Durban - All my favourite places seem to be family owned or run, and Fordoun Spa, Hotel and Restaurant is one such place.
Fordoun is more gracious than grand, more stylish than imposing. A single storey building, it fans out from the main buildings and is surrounded by beautiful shrubbery and trees set on immaculate grounds.
After a warm welcome and drink, we piled on to our golf cart shuttle for a ride along the paved pathways to our individual suites which are on a ridge with views towards the Drakensberg.
Our suites were the size of country cottages, sumptuously furnished with high-pitched ceilings. A cold snap meant the blaze in the glass-fronted gas fireplace was most welcome.
The bedroom has a TV set with DVD player concealed in a mirrored cabinet, a comfy couch, armchair, coffee table and king-sized bed.
As you step out of the French doors, there are lovely views over rolling pastures to the hills and distant mountains.
My private veranda had a table and chairs, loungers and a tumbling water feature.
Padding down the thickly carpeted passage took me to a large dressing room opposite a lovely bathroom with heated towel rails, underfloor heating, dual vanity basins, bath and shower, leading to an outdoor shower.
The five mountain-view suites are set apart from the main buildings, originally part of a successful dairy farm from the 1860s.
There are 22 luxurious double suites with verandas, underfloor heating, bath and shower in the designer bathrooms, and a dressing area. There is also a suite with wheelchair access and specially adapted bathroom.
The farm buildings have been painstakingly adapted and the old grain silo is now a relaxing place – the flotation tank in the spa.
Next to the tank is an indoor heated pool suitable for laps, as well as an outdoor pool. There are several treatment rooms, a gym, lounge, skilled masseurs and aestheticians, Reiki and bio-energy specialists – and Dr Elliot Ndlovu.
Dr Ndlovu is a sangoma, nyanga and a Fordoun director. His larger-than-life personality has influenced Fordoun tremendously and under his guidance a number of products have been created from indigenous healing plants especially for Fordoun.
Even local clays are dug and processed for use in their steam Rasul.
There’s also food therapy. Fordoun has been selected to be part of the newly launched Food Routes platform, which showcases distinctive and diverse South African culinary destinations via an interactive website (www.foodroutes.co.za) and aims to make South Africa a globally recognised foodie destination.
Skye Bistro certainly delivers the grub goods. The food is excellent, the menus extensive, with something to suit all palates, and the portions generous.
And if you’ve overfilled your boots there’s a shuttle cart to take you to your room.
Executive chef Regis Drouet hosts fun, Masterchef-themed evenings for large groups. After having techniques explained and demonstrated, guests try to prepare one of the dishes the chef has made or, for even more fun, a “mystery box”.
Of course the judging by chef and owner Jon Bates is a serious affair, aided by good wine.
Since it opened in 2005 not a year has gone by without Fordoun winning an award for excellence.
The Bateses have instilled an ethos of personalised hospitality, extending to the bedtime stories, written by Jon, which were on my pillow every night.
Jon and son Richard have loads of fascinating facts and anecdotes and Richard is normally available to help burn calories between meals on a mountain bike trail or hike. Otherwise you can try spinning or a yoga class.