9 Country Escapes Fit for Romance

Surprise your beloved with a getaway to a wine farm, a mountain lodge or a Morrocan-style homestead on the dunes… Here are 9 romantic hideaways we love.

1. Western Cape – Fraaigelegen Farm Cottages, Between Tulbagh and Wolseley

The sunsets at Fraaigelegen Farm are the kind that stay with you forever. And what’s more romantic than watching a sunset together from the stoep of your cottage, sundowner in hand? First the furrowed walls of the Witzenberg mountains behind the idyllically situated self-catering cottages blush deep pink. Then, as the sun sets behind the distant Waterval Mountains, the waters of the dam turn vermillion.

The three guest cottages on this wine and olive farm have two double bedrooms, double showers, fireplaces and braai areas. Two of the cottages overlook the dam, while the other one has mountain views. For fishermen, there are trout in the dam, and bird life is plentiful. The farm is an ideal base for exploring local attractions like the wine estates, and for enjoying activities such as horse riding. Just 130km from Cape Town, it’s a perfect romantic weekend getaway and all you need bring are your provisions. – Marianne Heron

083 288 4685, [email protected]

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2. Western Cape – Bartholomeus Klip Farmhouse, Wellington

The magnificent Victorian homestead on the working sheep and wheat farm of Bartholomeus Klip is set under ancient oak trees, with the towering Elandsberg as backdrop and wild gardens of roses and agapanthus surrounding it. Sitting in the tangled gardens, good book in hand and drinking fine coffee as the sun set was our choice on the first day.

There are just a handful of en-suite rooms – all private and beautifully appointed. Bunches of fresh roses and home-baked biscuits await in the suites, which have cotton linen, a Victorian bathroom and Bartholomeus Klip toiletries.

Meals in the conservatory, overlooking the colourful gardens, are sensational. Fine South African-inspired menus are created by chef Louise while her sister Lesley is the host. The following day we headed out on game drive in the 10 000 hectare nature reserve to see buffalo, eland, bontebok, black wildebeest and zebra. Quagga and the endangered geometric tortoise are bred and conserved on the farm.

Activities include swimming, hiking, fishing or cycling along farm roads if you’re feeling energetic. – Keri Harvey

022 448 1087 or 082 829 4131, [email protected]

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3. Western Cape – Devon Valley Hotel, Stellenbosch

Champagne and romance go together, so it was quite convenient to find this charming country hotel just down the road from the House of JC Le Roux outside Stellenbosch, where we’d been to taste South Africa’s most popular bubbly. Of course, the sparkling wine and Méthode Cap Classic had gone to our heads and the lovely view of vineyards and the Helderberg mountains from the terrace at Devon Valley Hotel compounded things, so we gaily booked in.

The spacious en-suite room in the new section boasted plenty of luxurious touches. The fine cotton bed linen, king-size bed and a large flat-screen TV with multiple satellite channels made it feel like the kind of place where staying in bed could be an occupation in itself.

Dinner at Flavours restaurant presented difficult choices: the buffet comprised traditional South African dishes such as bobotie and lamb curry, plus all the trimmings, while the à la carte menu had its own temptations with wine pairings of the estate’s own SylvanVale wines. In the interests of over the-top-romance, we went for the buffet.

The good news is that they do two-night romantic escape packages at special prices for couples for much of the year, not just in February. – Marion Whitehead

021 865 2012, [email protected]

WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Knock Back Some Beer at Stellenbosch Brewing Co

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4. Southern Namibia – Le Mirage Desert Lodge and Spa, Sossusvlei

This stone and mustard-coloured castle rose out of the desert plains more like a German/Moroccan fantasy than a mirage. But we were captivated by its rounded turrets, Moorish arches, massive fan palms and fountain-filled interior courtyards. Giant carved Namibian masks contrast with glass mosaics, filigree lanterns and spangled gauze drapes.

Le Mirage is the epitome of romance – far-flung vistas of desert and sky from large airy rooms with giant four-poster beds made it hard to tear ourselves away, but then dinner was just as romantic, with white linen and silver laid out in a high-ceilinged room, lit by enormous candelabras.

The lodge is 21km from the Sesriem gate to Sossusvlei and, once you venture out, a drive to the highest dunes in the world is recommended. We were tempted by a massage at the spa (from Thai, hot-stone therapy or a sand-dune scrub to a coconut wrap) but instead we threw all (monetary) caution to the wind and opted for a hot-air balloon ride over rippled dunes, which sealed our sublime Moroccan fantasy. – Mariëlle Renssen

+264 (0)61 224712, [email protected]

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The Hilton Bush Lodge 2

5. KwaZulu-Natal – The Hilton Bush Lodge, Hilton

The flat crown is my favourite tree so excitement spilled over as we headed along a good, gravel road to
The Hilton Bush Lodge. This 40-something hectare spread of bushveld is home to enough flat crowns (Albizia adianthifolia) to keep a tree-hugger busy for more than one weekend.

However the main purpose of my visit was to introduce my English friends to local, romantic luxury, away from the city lights. We were a party of six and I’d booked the lodge in celebration of a double 25th wedding anniversary. A good choice because the accommodation offered privacy, although we were all under one roof. Well-appointed communal areas had everything we needed and more. Bedrooms were en suite and generous in volume.

The lodge is near to Hilton village with its little shopping centres and eateries that are highly recommended. With long grasses swaying in the breeze, sightings of an antelope or two, picturesque vistas across the valley and constant bird song, this was as romantic and tranquil as it gets. – Olivia Schaffer

082 895 4762, [email protected]

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Magoebaskloof Birders Cottage 2

6. Limpopo – Magoebaskloof Birders’ Cottage, Magoebaskloof

Magoebaskloof Birders’ Cottage offers a romantic hideaway in the green heart of the kloof. I experienced the full range of weather during our visit, from mist on the first day to a chilly evening which was a wonderful excuse to curl up next to the log fire, and then a gorgeous sunny day, perfect for a stroll along the mountain stream where special forest birds like the Narina Trogon can be spotted in the canopy. That evening was full moon so the sky was dramatically lit up for a romantic soak in the delightful outdoor bath, situated among ferns and wildflowers.

Trogon Cottage has cosy, comfortable accommodation and is a base from which to explore the area’s secret spots and soulful views. Or, if you want to maximise the alone-time, just set out the oysters and champagne and watch the world go by from the vantage point of your own secluded splash pool. – Lisa Martus

084 402 3709, [email protected]

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Rose House

7. Free State – The Rose House, Fouriesburg

I may be laughed at, but I have news for Gautengers with their heart set on a romantic rendezvous on a wine farm: they need go no further than the Eastern Free State. Tucked away among the magnificent mountain buttresses between Clarens and Fouriesburg is a small farm where I found an eccentric man with white hair doing what everyone told him was impossible – producing wine. People thought John Critchley was crazy trying to grow grapes in Free State soil at an altitude of 1 700m, but his modest vineyard of Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Pinotage proved otherwise. Wife Trish has turned the beautiful sandstone golden oldie they renovated into a gracious B&B in a beautiful rose garden.

The gorgeous stoep is the best place to sit drinking the fruit of John’s efforts, in between farm hikes and bird watching. Self-catering cottages face the vineyard beneath a magnificent sandstone cliff in the Brandwag Basin. There’s plenty of peace and no distracting TV, making it a perfect romantic hideaway. The small restaurant in a converted barn, The Rose Hip, is open for lunch by arrangement. – Marion Whitehead

072 142 3183, [email protected]

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Riverfront lodges

8. Gauteng – Valley Lodge & Spa, Magaliesburg

The award-winning, four-star Valley Lodge & Spa is tucked among towering trees on a private stretch of the Magalies River, just a ‘short right’ after entering the village of Magaliesburg.

We were delighted to find our chalet in a secluded nook near the nature-reserve entrance, with our own river frontage. Our accommodation was surprisingly opulent inside, contrasting with the unassuming exterior – crystal chandeliers, dark wood, faux-fur throws and the modern bathroom, highlight of which was the massive double shower.

After an afternoon lazing at the pool, we enjoyed sundowners on our patio watching African Paradise Flycatchers swoop over the river. Bird life is prolific here and we also spotted hornbills, Hamerkops, and a variety of thrushes and sunbirds during our stay.

As we were within walking distance of the main lodge, we strolled to dinner admiring fireflies dancing on the riverbank and passed a gorgeous country chapel (Valley Lodge is a wedding hotspot). The following day we were pampered at the spa with a couples massage – the perfect way to end a romantic stay. – Linda Piegl

014 577 1301, [email protected]

WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Best Spots on the Magaliesberg Ale Trail

Strandloper Ocean 6

9. West Coast – Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel, Paternoster

Perfectly private with the sound of the sea as background music, Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel is situated in the quaint fishing village of Paternoster.

Any closer to the ocean and you’d get wet, while the 4km deserted beach before you inspires long sunset walks, hand-in-hand. En route we encountered traditional fishermen launching their brightly coloured wooden boats and heading out to sea, while at other times we were the only souls there taking a stroll. Strandloper’s 14 suites with folding doors opening onto either an ocean view and private terrace, or a private garden courtyard, all blend seamlessly into the natural environment of fynbos and seashells. Inside, the rooms are spacious, featuring handmade stone baths, outdoor showers and luxury linen.

The hotel is known for excellent cuisine, showcasing local delicacies – we had oysters, pan-fried cob and lemon cheesecake. You can also book their romantic getaway package that includes dinner under the stars and a special turndown service with a petal-strewn bath, candles and champagne. – Keri Harvey

021 794 5858, [email protected], www.strandloperocean.com

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