SA winter hideaways in the country

Lingering mists, crisp walks, bike rides, log fires, coffee, books and blankets – winter is definitely a good time to leave the city smog and hibernate in the country. Here are a couple of fabulous winter weekend getaways in the Western Cape and Gauteng.

Penhill Farm –Toontjiesrivier

IMG_3240Winters in the Cape tend to offer lashing rain and heavy skies, interspersed with mild blue-sky days, where the countryside washed clean, glows verdant green. Tucked into the beautiful Nuy Valley outside Worcester, with its views of the Riviersonderend and Langeberg mountain ranges, with its whitewashed Cape homesteads and indigenous gardens, Penhill Manor completes this picture of pastoral bliss.

The farm is a great weekend retreat for families, couples or groups of friends. Originally built as a replenishment station, the Penhill manor house and adjacent four cottages are lovingly restored for guests. Early historical elements have been preserved, including “buite-kamer” doors, “stoep kamers”, gables and sash windows. The interiors have been modernized and include wi-fi, air-conditioning and sound systems. A great deal of thought has gone into the mix of old and new in furnishings with natural fabrics and woods defining the space as carriage lamps complementing downlighters, highlight simple objects d’art.  As tempting as it might be, don’t just spend your days lazing on the stoep here. You can choose to go trail running or hiking, ride mountain bikes, play tennis, or relax at the dam. Otherwise, enjoy an olive and wine tasting, then cozy up around a fire with a book or spend the afternoon playing boardgames and toasting marshmallows. And there’s the option of your own private Jacuzzi to ease your aching muscles after all the effort.

Koningsfontein – Stilbaai

k2Overlooking the GouKou river just outside Stilbaai, the cape thatch Koningsfontein homestead blends into a countryside of small farms, fynbos and sheep pastures.

Bring your friends and family because the house sleeps 12. Make use of the private river frontage to kayak, boat. Or simply go fishing. Head downstream, to visit the local fynbos gin distillery. Winters are best spent lazing in front of the fire on one of the deep leather sofas or cooking up a foodie fest in the well-fitted out kitchen.

Bloomsbury Cottage – Stanford

Situated in heart of the charming village of Stanford, Bloomsbury Cottage, with its vintage shabby chic decor offers a treasure trove of quirky collectibles.

IMG_9337Stroll down to the river or through the town, or simply relax on the vine covered veranda.  The house sleeps six and has a gorgeous kitchen, perfect for family meals. And if you don’t feel like cooking there are lovely restaurants and cafes within walking distance of the house.

 

Greens Camp – Dinokeng (Bobbejaansberg Valley)

Only 100km from Johannesburg, Greens Camp is a bushveld retreat that will make you feel as though you’ve been far far away for a very long time, and will rejuvenate you for weeks.

The rolling burnt umber and raw ochre veld, big winter skies, clean air and total stillness, except for the birdsong, will charm you. Enjoy the services of the property caretaker, Amon, who specializes in making bread and biscuits, and will fire up the pizza oven for an al fresco lunch on the patio, or light a fire for a braai as you watch the sun sink red between the Acacias. Otherwise, take a sundowner drive to one of the viewing spots to spot Giraffe, Wildebeest and Zebra from the hilltops. Greens offers colonial meets Africa luxury, with big sofas and lamps for relaxed reading and an open thatch boma with 360 views over the countryside. The perfect weekend chill space for friends to gather and retreat around wine, stories, games and books.

for more information contact Perfect Hideaways: www.perfecthideaways.co.za

Ambling onto The Boland Trail

One of the  easy overnight hikes in the Cape Mountains, within a 100km of Cape Town.

You could go hunting for toadstools in the pine forests of the 70 000 ha Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve, or you could heft a pack onto your back and head up through the Fynbos onto the mountains for the night.

I chose the latter and armed with essentials like camembert and wine, joined Tim Lundy’s small hiking group on the trail up towards the peaks, climbing above the morning mist and leaving the dams glinting far below in the valleys.

We’d chosen to hike from the Nuweberg base to Landdroskop / Shamrock Hut (12km, about 3hrs of moderate hiking, staying over and hiking 7km back down to the start the next morning).

DSC01903Clear streams spilled into hidden valleys, and we stopped to fill our bottles, abandoning city H2O for brackish spring water.

We soon reached the overnight huts, which offered basic dorm accommodation with bunk beds, woodburning stoves and outside “eco” toilets. Two decks and a ‘braai lapa’ (barbecue area) gave us the option of cosying up and ‘braaiing’ (barbecuing), or stretching out on the deck and watching the sun go down.

From the deck of Sham­rock Lodge hut we had massive views over the mountains to the Boland valleys and farms. The next morning we offered oats and honey to the sunrise, stretched and ambled down into the valley for Springbok Pies and coffee at Peregrine Farm Store.

For more information on the Hottentots Holland Reserve and its hikes visit: www.capenature.co.za