Despite frequent trips overseas, numerous holidays around South Africa and many weekends traversing the length and breadth of the Garden Route, I’m ashamed to admit that I had never ventured the 90.4 kilometres from my home to the Zuurberg Mountain Village, until now that is.
A Bargain Buys voucher and a desire to escape the bustle of weekends at home had me reaching for the phone and booking a night’s accommodation for last Saturday. I have to confess that as the weekend approached, I began to feel some trepidation. If the hotel was great, why had I never been regaled with enthusiastic reports of amazing weekends away by my equally travel obsessed friends? With its proximity to Port Elizabeth and the Addo National Elephant Park, why was it not everyone’s favourite bolt-hole for a weekend escape or even a day out? Why is it so well regarded by overseas visitors but not locals? I can only say that after having stayed there, it is, in a word, marvellous and obviously a well-kept secret by those in the know!
The sometimes narrow 16km dirt road from Addo winds its way up into the mountain through a series of hairpin bends and offers ever increasingly spectacular views over the countryside.
On arrival, we were warmly welcomed both by the staff and the hotels two adorable Labradors and, after a short tour of the facilities, were shown to our Edwardian Village cottage.
At this point, any remaining concerns swiftly evaporated into the ether. It was faultless! From the enormous bed with its spotless white linen and cosy throws to the elegant wing-backed chairs and crystal chandelier, it oozed elegance. The air of relaxed escapism is further enhanced by the magnificent views and the absence of televisions in the rooms, although there is one in the bar for those who can’t do without their daily ‘fix’.
My one prerequisite for a happy hotel experience is a nice bathroom and this one was great. The under-floor heating meant that the stone floor was deliciously warm, while the free standing claw-foot bath and dual basins were only surpassed by their two (yes, two) showers. The indoor, open shower had a huge window that framed a magnificent mountain view while still maintaining privacy and in addition, there was a hot and cold water outdoor shower that enjoyed the same views. The only downside was low water pressure, but I suppose that’s only to be expected when you’re on top of a mountain!
A stroll around the expansive gardens revealed that Mother Nature had donned her prettiest spring ball gown to greet us.
The furnishings in the public areas have a comfortable, slightly worn, old world charm that harks back to a gentler, more serene era and encouraged us to indulge in an afternoon of scrabble, red wine and reading in front of a gently glowing fire … heavenly!
Later, we joined a small but very vocal group of rugby fans to watch the Springboks lose to Japan in their opening round of the World Cup.
Nevertheless, any residual disappointment was very soon dispelled by an absolutely delicious five course dinner. No haute cuisine here, just really good, well-prepared, homely comfort food, served buffet style. It evoked memories of meals at Grandma’s house and believe me, my Grandma (unlike her granddaughter) was an exceptional cook! My only caveat here is that at R220 per person, the meal was exactly the same quality, quantity and style as the delicious Sunday lunch that we enjoyed for R150.
After much searching and many nights staying in ‘dodgy’ country hotels, I have finally found my Hill Top Heaven. If your own tastes are more in keeping with the style exuded by the slick, modern, corporate hotel chains don’t stay here, but if you want a warm welcoming homely atmosphere, beautiful 4*accommodation, great food, friendly approachable staff, magnificent views and space to breathe, this is the place to visit!
Facilities on offer but not reviewed:
- A Spa
- Private guided game drives and horse trails into Addo National Elephant Park
- Swimming pool
- Tennis courts
- Walking trails
Where is your favourite weekend getaway destination? Inspire others by sharing your choices in the comments section.