Take a step back in time and enjoy South Africa’s rich history at these special spots.
1. Rickety Bridge Manor House, Franschhoek
Rickety Bridge Winery was once part of La Provence farm, but on 13 May 1797, widow Paulina de Villiers was granted the land, making her one of South Africa’s first female landowners. Paulina’s Drift, and later Paulina’s Dal, became Rickety Bridge. Paulina was a descendant of the original French Huguenots, who settled in Franschhoek in 1688, bringing with them their winemaking skills. With the Franschhoek River running through the property, set against the Dassenberg Mountains, it was an ideal spot to cultivate grapes. The Manor House dates back to 1829 but has been renovated to provide guests with a luxury stay that oozes olde-world charm. Each room has either twin or king-size beds. The downstairs suite has a sitting room with television, plus a beautifully appointed bedroom and bathroom. There are lovely romantic walks through the vineyards, wine tours, and wine-tasting which we’ve experienced before, so we headed straight to Paulina’s
restaurant, just a stone throw away from the Manor House. Sitting once more on the veranda, sipping on a glass of Paulina’s Reserve Semillon (my favourite), we toasted the pioneering spirit of the woman who made it all possible.
+27 (0) 21 876 2129, [email protected]
Words Ann Gadd
2. Heidelberg Hotel, Heidelberg
Funny how some things don’t change even when they do – and how some things will always remain a mystery. The date on the gable at the Heidelberg Hotel is 1932, the year in which it was renovated. But in this town so heavy with history, no one seems to know exactly when the building was first constructed. It’s thought to be at least 100 years old, and once had iron posts instead of the pillars that now stand tall on the long, lavender-filled stoep. In 2000 it was restored after a big fire and, more recently, present owners Charles and Cecile Kleynhans recreated its olde-world charm, giving it an injection of contemporary and comfortable decor. Big, squashy deco furniture dominates the lounge, with dressers, old china tea sets, and nostalgic landscapes on the walls. A gong to announce the next meal wouldn’t be out of place in the dining room, where it was warming to see tables full of locals on a Saturday night – and needless to say, many regulars in the corner bar. Four of the 13 rooms have a street-facing balcony from which to soak up the town vibe, and in the back garden there’s a little aviary and a pool where you can chill and take a step back in time.
+27 (0) 28 722 1860, [email protected]
Words Nancy Richards
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3. The Vishuis, Hermanus, Overberg
Back in 1925, this property was home to fishermen, and was recently named after its original occupants. Over the years it’s been attorneys’ and doctors’ rooms, as well as the area’s ANC headquarters. Since 2015, many local and international travellers have called it their home away from home. Comprising the Luxury Fisherman’s Cottage, the newly-launched Garden Cottage and three Courtyard Suites, it can sleep 12 guests on a self-catering basis. As we discovered, it was the ideal destination for a family gathering. We were eight adults, each with our own luxurious, thoughtfully-equipped spaces that opened onto a courtyard with plunge pool. There was more than enough kitchenware – and glasses aplenty – for the party guests who came to celebrate a milestone birthday. Our hostess, a visitor from Canada, had booked The Luxury Fisherman’s Cottage for a month and, after a thoroughly fulfilling sojourn that offered easy access to restaurants,
bookshops, art galleries, shopping and the seafront, she has promised a revisit next year. Here visitors can expect luxurious, understated elegance with clever splashes of colour – it’s perfectly
+27 (0) 82 576 1355; [email protected]
Words Olivia Schaffer
4. Montagu Country Hotel, Montagu
There are few places better than ‘the only original Art Deco hotel in South Africa’ to celebrate the past. “You must remember, in those slow-going 1950s cars, a trip from Joburg to Cape Town
required several days travel on gravel roads,” says Gert Lubbe, owner of the Montagu Country Hotel. I remember my grandmother telling me how she had to open farm gates on the main road south – a stark contrast to today’s speedy N1. Gert was the driving force behind the popularisation of the R62 route almost 20 years ago, helping to preserve a now-thriving pocket of South Africa that still inspires roadtrippers to pack up and go. For those with a penchant for nostalgia, I’d suggest you start the iconic route with his hotel. It’s a true step back in time, as bedrooms and leisure areas are all decorated in either Art Deco or Victorian style – right down to the door handles and cutlery. Original, hand-picked chests, chairs and tables hark back to the 20s, and the overall feeling is that of olde-world charm rather than old-fashioned kitsch. And dinner is quite an event, with the resident pianist providing background music to delicious food, and wine from the nearby
+27 (0) 23 614 3125; [email protected]
Words Melanie van Zyl
5. Moffat House – Lisbon Hideaway, Graskop
In Graskop we found accommodation in a charming old cottage built in the the late 1800s (it’s thought to be 1883 – before Johannesburg was even established). Moffat House was built by the eponymous Mr Moffat, a stonemason and prospector. The Flischmans, current owners, gained insight into the heritage of this humble home from a Mr Andries Wilken who grew up in Moffat House in the 1940s. According to him, the house was used as a mining office in the 1930s. After the gold price dropped and nearby gold fields were exhausted, the Transvaal Gold Mine Estate moved the offices to nearby Pilgrim’s Rest. Over the years, it was home to several miners, before becoming the affordable self-catering guest accommodation it is today. The spacious cottage sleeps
two, with a fireplace in an open-plan lounge, and a gloriously sunny day-bed area. My hostess Phillicity Flischman kindly took me on the trail to Lisbon Falls and showed me the route to the
bottom, which was even more magical than the viewpoint from the top.
+27 (0) 83 438 2714; [email protected]
Words Melanie van Zyl
6. The Turbine Boutique Hotel and Spa, Knysna
This most unusual hotel in Knysna used to not be a hotel at all. The Turbine Boutique Hotel and Spa was built as a power station in 1939, to supply electricity to the area by burning wood waste generated by the timber trade in the Knysna Forest. Hence the chunks of machinery, industrial pipes and other baffling paraphernalia that’s all playfully painted in vivid colours as part of the quirky decor. It’s a photographer’s paradise. Logging ended in the 1980s, and husband and wife Geoff Engel and Dandre Lerm-Engel bought the defunct building in 2007 to create their dream hotel while preserving its heritage. And there’s nothing old-fashioned about its five-star facilities. Of the 24 bedrooms, six have balcony views of Knysna Lagoon or Thesen Island. There’s a honeymoon suite and a bedroom for disabled guests. After a steamy rasul in the lovely spa, cool off in the pool on the deck, and dine on the Island Café terrace or in the cosy gastro pub.
+27 (0) 44 302 5746; [email protected]
Words Lesley Stones
7. Kearsney Manor, KwaDukuza
If the name of Kearsney Manor sounds a little familiar, it’s probably because you have some memory of the prestigious school Kearsney College, and there is a tangible link between the two. Kearsney Manor is the original home of the school, established in 1921, and moved to its present site on Botha’s Hill outside Durban in 1939. But even before Kearsney Manor was a school, it was the elegant home of Sir James Leige Hulett, a cabinet minister, who built an immense sugar empire along the coast of KwaZulu-Natal, and was knighted for his services to the Colony. These days his former home is a boutique hotel with 18 rooms including family suites and a spectacular Presidential Suite. The old English mansion has been tastefully modernised, and the old colonial appearance of the estate together with the 100-year-old chapel, makes it popular venue for weddings and conferences. It is a lovely period base from which to explore the North Coast. Unfortunately there was no time on this visit to take a drive to the beach, less than 20 kilometres away. There are also numerous other attractions in the area.
+27 (0) 32 552 8100; [email protected]
Words Stephen Smith
8. Lazy Whale, Kleinzee
Fancy staying in a photographic darkroom? A darkroom (now much better lit), that formed part of the Kleinzee Photographic Club’s premises. In its heyday, Kleinzee was backed by De Beers and boasted just about every sporting and entertainment facility imaginable. But the departure of De Beers put an end to such social activities, and the entire clubhouse was converted into a self-catering guest house that sleeps five. The main room features a large bar with historic memorabilia and a lounge area, part of which has been sectioned off into two areas with a double and a single bed respectively. The main bedroom is in the converted darkroom. There’s a kitchen, large stoep with a sea view and braai facilities. But when we didn’t feel like cooking, we popped over to the quirky Crazy Crayfish to enjoy West Coast hospitality. Kleinzee also offers birding, cycling, golf, squash, hiking, fishing, flowers in season and 4×4 shipwreck tours and it’s just a short drive to the beach.
+27 (0) 73 547 4948
Words Ann Gadd
A journalist by trade, features writer on occasion and now the digital editor of SA Country Life. The first chance she gets, Leigh will tell you about a podcast she was recently listening to and how you simply have to make the move from radio. In a previous life, she once taught English on Jeju which left her with an insatiable craving for kimchi.