Here are a few reasons why you might want to linger in the Elgin Valley, instead of driving straight on through.
Words by Fiona McIntosh, images Shaen Adey
1. To have coffee at Peregrine Farm Stall
This fabulous Elgin farm stall on the N2, just before the turn-off to the Viljoenshoop road, is something of an institution. I don’t think I’ve ever driven through the Elgin Valley and not been tempted in. The coffee is the best outside Cape Town, the cakes are to die for and the pies and quiches…. Oh my goodness, why would one ever want to bake when one can buy there?!
There’s indoor and outdoor dining areas at the café and the adjoining farm stall sells local apples, wines, ciders, olives and olive oils, fresh breads, cheeses, meats and other deli goods so is a one-stop shop if you’re planning on stocking up for the weekend. And if you’re in a rush there’s a take-away trailer in the car park. No wonder it’s always packed!
2. To check out the artworks at Almenkerk Wine Estate
Since it officially launched in January 2017 (following the success of a once-off William Sweetlove exhibition in October 2016) [email protected] has turned heads. The current exhibition, Mute Wisdom, is wonderfully eclectic. Among the works that are displayed in the farm’s beautifully landscaped gardens and around the cellar are a striking red poodle and various lurid geometric forms, while in the distance you’ll spot a vast blue penguin. There are some eye-brow-raising pieces in the Tasting Room (I won’t ruin it for you, go see for yourself!) and I was delighted to see the work of two of my favourite artists, Wilma Cruise and Strijdom van der Merwe.
The next exhibition, curated by Alex Hamilton in collaboration with Dirk Durnez, is BUZZTED, a display of Eco Art that aims to raise awareness of the issues surrounding the worrying decline of the honeybee population, that will open at the end of August. The owners’ long term goal is to create a outdoor/indoor gallery where very large pieces can be showcased all over the farm, with medium-sized in the courtyard and gardens and smaller pieces in the tasting room, cellar and in a lovely restored old building that serves as a dedicated gallery.
It’s a great addition to the cultural offerings of the valley and even if you have no interest in art, Almenkerk is well worth a visit for its stunning wines, expansive views and gorgeous gardens.
3. To ride your mountain bike
3. The Elgin Valley has developed into one of South Africa’s premier mountain biking destinations, with new trails developing all the time. The scenic beauty of the area and the diversity of the riding are big attractions, and a new shared permit system and routes linking the trails on neighbouring Paul Cluver Wines and Oak Valley Wine Estate means that you can ride for hours without covering the same track. The trails on both farms take you past vineyards and orchards and onto wonderfully crafted single track; there’s the opportunity to ride with game or to test your skills at Paul Cluver’s Bike Park and you can celebrate your ride with tastings of their fine wines and/or lunch at either Oak Valley’s Pool Room or SALT at Paul Cluver. MTB doesn’t get better than this.
4. To get high on the Cape Canopy Tour
Despite what the name suggests his exciting ziplining adventure doesn’t actually go through the forest canopy, rather the tour (part of the Canopy Tour® brand, which also has operations in the Tsitsikamma, Magaliesberg, Karkloof, Drakensberg, Magoebaskloof and Swaziland’s Malolotja Reserve) is a unique opportunity to traverse the upper reaches of the Riviersonderend Gorge in CapeNature’s Hottentot’s Holland Reserve. It’s a fab half-day out. Not only do you have the thrill of eleven exhilarating slides between platforms that cling to the precipitous sides of the gorge and a bird’s eye view of the rugged mountain reserve, part of the Cape Floral Region Protected Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you also have a 4×4 journey and a wonderfully interpretive walk in through pristine fynbos with knowledgeable guides thrown in!