, private and unique experiences. Boyd plans to create more of these bespoke villages across the South. 

The property is hosting a grand opening Wednesday and its first event Thursday. 

Step into Ancient Lore Village 

Nestled into a man-made ledge on the hillside of 7107 Sevierville Pike sits the Village, which looks out onto green pastures, blue lakes and Smoky Mountain views. 

The eight “dwellings” in a row look like they belong in a fantasy novel. That’s because they do. 

The Village is based on Boyd’s book, “Bokee‘s Trek: Outcasts to Inner Earth,” which depicts another dimension with creatures like orcs and fairies. 

“He started dreaming of a village where people would come together, sit by a fire, tell stories, slow down a little bit, unplug the phone, kind of get away from it all,” said Daniel Levy, owner of DK Levy architectural firm. He helped bring Boyd’s vision to life. 

The dwellings are built partially underground but designed to be light and airy inside. The exteriors feature thatched roofs, growing things and little waterfalls. 

A view of the dwellings at Ancient Lore Village in South Knoxville on Monday, April 12, 2src21. Nestled into a manmade ledge on a hillside at 71src7 Sevierville Pike sits the Village, comprised of eight buildings looking out onto mountain views.

Zarah Bates, owner and principal of Z Creative Group, led the interior design.

“Every little detailed mattered, because if you walk in and it feels brand new, then we have not achieved what we set to do,” she said.  

Each dwelling has its own theme, most of which are based on characters in Boyd’s book. 

The residences each contain a bed, a wood-burning fireplace with two comfy chairs, a small kitchen area with wet bar and snacks, and a bathroom. 

But in every other way they’re unique, down to the handmade doors, the sinks, chandeliers, custom plaster finishes, window shapes and locally sourced furniture. 

Inside the Waterfall Villa at Ancient Lore Village in South Knoxville on Monday, April 12, 2src21. Nestled into a manmade ledge on a hillside at 71src7 Sevierville Pike sits the Village, comprised of eight buildings looking out onto mountain views.

There’s the Waterfall Villa, an enchanted-forest-themed suite that includes a bed surrounded by a floor-to-ceiling birchwood forest, hand-hewn beams and a custom countertop with a waterfall design that cascades off the edge. 

Look out the quaint circular window to a waterfall trickling from above. 

Next is the whimsical Leprechaun Lair, with a hand-laid, swirling stone fireplace, a gold sparkle in the walls and a hidden leprechaun somewhere in the bungalow. 

“I feel like if you go that whole ‘Lucky Charms’ realm, it’s cartoonish,” Bates said. “Whereas this feels like an ancient leprechaun lived here.”

The Fairy Cottage is light and dainty with pink walls covered in pixie dust. Boyd plans to install eight little bunk beds so the fairies have somewhere to sleep. 

The door to the Fairy Cottage at Ancient Lore Village in South Knoxville on Monday, April 12, 2src21. Nestled into a manmade ledge on a hillside at 71src7 Sevierville Pike sits the Village, comprised of eight buildings looking out onto mountain views.

The Orc Home features charred wood, animal horns, high ceilings and sturdy furniture.  “Orcs are big guys,” Boyd said. “Takes big seats for them.”

The Gremlin Den is comprised of two adjoining rooms with a “mystical moose mural”  and puzzle theme throughout. 

Last, there’s Bokee’s Bungalow, the original two-story residence that was built in 2019. It sleeps eight, is built 19 feet underground and is topped with 75,000 pounds of dirt. 

Waterfall and Yeti Cave

A view from the top of the waterfall of the Ancient Lore Village property in South Knoxville on Monday, April 12, 2src21. Nestled into a manmade ledge on a hillside at 71src7 Sevierville Pike sits the Village, comprised of eight buildings looking out onto mountain views.

The Village also includes plenty of communal spaces for dining and gathering. 

Executive chef Simon Hall works with his culinary team to create custom menus for events. 

Outside, guests can enjoy Gremlin Gameyard, the outdoor kitchen at Fireside Grill, and the Yeti Cave, which can host a wedding for up to 22 people or a cocktail hour. 

Boyd Hollow Falls features a 40-foot waterfall and pond surrounded by amphitheater seating for up to 50. 

Boyd is designing a floating lily pad on which couples can float out onto the pond to exchange vows or enjoy a luxury meal.

Ascend above the Falls to The Boulders, where guests can enjoy a secluded dinner or drinks overlooking the waterfall. 

The rest of the 67 acres includes hiking and walking trails, a lookout point and areas for tented events. 

More Ancient Lore properties 

Inside the Gremlin Den at Ancient Lore Village in South Knoxville on Monday, April 12, 2src21. Nestled into a manmade ledge on a hillside at 71src7 Sevierville Pike sits the Village, comprised of eight buildings looking out onto mountain views.

Boyd plans to build at least seven more Ancient Lore Village properties, starting in Chattanooga. He said he’ll select land there in 2021 and start work in 2022. 

Each new Village will be inspired by a new book with new characters, Boyd said. 

He’s got a general manager with experience growing brands. Blettner helped propel Great Wolf Lodge from one property to 16.

In 2021, wealthy travelers will seek out properties where they can rent out entire spaces, according to a Forbes article predicting travel trends

Only one group at a time can rent the Village to maintain the exclusive and private feel. It hosts weddings, corporate events and family gatherings. 

Weekend wedding packages at Ancient Lore start at $40,000, according to its website. 

The concierge designs custom events for each group and though there’s only overnight accommodations for 22, it can hold outdoor, tented events for up to 250 people. 

Guests can schedule activities like ax throwing, fishing tours, meditations or scavenger hunts. Everything is customizable. 

“Do you want to have beer and snacks around the fire pit at night, do you want to grill out here, do you want a three-course, four-course dinner up top? We can do whatever you want,” Blettner said. 

Ancient Lore will host some ticketed events to give community members a chance to experience the Village and its curated events. 

The “Herbs, Hog & Cocktails” event on May 1 includes a pig roast, fire spinning, cocktails and a barbecue. Tickets are $385. The public can also attend a village tour and dinner for $150

Why Ancient Lore won’t get bigger 

Sandi Burdick and Tom Boyd are photographed at Ancient Lore Village in South Knoxville on Monday, April 12, 2src21. Nestled into a manmade ledge on a hillside at 71src7 Sevierville Pike sits the Village, comprised of eight buildings looking out onto mountain views.

Ancient Lore is a far cry from the original sprawling resort idea that Boyd said would attract 200,000 visitors a year. 

He first proposed a $40 million destination with a 150-seat restaurant, a 500-person event center, 1,000-seat amphitheater and even a goat barn.

Boyd faced opposition from neighbors and advocates from the “Keep the Urban Wilderness Peaceful” group. He didn’t get the rezoning required to move forward with the larger concept. 

After hinting he might take the project elsewhere, Boyd pivoted to this “rural retreat” concept in spring 2020. 

By preserving ample greenspace and giving plenty of tours, Boyd said he’s changed the minds of some of those opponents. 

He also utilized local firms, including Jenkins and Stiles General Contractors, Total Property Management, Perfect Grounds, A New Hue, Wade Richardson, Land Maintenance Development, GraySon’s Concrete Works and ShoffnerKalthoff. 

The Leprechaun Lair, left, and Fairy Cottage, right, at Ancient Lore Village in South Knoxville on Monday, April 12, 2src21. Nestled into a manmade ledge on a hillside at 71src7 Sevierville Pike sits the Village, comprised of eight buildings looking out onto mountain views.

I asked Boyd which part of launching Ancient Lore was most challenging. 

“You don’t know me very well, do you? There was no challenge,” Boyd said. “I don’t know how many businesses I’ve had, but one thing I can tell you. When you start something, you know you’re going to finish it. And what happens in between, it happens, but each step of the way you learn something. You may improve on it, but you never part with your central theme.” 

While the property might get better, Boyd said it won’t get bigger.

He’s happy with showing Ancient Lore to just 22 people at a time.

“People never do see what you see,” Boyd said. “That’s been true of every business I ever started.” 

Business reporter Brenna McDermott can be reached at brenna.mcdermott@knoxnews.com. Follow along with her work on Twitter @_BrennaMcD. Support our local news efforts by becoming a Knox News subscriber

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