Picture this: fields of swaying grasslands, slowly ambling cattle chewing the cud, undulating green hills that stretch as far as the eye can see, farmlands – sand roads curving just out of sight, country lanes lined with hedgerows, beautiful mountains off in the distance.
No, this enticing description isn’t the British Midlands, despite the essential similarity (and an almost permanent state of sunshine!).
This is the KwaZulu Natal Midlands. Country stays at their best.
Best explored along the five routes of the Midlands Meander – a well-mapped network of routes that explore a whole selection of arts and crafts stores, outdoor activities, restaurants, artists’ studios, potteries, coffee roasters?, activities and family friendly farms – the Midlands is a fantastic couple of days for any visitor to KwaZulu-Natal…
You could spend a week or a weekend on the Midlands Meander and not cover everything. But whilst you mull over what to do when, we can help you with places to stay – here are our favourites:
Best Places to stay on the Midlands Meander…
Chic, modern, hotel luxury in a converted farmstead with sundowners on wooden decks, and views out over water, grassy paddocks, the golf course and great old shade trees – Bosch Hoek Lodge offers bent-grass golf greens in park-like surrounds that not only afford a breath of fresh country air but an escape from it all.
Choose from a stay in the Karkloof Nature Reserve – a double storey log cabin on the banks of a stream in the middle of an indigenous forest – or on the neighbouring Spitzkop farm where you can stay in a recently reinvented farmhouse and an adjacent cottage with views over a dam and the mountain alongside. Difficult choice.
Real country-style stays in a collection of farm cottages – from the stables to the dairy and hayloft – there is little on this Dargle farm that hasn’t been converted into darling spaces to make your stay delightful. And outside: rolling green pastures, shade trees, cows and blue skies. Sigh.
This guest house is set on the edge of a dam, its veranda overlooking green lawns, big old shade trees, rolling pastures and hills beyond. It’s real country-style living in the Balgowan Valley, each suite open plan with its own kitchenette, separate entrance, patio and braai. With a book in your hand, or a line waiting for Bass to bite in the dams, you’ll find watching the grass grow something you could get used to.
What happens when you convert part of the façade of a country house replacing it with glass? Light spills into spaces it hasn’t before, as it does in the enclosed veranda and bedrooms at Old Tom Morris Cottage, where the open plan living areas easily become the heart of any weekend spent with friends. Hire the whole cottage.
The legendary hotel, Notties, may have been here since 1854 but this is a thoroughly modern hotel in every other sense. So, Cape Dutch architecture it might be, but the rooms are beautifully furnished and fresh, the gardens gently overhung with trees, and the town quaint and evocative of country life.
Expect sepia photographs on the walls and a ‘grandma’s kitchen’ feel to your stay at this 1850s hotel. The restored and re-decorated venue accommodates in its main house, the old post office, and the postmaster’s cottage: depending on the size of your group, you can hire them all together. There are a further two cottages in the garden. Lovely.
Charles Smythe Cottage is a restored and thoroughly modern rendition with four double en-suite bedrooms overlooking the golf course and clubhouse lake of the Gowrie Farm Golf and Fly-Fishing Estate. If you have little interest in using the open plan kitchen and dining room then the clubhouse does country breakfasts.
For those who want to base themselves in the large town of ‘Maritzburg we couldn’t resist including this quaint offering. Set in amongst beautiful gardens this B&B offers a garden suite, the French room and, our favourite, the Garden Snug – separate from the main house.
Granny Mouse is virtually an institution it’s so well regarded by travellers to the Midlands. The thatched country retreat is set on an outcrop overlooking the bush and the Lions River. It recently had an overhaul and its spacious suites in their rustic colours offer a charming, quirky stay in amongst beautiful gardens and mountain views. The food is excellent. Remember to stoop going through doorways.
This particularly pretty offering belongs on the pages of a magazine for its quintessential ‘farm-style’ look and feel. From the electric blue counter in the kitchen to the wrought iron bedstead and distressed wooden shutters, this is every bit the farm stay, and some. There’s even a gentle stream and island hidden in amongst the trees…
Karkloof Safari Spa in the Karkloof Valley
Magnificently designed ‘villas’ set in amongst the lush and full scenery of the Karkloof, this property’s hills, ravines and five waterfalls, various dams and three rivers are home to antelope, white rhino, giraffe and buffalo. You’ll want for nothing during your stay.