Valentine’s Day is a great excuse to get out of town with someone special. It can be a tricky task to get this right, though. Here’s our attempt to help out: 6 romantic country escapes.
1. The Shire Eco Lodge, Stutterheim
A nature-lover’s romantic hideaway is The Shire Eco Lodge, comprising unusual chalets with curved timber walls and roofs and surrounded by an air of enchantment. Situated on the fringe of the indigenous Xholora Forest cloaking the Amathole Mountains outside Stutterheim, they look like giant mushrooms that have erupted from the earth. Step inside and you’ll be charmed by the fine craftsmanship that owner Rob Scott put into fashioning each laminated beam of local wood himself, and marvel at the curved windows he bent into place to let the forest views in. Sleeping inside these chalets feels like being cocooned in a cosy womb.
An outdoor braai and a bush shower above a tinkling stream, accompanied by birdsong and the chatter of rare samango monkeys foraging in the canopy, nurture and revive the spirit. Spend quality time together rambling along one of the forest trails to gushing waterfalls, do a little birdwatching from your stoep and visit Rob’s remarkable nursery of indigenous Eastern Cape bulbs. Go canoeing on Gubu Dam or ask Rob to take you out in his boat on the Wriggleswade Dam outside Stutterheim.
The Shire Eco Lodge
+27 (0) 43 683 2452; +27 (0) 72 364 8077
Words Marion Whitehead
2. The Dam Cabin at Sandile’s Rest, Amathole Mountains
Sandile’s Rest is romantic because I say it is. It’s a feeling. Don’t ask me why, it’s like asking why I think the girl at the strawberry shop has beautiful eyes. It helps that the accommodation is built of logs that beam the comforting glow of wood.
Sandile’s is quiet and tucked away; no one will find you. You can be outside all day, bouncing along on mountain bikes or horseback or take Shanks’s pony over hill and dale. If you’re the twitchy type there are dank forest trails and tumbling brooks where you can tiptoe on stepping stones and soak up the birdsong. Or just stay in, drift away in the clawfoot bath at the end of the bed, then melt into the linen that swirls around you like the mountain mist outside.
+27 (0) 82 784 0906; +27 (0) 43 683 7338
Words Edward Truter
3. Igababa Cabin, Louis Trichardt / Makhado
If you fancy a romantic bubble bath for two under the stars, with only the low call of owls around you, Igababa Cabin is just the place. Situated below the mountains of the eastern Soutpansberg, it is an ideal base from which to explore the area.
Alternatively, you can just chill together on the private deck or in the plunge pool with a bottle of bubbly and watch the sun sink behind the mountains. Igababa was designed by Gail and Alistair Maytham along the lines of what they would want from a bush getaway – privacy, personality and a touch of decadence. Creatively built to bring the outdoors inside, the cabin front is made entirely of glass and the shower has a Zen-like simplicity. The grassland, wetland and semi-deciduous scrub-forest habitats host many small animals. The bird life is abundant and there are many trails that allow you to explore the farm or walk to the top of the mountain and take in the views.
+27 (0) 84 400 4595; [email protected]
Words Lisa Martus
4. Kendall Cottage, Franschhoek, Western Cape
Driving down the tree-lined avenue of Allée Bleue always lifts my soul. I feel the shackles of everyday life falling away as I slow down and take in the grand buildings, the orderly vineyards and orchards and the majestic backdrop of the Franschhoek mountains.
The estate’s Kendall Cottage, a 30-minute drive from Cape Town, makes for an easy romantic escape. The quaint, self-catering cottage, which dates back nearly a hundred years, retains its historic charm but has been stylishly renovated with all the mod cons, chic furniture and artworks and, of course, all the necessary ingredients for those seeking a romantic retreat. Soak in the big freestanding bath, enjoy a lazy breakfast on the terrace as you gaze over the vineyards, tour the famous herb garden, sample award-winning wines from the house bar or take a short drive into Franschhoek.
+27 (0) 21 874 1021; [email protected]
Words Fiona McIntosh
5. Overseers Mountain Cottage, Cape Town
Let’s get one thing straight. If your idea of romance is returning to your luxury suite after a gourmet dinner to find Champagne on ice, steam rising from the clawfoot bathtub and rose petals scattered on the turned-down bed, read no further. But if romance means spending time with your loved one in a really special place, then the Overseers Cottage on Table Mountain is hard to beat.
The old stone cottage on the ‘Back Table’ (the lower, southern section of the main plateau) is in a spectacular location right on the mountain edge. It’s nothing fancy but the beds have crisp white linen; paraffin lamps and candles create romantic lighting andthere’s a fireplace to snuggle in front of on a chilly night. But your best is to take a bottle of bubbles to the nearby koppie and gaze down at the lights of Cape Town or at the twinkling stars, as you toast the fact that you have the whole mountain to yourselves.
The cottage is for exclusive occupancy but I should mention that there are no double beds and no en-suite bathrooms. And since you can’t drive up Table Mountain you’ll either have to hike up (the shortest route from Constantia Nek takes about 90 minutes) or walk from the Upper Cable Station. Fortunately your bags and cooler box will be waiting for you on arrival.
+27 (0) 21 712 7471; [email protected]
Words Fiona McIntosh
6. Ibo Island Lodge, Quirimbas Archipelago
When Kevin and Fiona Record first visited Ibo 20 years ago, a remote island on the far northern coast of Mozambique in the Quirimbas National Park, they were captivated by a row of derelict colonial manor houses on the ocean edge. They meticulously restored the buildings, but retained the features of traditional Mozambique architecture, and the result was Ibo Island Lodge.
Open since 2006, the lodge is set in lush gardens and the rooms feature high ceilings, white walls, oversized, carved, four-poster beds festooned in white netting, some with ocean views from the veranda, others overlooking the beautiful gardens. Picnic like castaways on a secluded sandbar mid-ocean or snorkel freely with dolphins; indulge in a couple’s massage or spend the evening enjoying a private candlelit dinner in a secret location before retiring to a petal-strewn turndown. Ibo Island Lodge spells pure romance.
+27 (0) 21 785 2657
Words Keri Harvey