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Van Reenen’s pass is not my favourite stretch, so I often take a break at the Caltex at the top of the pass.

Once, on a whim, I followed my nose down the R793 near the rest stop and found myself revelling in spectacular countryside from a twisty dirt road – De Beers Pass.

The views over the manor gardens, polo fields and surrounding mountains are exquisite, as is the food.

This mountainous area has some delightful gems, and Oaklands Country Manor is one that really stands out. Founded in 1860, it has a colourful history.

Sir Hervy James Hugh Bruce-Clifton, a former British Army major, fell in love with Oaklands.

From 1995 until his death in 2010, he worked relentlessly to realise his vision and established its reputation as a premier conference venue and polo location.

He left a legacy of warm hospitality which continues under Lady Caroline, together with her sisters Kathy Romer-Lee and Annie Barnard. Each brings a wealth of experience in the hospitality industry to Oaklands.

Oaklands accommodates a maximum of 32 in a variety of ways. There are five en-suite double rooms with fireplaces and patios facing the garden and four self-catering family suites which accommodate four. The suites have two fireplaces, lounges with TV, kitchenettes, and lovely verandas.

Hilltop House sleeps six and has a double en-suite room and two double rooms with twin beds and a shared bathroom.

There is an open plan living room with a lounge and kitchenette, an outdoor deck and braai area. Decor throughout is subtle African themed furnishings.

The views over the manor gardens, polo fields and surrounding mountains are exquisite, as is the food.

Kathy is a cordon bleu chef and her adventures, including a stint with Roald Dahl at a chalet in the Alps at Boschendal and Vergelegen, have given her a wealth of culinary experience.

Assisted by second-in-command Johnson Ndlovu and his able team, her energetic and industrious kitchen combines innovative cooking methods, the finest ingredients and keen attention to detail.

And you can spoil friends back home with a selection of home-made products – maybe something you’ve made if you enrol in an Oaklands cooking course.

Oaklands is also an outdoor getaway. Fishing, birdwatching, mountain biking, tennis, table tennis, volleyball and hiking are among many things to do, as are battlefield tours or a visit to a tiny Roman Catholic church.

Privately owned Oaklands Polo Club offers beautifully schooled horses with expert tuition.

The manor is a benchmarked member of the Portfolio Collection (www.portfoliocollection.com).

For reservations, call 058 671 0067/77 or visit www.oaklands.co.za.

- Sunday Tribune

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