Farmstays can be both rustic and romantic. But ‘rural’ these days need not be a venture into splendid isolation. Wi-Fi and satellite TV are just as common as the hearty farm breakfast. Here are some options. By Michelle Colman.
Val du Charron, Wellington
The town of Wellington makes a good base for exploring the Western Cape winelands – it’s a 25-minute drive from Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, and 10 minutes from Paarl.
The working vineyard of Val du Charron Wine & Olive Estate, Guesthouse and Spa offers both four- and five-star accommodation, and two restaurants, all on 42ha of vineyards and olive plantations.
The four-star Guesthouse has eight rooms sleeping 18 in total. The five-star Coach House has three supersize rooms with plunge pools, and sleeps a total of six. Rates at both include breakfast, and a cellar tour with three wines to taste.
The restaurants include an outlet of top steakhouse Local Grill, and Piza e Vino for Italian fare. The Spa@Val du Charron offers a full menu of body pampering.
Some of the pursuits guests can undertake from Val du Charron are a drive along the historic Bainskloof Pass, swimming in the natural pools of the Limietberg reserve, exploration of the Route 62 tourist route, horse and pony riding, golf at nearby courses and ziplining over the Bainskloof in Ceres. There are mountain bike trials on the farm and scenic walks.
Nearby attractions for children are the Giraffe House, the Drakenstein Lion Park and Butterfly World. Bontebok Ridge Reserve has a Kwagga breeding programme and there is also an alpaca farm in the vicinity.
Wellington has museums and monuments, historic neighbourhoods, galleries, collectibles shopping Visitors can time their stay to coincide with festivals that take place during the course of the year.
La Cotte Farm, Franschhoek
Franschhoek is without doubt one of the highlights of the winelands, known for its gastronomy, its galleries and shopping, and of course, spectacular setting.
La Cotte Farm makes a great base for guests to experience the village of Franschhoek and its surrounding vineyards and wineries, returning at the end of the day to enjoy the farm’s rural charm and mountain views.
La Cotte is located on one of the oldest Huguenot estates in Franschhoek. Says Sue Howells, Sales & Marketing Manager for African Synergy, which represents the product: “If you are a smaller party of two or four persons you could opt to stay in one of the La Cotte Farm Forrest Cottages; each cottage sleeps maximum four people. A larger party could stay at the Grand La Cotte House, which sleeps up to 16 people at a very attractive price. Both offer a self-catering experience, however a personal chef can be arranged for guests staying at La Cotte House.”
The cottages are deceptively rustic. They have sun-drenched patios, open-plan dining and kitchen areas, and are decorated with watercolours, oil paintings, colourful Indian textiles and antique linens. They have access to a large swimming pool, and one of them has its own plunge pool.
The main house, too, has a swimming pool and braai facilities.
The Robertson Small Hotel, Robertson
Another Cape Winelands gem is to be found at Robertson, a small country town on the banks of the Breede River. The aptly named Robertson Small Hotel has just 10 rooms, and a five-star grading. It also has a new restaurant and bar, two pool areas, and a wellness room, all in a garden setting.
Three of the suites are located in the Manor House, built in 1909 and now a national monument. These rooms have high Victorian embossed ceilings and large windows onto a verandah. More contemporary, the four Poolside Suites open onto wooden decks with access to the pool, and three Stable Suites have their own private patios.
Robertson’s heyday as a wagon building and ostrich feather farming centre are now long gone, replaced by wine farming. The number of wine cellars in the area has doubled in the past two decades. The hotel has established relationships with many of the surrounding, mostly family-run farms and smallholdings, and curated a selection of bespoke experiences to allow guests to enjoy the region. These activities are located in the Small Guide, available to guests.
Wesgro’s farmstay picks
Tourism Update asked Wesgro, the provincial tourism board of the Western Cape, to pinpoint some great farm getaways in their region. Here is a selection of the board’s picks.
- The Little Farm on the Stream in Wellington has olive trees, rosemary and buchu plantations. Good for cycling, walking and bird watching and a sundowner on a rocky outcrop next to a dam.
- Leipzig Country House and Winery in the Nuy Valley at the start of Route 62 offers mountain biking, wine tasting, tractor rides in the vineyards, swimming, walking and a secret tortoise garden. Accommodation is in 17 double en-suite rooms with air conditioning, heating, Wi-Fi and good internet access.
- Kersefontein Guest Farm in Hopefield on the Cape West Coast dates back to 1770 when it began as a cattle and sheep farm. 240 years later it is still farmed by the original family. To match the long-standing exteriors, the en-suite bedrooms and sitting rooms have been carefully decorated and furnished with period antiques resurrected from the farm's great attics. Guests experience day to day activities such as honey farming. Meals are served in a beautiful old dining room.
- Hoogwater Cottage is a self-catering unit on a working fruit farm in the Witzenberg Mountains, within easy reach of Tulbagh, Wolseley and Ceres along Route 62. The cottage offers spacious open-plan accommodation.
- Snyderskloof is situated in the Karoo some 260km from Cape Town, near the town of Matjiesfontein. It provides the ‘untouched nature’ experience and with the absence of electricity, guests truly escape the trappings of modern living.