The Explorer's Club
The Explorer's Club

They can make what they like out of their French Huguenot heritage, I don’t think that is what draws me in. But the food, the wine and the blissful valley setting, cocooned in dramatic mountains – these things certainly do tip the scale in the right direction.

But, of course, our main interest is the accommodation and without somewhere charming and unpretentious (an important word when you are discussing any wine region of the world) to rest and digest, all the great grazing it really wouldn’t amount to much more than another Winelands day-trip. Fortunately these local accommodation owners exhibit as much character as the year’s finest vintage. Have a browse through…

Akademie Street Boutique Hotel and Guesthouses

021 876 3027

From the moment I arrived until my too-soon departure from this glorious patch of Franschhoek, it felt like Katherine and I had met before, so easy and harmonious was my visit. Her interest in life, literature and art is displayed throughout the house in every delicate and refined detail.

There are two suites in the manor house; Twyfeling A and B. They are large and luxurious with paintings, gleaming bathrooms and underfloor heating.

The parade of flowers and stepping-stones through citrus trees, fig trees and rose bushes lead to the garden cottages, which sit detached within the flower arrangements, opening out onto private stoeps, gardens and even swimming pools.

Vreugde is a garden suite for two that has an alcove kitchenette and a sofa on the terrace. Oortuiging is a restored 1860s cottage that retains the old Cape style with antiques throughout. Uitsig is a stylish addition, with a private balcony that looks out over the mountains. And Gelatenheid is a luxurious villa with a private swimming pool and balcony.

At the end of the balcony, suitably screened by treetops, is an outdoor, repro Victorian bathtub in which you can soak while gazing out at the mountain views. Inside, an expansive, open-plan studio is home for just two people, with high wooden ceilings… a decadent holiday home.

As full as a full breakfast can be (including boerewors) is served under the vines at the homestead. Katherine and Arthur are two more reasons why you will love staying here.

Clementine Cottage

021 876 3690

Running late, I was touched to find Jef waiting expectantly for me just beyond the low-lying bridge that marks the entrance to L’Avenir Farm.

He kindly guided me through the orchards of plums (no, not clementines) to meet Malcolm, who runs this 21-hectare fruit farm.

Jef, by the way, is a boerboel – although after the birth of their daughter Sarah last year, Jef now has a rival for Malcolm and Jackie’s affections.

My timing was perfect: the sun was setting behind the mountains that frame the Franschhoek Valley and from the stoep of Clementine Cottage, looking out over the pool and the vineyard beyond, the sky was stained a deep red. The only sounds I could hear, as I enjoyed a most welcome cold beer with Malcolm and Jackie, were the frogs croaking contentedly in the dam.

If you find the pool too confining, a few lengths of this dam should satisfy any Tarzanesque impulses.

Being only a five-minute drive from the village (longer if the geese are crossing the road) I was able to enjoy a fine meal before returning to the biggest bed I’ve ever had slept in.

Nicely done up in the original farm cottage style, Clementine Cottage has everything you could desire for a lazy break, from pool, braaing area and satellite TV to large, stylish en-suite bedrooms.

Cathbert Country Inn

021 874 1366

If warm hosting, gourmet food and eye-watering natural beauty in the heart of the winelands doesn’t sound like your sort of thing then turn away now, because Cathbert Country Inn is all of these things.

Aubrey, ever the attentive host and connoisseur on local wineries, stomped cheerily out to greet me in a pair of wellies. Now you don’t have to so much as turn your head to see fabulous views over the vineyards, farmland and the dam.

Lynne (more elegantly shod) showed me around the rooms which the owners, Peter and Tisha Cunliffe, decorated in sophisticated French country style: distressed wood, natural fabrics, scatter cushions placed just so and delicate shades of grey.

We wandered down a poplar-lined lane, scattering Egyptian geese, to the newly converted cottage, a secluded place with a kitchen, braai and raised pool.

Half an hour later Aubrey had swapped his wellies for a chef’s hat and was ably assisting the in-house chef Max conjure up the gourmet creations – in fact, guests generally eschew Franschhoek’s offerings in favour of their local, often organic, culinary compositions.

The best thing? That you can spend the day hiking, touring, wine-tasting, or perhaps just drinking up the peace and a local vintage by the pool… and not have to get in the car to find a great meal at the end of it all.

The Explorer’s Club, The Library and Map Room

021 876 4356

Jo sailed solo down Burma’s Irrawaddy River and across the Andaman Sea before settling on a quiet mountain-ringed corner of Franschhoek and working magic with these three large and immensely stylish houses.

Every piece of furniture is eye-arrestingly innovative. Check out The Explorers Club’s dining table perched on wagon wheels and its contemporary-rustic rooms dotted with safari chairs and artifacts from far-off lands, or the Map Room’s spiralling staircase and lampshades created from milk pails; the journey through either house is one of discovery.

I say ‘journey’ because this really is a voyager’s paradise: tales of exploration, ancient and modern, are illustrated by Jo’s extensive map collection and in expressive African scenes by celebrated photographer Horst Klemm.

The hub of The Explorers Club is the open-plan living area, with state-of-the-art kitchen, indoor braai, fireplace, air-con, DVD library, mod-cons ad infinitum, opening out to a stunning deck-bound lap pool. So simple, so clever, so very, very comfortable.

At the time of my visit, The Library was fast emerging from the ground next door and promises more of Jo’s ingenuity.

The Map Room’s highlight is the upper terrace which wraps its arms around the sociable kitchen and lounge, the perfect place to drink in mountain views along with a glass of fine Chardonnay.

The only exploring I’ll be doing tonight will be within walking distance to one of Franschhoek’s many great restaurants.

Plumtree Cottage

021 876 2244

The setting could not be more perfect. A sanctum of plum-blossom, vineyards and oak trees spatter dappled shadows as they rock gently in the breeze, while magnificent mountains rise steeply from the Franschhoek valley.

The Plumtree Cottage balcony is the perfect spot to soak up all this serenity. Having run B&Bs for many a year, Liz and John know exactly what people want, and with this cottage they deliver in spades.

Entirely self-contained (it even has its own separate orchard-lined driveway), it allows you the space to do your own thing. This may be in the elegantly-paved courtyard, cooling off in the invigorating plunge pool, or popping out to the restaurants and wineries in Franschhoek, just pip-spitting distance away.

The interior is a calming refuge in blues and whites, much like the roses and lavender outside. With each room sharing the magnificent view, you won’t know where to put yourself… I’d choose the corner bath first, then settle down on the terrace to gaze at the Arab horse stud just over the fence.

Perfectly tranquil and delightfully quaint… a proper English-style country cottage.


021 874 1122

Lekkerwijn is a 1790s Cape Dutch homestead with a grand Edwardian extension designed by Sir Herbert Baker, complete with curling chimneys and original coal fireplaces imported from England.

Wendy and her son Simon live in a home that positively creaks with family history. You can tell when one family have lived in a grand house for generations – all the furniture, fittings and decoration look so at home. This is not some country house hotel nor some converted annex.

You share the house fully with Wendy, whose family have lived here since the late 19th century.

The house is now child-friendly, while large parts have been kept completely quiet and free of them. There’s a new nursery and children’s courtyard, miniature goats and a miniature Transkei pig happy to be petted. Susan has done a ‘super-nanny course’ and is now certified to look after people’s kids, so babysitting is available in-house.

My strongest impressions at Lekkerwijn are of the central courtyard with its orchid-lined gallery and cloister around an ancient pomegranate, the wood floors and yellowwood beams and the towering palms planted by Wendy’s grandfather, a wonderful breakfast... and Wendy herself. - Sunday Tribune