There’s nothing better for an authentic break from the hustle and bustle of the city than a good old stayover on a South African farm.
1. Western Cape, High Season Farm, Overberg
If, however, you venture ten kilometres inland, you’ll find High Season Farm in the picturesque Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. We headed there with great excitement, and our eagerness was pleasingly rewarded.
Away from the madding crowd, the working farm has eight one-, two- and three-bedroom self-catering cottages with enticing names such as Wild Olive and Lemon Tree. Just because we were on a farm we booked into Paddock Cottage. We didn’t need the three bedrooms but we liked the name.
No mobile reception – what bliss. But reassuring to know there’s a radio phone in case of emergencies. Our accommodation was in one of the original farm buildings, thoughtfully restored and renovated. King-size beds ensured comfortable nights and the fully-equipped kitchen meant meals were prepared with ease.
There’s DStv and Wi-Fi for those who need it. We opted for the laid-back, carefree ambience and unsurpassed vistas of Babylonstoren Mountains, the valley and vineyards.
The accommodation is wheelchair friendly. – Olivia Schaffer
2. Western Cape, Bartholomeus Klip, Hermon
I have always thought of a farmstay as a rustic experience that involves fresh milk and eggs and trudging through farmyards carpeted in dung in a pair of wellies.
It often is, but occasionally luxury steps its dainty foot into the agricultural environment. Bartholomeus Klip is such a spot. It’s a farm, but also quite a stunning escape into the best of Victorian, offering a rare architectural integrity and authenticity. The building is classic, old and beautiful but not overdone and revamped.
The bedrooms have an unusually real Victorian Cape farmhouse feel, best characterised by the ball ’n claw baths that are in keeping with the decor throughout the house. The food is sublime and high tea is similar to that of the Mount Nelson, a virtual meal in itself. Craft beers from the region are available at the bar. It’s an hour from Cape Town and lunch and game-drive packages are available.
The kwagga-breeding project and the resurrection of the endemic and Endangered geometric tortoise, apart from the other wildlife on the farm, are highlights. I rode a mountain bike around the reserve, and loved photographing the reflections in the early morning light. Next time, I’d like to join in the early herding of the sheep. – Angus Begg
3. Eastern Cape, Wheatlands Country House, Graaff-Reinet
During the feather boomtime of the early 1900s, Karoo farmer Arthur Tucker Parkes built his beloved wife Lily a gracious new home. It was an ostrich palace in every sense of the word, well-appointed with spacious rooms, stained-glass windows, pressed ceilings and wood-panelled walls, a piano and a drawing room.
This has now become the guest accommodation at Wheatlands farm, about 50 kilometres south of Graaff-Reinet. Some rooms are en suite, others share a bathroom. The furnishings make you feel as if you are staying in your posh aunt’s comfortable home.
The food is home-made and delicious. Wheatlands is still farmed by the same family, now in its eighth generation. These days, though, it is more about sheep and Angora goats than ostriches. But this remains one of the Karoo’s most notable farms, not least for the locally famous Harefield cricket club on its land and its colourful history as a brandy farm. – Julienne du Toit
4. Western Cape, A Farm Story, Stilbaai
The intriguing history of this country house on a working dairy farm near Stilbaai, is immediately evident as you walk through its doors.
The original yellowwood beams and ceilings of the 19th century Cape Dutch building have been lovingly restored, while the thick walls, furniture and quirky collection of period clothing and nick-nacks, passed down the generations or purchased when the nearby general dealer closed down, are those of yesteryear.
Proudly old-fashioned, A Farm Story delivers exactly what you’d expect from a farmstay. The mooing of the dairy herd greets you and a complementary bottle of wine and cheese platter reflects the warm hospitality of hosts Kassie and Liesel Kasselman, fifth generation owners of the estate, who invite you to wander over to watch the cows being milked or visit the cheesery. Traditional it may be, but the important luxuries are there – including quality linen and towels, a wholesome farm-style breakfast and, surprisingly, super-fast Wi-Fi.
The two main rooms have private entrances and stoeps (there’s also a smaller twin room), and there’s a communal braai bunker. Braai packs, lunch and dinner can be arranged on request and the various eateries and attractions of Stilbaai and Riversdale are a 15-minute drive away. – Fiona McIntosh
5. Western Cape, Skimmelberg Farm, Clanwilliam
About 50 kilometres from Citrusdal and Clanwilliam on the scenic Marcuskraal road, this sprawling, well-maintained farmhouse is a lucky find. Surrounded by orange orchards, it overlooks farmland edged by the Olifantsrivier Mountains.
It is a place to savour the silence and enjoy the natural world where duiker and steenbok graze the lawn around the house. Fully-equipped, the Cape Dutch-style house sleeps eight in four rooms and is suitable for a large group. Wi-Fi and DStv provide entertainment for rainy stay-at-home days. Bring mountain bikes to explore the hilly farm roads, take a stroll, or swim in the farm dam. The owners will also take you to visit several secret rock-art sites in the area. A highlight of the stay is a guided farm tour and a rooibos- and buchu-tea tasting.
Guests can park their cars and not budge for the duration of their stay, or balance farm life with forays into Citrusdal, Clanwilliam and the Pakhuis Pass. – Ron Swilling
6. West Coast, Die Stal, Lambert’s Bay
At first sight, the row of three adjoined accommodations on this potato farm looks quite ordinary. When you step inside, it still looks rather typical of a West Coast self-catering property, with a well-equipped kitchen and a picnic table and benches in the dining area.
However, when you step into the bedroom of Die Stal No 1 on Steenbokfontein farm, the naming is quite evident. Running along the wall, what used to be the feeding trough for horses in the old days is now painted and still clad with local stone, and serves as a long shelf. A framed piece of wall in the living area emphasises the original, historic stonework of the building.
Die Stal is cosy and comfortable, and just five kilometres from Lambert’s Bay attractions. Plus you can smell the saltiness of the sea nearby, and hear its distant rumble from your bedroom window. The farm also has a small museum with memorabilia from the HMS Sybille, which struck rock in direct line of sight of the farm in 1901. – Keri Harvey
7. Western Cape, Candlewood Cottage, Stellenbosch
I treasure the chance to escape to the country, with a stay on a wine farm top of my list of spoils. The newly opened, well-equipped, self-catering guest house on Bartinney Wine Estate sits on the slopes of Botmaskop.
Although only 15 minutes drive from Stellenbosch, the cottage, which backs onto vineyards and has sweeping views over the Banhoek Valley, feels far from the madding crowd: you’ll wake to the sound of birds and tractors rumbling past. There are lovely gardens and extensive hiking and mountain-biking trails for the more active.
Although luxurious, spoiling you with top-quality linen, a super-comfy bed and all the mod cons including DStv and Wi-Fi, the renovated cottage has a real farm-style feel, with high ceilings, a spacious kitchen and central wood burning fire. Guests are treated to a free wine tasting at the farm’s classy Tasting Shed, which also serves snack platters, and there are fabulous local restaurants. – Fiona McIntosh