It’s summer in the Winelands and the living is easy! Whether you’re looking for a brief staycation or an extended sojourn amid the vines, Richard Holmes says these six splendid places to stay in Stellenbosch that will have you wishing you could stay a little longer.
For luxury stays in Stellenbosch
Delaire Graff, Owner’s Lodge
Stepping through the dramatic timber doorway of the Owner’s Villa at Delaire Graff Estate, it’s hard not to stop dead in your tracks.
Large windows in the entrance hall frame dramatic views of the Stellenbosch Winelands and distant Table Mountain. The striking sculpture of a kneeling African woman – the only sculptural work by acclaimed artist Helen Sebidi – catches the eye, providing the first hint of the remarkable artworks that adorn the villa. And to the left, double-volume picture windows look out onto the imposing Botmaskop towering above the only terraced vineyard of Chardonnay in South Africa.
This may be the entrance hall to the new villa but immediately there’s a sense of a profound shift in the realm of Winelands hospitality.
“Since opening in 2009, Delaire Graff Estate has really pioneered a new model for luxury in the Winelands,” says Johann Laubser, the estate’s general manager. “We have been successful in positioning ourselves at the pinnacle of luxury hospitality, but we’ve also learnt an enormous amount over the past 10 years. And we felt that we could go further.”
For families to stay in Stellenbosch
Boschendal, Orchard Cottages
Boschendal has become hugely popular as a base for exploring the Winelands, with an excellent spread of accommodation choices, from the elegant Rhodes Cottage for small groups seeking privacy to the romance of the stylish Werf Suites set a short walk from the award-winning restaurants.
For travellers with family in tow, the Orchard Cottages are an ideal choice. Set amid the orchards a short drive from the Werf precinct, these original farm cottages have been carefully renovated, resulting in a decor of contemporary rural charm. Each cottage offers excellent self-
catering facilities, from a well-equipped kitchen to a private veranda with an outdoor braai, from which lush lawns and gardens lead down to the large (unfenced) swimming pool.
Boschendal’s family-friendly credentials were given a huge boost this year with the opening of The Treehouse, an edu-play centre designed for children aged four to 14. While there is a cinema room showing nature documentaries for kids needing some downtime, the concept behind The Treehouse is to encourage ‘free range kids’, with a daily schedule of activities in the great outdoors that operate come rain or shine.
That could mean a foraging walk to find fresh eggs on the farm and pick vegetables from the garden or an outdoor cooking experience to turn foraged greens into lunch over an open fire. There are art classes using natural and recycled elements, and nature walks to discover the farm’s ecosystem. The Treehouse guides are superb, full of energy and enthusiasm.
Between scheduled activities, the large playground, with an MTB pump track for kids, helps to keep young ones entertained. Access to The Treehouse is complimentary for the children of overnight guests, and day visitors are welcome at additional cost.
For country elegance
For travellers looking to discover the soul of Stellenbosch at their own pace, River Manor Boutique Hotel is ideal. Located just two minutes’ walk from the centre of the Eikestad, this home from home offers a choice of room categories, each decorated in a gentle colonial style with subtle African touches.
The spacious garden is a serene haven after a day of sightseeing and soaking up the charms of the town, and two private swimming pools are available for the use of guests.
Quoin Rock, Manor House
Since reopening in 2018, Quoin Rock Wine Estate has quickly cemented a reputation as one of the leading design-led destinations in the Western Cape’s Winelands. Owned by the Gaiduk family, who hail from the Ukraine, the revamped Quoin Rock has made waves for its adventurous molecular gastronomy at Gåte restaurant as much as for the impressive range of wines crafted from the vineyards of the estate and of its sister farm on the Agulhas Plain.
But away from the bustling restaurant and winery is the impressive Manor House, capable of hosting up to 14 guests on an exclusive-use basis. Built in the Cape Dutch style, it features four spacious ensuite bedrooms overlooking a central courtyard of formal fountains. A separate honeymoon suite and a self-contained guest cottage provide a further three double bedrooms.
In the sweeping central courtyard, manicured pathways lead down to the large, secluded pool terrace boasting glorious mountain views. This is where you’ll want to spend the hot days of a Stellenbosch summer.
Indoors the decor is opulent yet classic in style. Wooden floors and sturdy beams suggest a rich farm aesthetic, complemented by more modern touches in the artworks and mod-cons discreetly offered throughout this elegant property; think flat-screen TVs in all bedrooms, underfloor heating and complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi access. Separate lounge, dining and breakfast rooms offer different spaces that make the Manor House ideal for a family reunion, anniversary celebration or intimate wedding. A butler service comes standard, with a private chef available on request.
The Upper Blaauwklippen valley is one of the lesser-known gems of the Stellenbosch Winelands. It’s situated slightly off the beaten track, yet consistently produces award-winning wines. While most travellers rarely venture further than Waterford, the winding road leading up into the mountains soon reveals some of the country’s finest Syrah vineyards. Many of those belong to Keermont Vineyards, where Alex Starey crafts an impressive range of terroir-driven wines.
And there are few better places to enjoy them than on the sun-splashed terrace of the Keermont Farmhouse. Owned by the Wraith family, the Farmhouse sleeps up to eight guests in four bedrooms. Two of these are situated in the spacious farmhouse, with a further two rooms in the cosy guest cottage in the garden.
The owner’s touch is evident throughout in the stylish antique decor that lends a luxurious yet liveable touch to the space. There’s no shortage of fine restaurants in the area and enthusiastic chefs will be especially impressed by the spacious kitchen. While guests open a bottle of Keermont Steepside Syrah at the long central dining table, the cook can get to work at the original Aga stove.
With a spread of rooms, lounges and outdoor spaces, the Keermont Farmhouse is an ideal option for families looking to reconnect or friends reuniting after time apart. Soak up the solitude and serenity in sumptuous luxury.
Babylonstoren, Fynbos Cottages
With its beguiling blend of verdant gardens, fine restaurants, inspired farm shops and elegant wine-tasting experiences, it’s with good reason that Babylonstoren has become one of the most sought-after destinations in the Cape Winelands. If you’re looking to overnight on the estate, look no further than the elegant Fynbos Cottages, which opened early in 2019.
Set a short drive from the restaurant, winery and gardens, the cottages’ elevated position above the farm dam delivers glorious vineyard views and a welcome sense of privacy, even though they’re just a few hundred metres from the heart of the estate.
There are six cottages, some offering one bedroom and others two. Understated elegance is the watchword here, from the organic tones and textures in the decor to the fine linen on the king-size beds. Bookshelves are filled with inspiring works on travel, history and botany. A short walk from the cottages you’ll find the Pool Room, with its sparkling swimming pool exclusively for the use of guests at the Fynbos Cottages.
As with so much of Babylonstoren, the heritage of the Cape Winelands is celebrated throughout, from Cape Dutch inspiration in the architecture to the generosity of the daily farm breakfasts.
You’ll be sorely tempted to hole up here for the duration of your stay but do make time to get out and discover the farm. Resident guests are spoilt with an array of included activities, whether it’s a guided walk with the estate horticulturists, tutored tastings in the cellar or baking bread with the talented farm chefs.
For the food
The iconic Grande Roche Hotel has had its ups and downs over the past decade, but the latest owners – Paarl locals Hansie and Theresa Britz – have breathed new life into the property. Rooms have been refurbished, vineyards replanted and an effort is being made to encourage locals to soak up the history and charm of this venerable property.
The Terrace Suites are the pick of the rooms, offering glorious views over the replanted vineyards and surrounding Winelands. A subtle refurbishment plays on the hotel’s history – the farm dates back to 1717 – and location amid the fynbos of Paarl Mountain.
“We wanted to restore the atmosphere of a historic Cape farm to the property, with a sense of refined country style,” explains Johann Bouwer, the director of Grande Roche.
There’s no shortage of style in the hotel’s new Viande Restaurant either. With celebrity chef Pete Goffe-Wood at the helm, the focus is on contemporary nose-to-tail cooking, so expect generous portions of elevated bistro-style cuisine without unnecessary frills and fripperies. The wine list is excellent, celebrating local cellars, and the spacious terrace certainly lends itself to long, languid evenings beneath the stars this summer.
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