11 wonderful stays in Bainskloof

Posted by Pippa de Bruyn on 2 July 2018

Bainskloof is close to Cape Town, famous for spectacular scenery and offers heavenly river swimming. Here’s our choice of wonderful boltholes on or near this Boland mountain pass.

Die Skuur at Bosjes. Image: Andreas Eiselen.

How does it work?
TripAdvisor lists accommodation rated by guests, but as much as we love peer reviews, they don’t offer a comparative voice – so how do we know No. 1 is really the best? Pippa de Bruyn, who has reviewed accommodation for 18 years for the likes of Frommer’s and The Telegraph, scours TripAdvisor and other online sites when researching a destination. For Bainskloof, she created a long list of 24 to inspect. The following made the cut.

 

What we found about accommodation in Bainskloof:

• Tourism is still in relative infancy in this area, with an authentic farming community that has renovated or built a few cottages to cater for wedding venues such as Olive Rock.

• Self-catering dominated here so TripAdvisor, which hardly features self-catering, is not much help. Check out Wolseley (wolseleytourism.co.za), the closest town (20 minutes) or, for the full spectrum of options in the area, including the beautiful Slanghoek valley, visit breedekloof.com and study options under Wolseley, Slanghoek and R43; for peer reviews, see booking.com.

• There is limited stock on the actual Witte River, the crystal-clear stream that runs through Bainskloof’s Limietberg Nature Reserve (and one of the main reasons to visit). I looked further afield, at the north-eastern end of the pass, particularly properties on the Breede River en route to Wolseley but also in the Breedekloof Valley as a whole.

• Properties on the Breede, close to the Witte, still had water in mid-summer but elsewhere it dries up in November and only starts to flow with rains (roughly from April). Enquire about river levels when you book if this is important. The Witte Reiver flows all year round and can become a raging torrent in winter.

• There are plenty of truly fabulous dog-friendly options.

If your dog is one of the children, you’ll be as happy as I was to find a getaway that not only welcomes them with locally produced treats but cocoons the entire family in luxury. In fact, finding a house this elegant at the end of a farm track is surprising enough.

 

Best for dog lovers

1. The Riverstone House

Unlisted

The Riverstone House. Photography by Andreas Eiselen.

If your dog is one of the children, you’ll be as happy as I was to find a getaway that not only welcomes them with locally produced treats but cocoons the entire family in luxury. In fact, finding a house this elegant at the end of a farm track is surprising enough. Riverstone wouldn’t feel out of place in the city, with an airy, central kitchen-living space furnished with rugs and white-covered sofas, opening onto a deep, shady and decadently furnished stoep.

All four bedrooms are very spacious; they share two full bathrooms (like the rest of the house, these are equipped with everything you could need, from toothpaste to plasters). The garden is beautifully maintained, with stone steps leading down to the Breede River (not always flowing) and, beyond, the orchards and mountains of the Breedekloof. If you want to head out and explore there is an enclosure for the dogs, or dog-sitting can be booked.

Room tip: The two double rooms have fireplaces, and one has air con. Also, owner Claire Dicey has just completed a new two-bedroom house in front of one of the farm dams, with the most sublime mountain view – it’s going to be a goodie.

Cost: From R1980 for two, plus R385 per person extra (sleeps eight). Minimum two-night stay.

Contact: theriverstonehouse.co.za

 

Best for Decor

2. Die Kliphuisie

Unlisted

Die Kliphuis. Photography by Andreas Eiselen.

Stepping into this whitewashed cottage with its Cape-Quaker- style decor, you experience an immediate mental cleanse of sorts. It’s cool and uncluttered, with a restrained all-white decor approach that made me wish owner Marie Droomer had more than just one cottage on offer. It’s privately located on one of the dirt tracks traversing a 90-hectare fruit and wine farm off the R43, with an outside dining table under a delightful vine-covered pergola.

The cottage is dinky; just a cosy kitchen- dining-lounge area, a bedroom with another bedroom leading off it, and a small bathroom with an outdoor shower only. You’re encouraged to try it at night with all the lights turned off, looking out for shooting stars. Pity there’s no pool but Tweede Tol’s river pools are 16 minutes away. It’s a fabulous option in winter, too, with an indoor fireplace big enough to braai on. A two-plate gas stove and outside braai area complete the cooking picture.

Room tip: The fact that the second bedroom is off the first makes this more suited to a family with young kids, or a couple.

Cost: From R850 for two, plus R150 per person extra (sleeps four).

Contact: diekliphuisie.withtank.com

 

Best collection of cottages

3. Bastiaanskloof

TripAdvisor listed but rated

Bastiaanskloof. Photography by Andreas Eiselen.

I was delighted to be visited by two tortoises and a mongoose within hours of my arrival in this sublime 2500-hectare private nature reserve, at the bottom of the Bainskloof Pass. Owner Caroline Swanson has developed the accommodation and swimming facilities with care, and diligently manages them.

The four options are beautifully decorated, in tip-top condition and well stocked – from the choice between Nespresso and plunger (with pods and filter coffee) to the freshly baked loaf of bread, olive oil and milk in the fridge, there is great generosity. Deep within the fold of the mountains is purpose-built India House (pictured) – this is definitely the most beautiful house in the valley, and well worth the price tag; about 100 metres away but visually private is cosy Kraal Cottage. A little further along the pass are the other two cottages.

They’re a little close to the road but walking distance to the Witte River’s swimming holes. Caroline has placed chairs on the grassy banks overlooking the water – a wonderful place to while away an afternoon as the mountains turn pink. Socialised dogs are welcome, and there are two hiking trails on the property.

Room tip: India House is the most famous but I loved dinky, one-bedroomed Kraal Cottage – très romantic, with a fireplace in the bedroom.

Cost: Kraal Cottage from R1000 (sleeps two), India House from R5700 (sleeps six), Restio from R1250 (sleeps four), Wild Olive from R1000 (sleeps four).
Contact: bastiaanskloof.co.za

 

Best Value

4. Orchard Stay

Unlisted

Orchard Stay. Photography by Andreas Eiselen.

Guy and Tammy Nieuwoudt completed this purpose-built house on the family fruit farm near Wolseley in September last year. They were aiming to cater for the surge in demand from guests attending weddings in the area, but it’s been equally popular with families looking for a relaxing weekend break. Hardly surprising; they’re finished and furnished it with great taste, it’s privately located (entirely surrounded by pear orchards) and has a deep wrap-around veranda that overlooks a small dam.

You can swim in the dam but most residents slip into the eco plunge-pool built on the edge – adjacent to it is the ingenious hot tub. While the eco-pool is heaven-sent in summer, the hot tub – fuelled by a wood burner – is possibly the best place to be stargazing this winter.

Room tip: Both bedrooms are en-suite. The twin beds can be turned into a king-size for couples; it also has a third pull-out bed.

Cost: From R1400 for two, plus R250 per person extra (sleeps four – or five if one is a child).

Contact: orchardstay.co.za

 

Best catered stay

5. Die Skuur at Bosjes

Unlisted

Die Skuur at Bosjes. Photography by Andreas Eiselen.

Bosjes, owned by the same family since 1831, is more famous for its striking Modernist chapel and restaurant than its guest house. But this fabulous barn conversion, furnished by Liam Mooney with his inimitable taste and flair, is another for the design annals. Comprising just five ultra-luxurious rooms hugging a fabulous pool area with mountain views, the house is an ideal exclusive-use venue (it’s often booked in conjunction with the chapel for wedding parties) but is also available on a per-room basis.

The restaurant, Bosjes Kombuis, has some of the most beautiful views in the valley but it’s only open for lunch. Breakfast and dinner, a two-course home-cooked meal such as bobotie or lasagne, are served in the guest house’s dining room. Given the quality of finishes and furniture and inclusion of two meals, this is excellent value and worth including here even if it is 20 minutes from the river pools at Tweede Tol.

Room tip: Room 5 sleeps three children or teens in a loft space. Only Room 3 doesn’t have a fireplace.

Cost: R1375 per person sharing half-board.

Contact: bosjes.co.za

 

Best view

6. Moongazing Cabin

Unlisted

Moongazing Cabin. Photography by Andreas Eiselen.

Perched high above the patchwork farms of the Breedekloof, in the 660-hectare Mt Bain Private Nature Reserve, this is the kind of view that encourages contemplation.

The rustic wood cabin is a delight – simply furnished with a few lovely touches such as kelim rugs; the open-plan living-kitchen area is centred on an enormous fireplace (with potjie to use on it supplied) and opens onto a shaded porch with a table, built-in benches and a day bed to dream away the day on. This is very much ‘glamping´ – there is no electricity, aside from a plug point for phone or laptop (no hairdryers – if you can’t live without this, Moongazing is not for you!).

There is a small solar-powered fridge and the shower has a gas geyser. Lighting at night is supplied by solar jars.

Room tip: There are two small bedrooms, one up steep stairs and tucked into the eaves; the other has two single beds. You have to bring your own bedding and towels.

Cost: From R950 a night (sleeps four).

Contact: ninemountbain.co.za

 

Best Location

7. Mooiplaas River Cottage

Unlisted

Mooiplaas River Cottage. Photo supplied.

It’s a long and bumpy road through farmlands to reach this two-bedroom stone cottage on the banks of the Breede, with gorgeous views and no sign of any other human habitation.

The cottage is very rustic – a simple, open-plan living space (with fireplace) that opens onto a deep, furnished stoep overlooking the river. Aside from the remote location, the stretch of water here is the real luxury, offering wonderful private swimming even at the height of summer. Aside from the two bedrooms, there is a sleeper couch that can fit two people. It’s a working farm, which guests are welcome to explore. And yes, Mooiplaas is another pet-friendly place.

Room tip: There is one queen bed and a pair of twin beds. If Mooiplaas is full, neighbouring River Edge offers five cottages worth Worth a Look below).

Cost: R1500 for two, plus R400 per person extra, children R300 each (sleeps six). Minimum two-night stay.

Contact: mooiplaasrivercottage.co.za

 

Best river swimming

8. Rivers Own Guest Lodge

Unlisted

Rivers Own Guest Lodge. Photography by Andreas Eiselen.

Overlooking an enormous swimming hole, replete with palmiet- covered island, Rivers Own is a great option for a large group wanting a sublime aquatic holiday right on the banks of the Witte River. It’s not fancy but given how many it sleeps and the stone’s- throw proximity to this extraordinary river, very good value.

Bizarrely, there is a swimming pool as well, and the sprawling lawns offer a space the size of a soccer field – great for kids to romp about on. For those who love to braai there are two options, both wind- protected (one indoors). It’s very secure – behind a fence and gate, with an on-site janitor and the owner living right next door. Note that Calabash Bush Pub is 400 metres away, so there may be noise on some nights.

Room tip: The three en-suite bedrooms are identical, ideal for three couples, plus a new en-suite back room sleeps four and an open-plan sleeping room o” the lounge fits five.

Cost: From R4000 a night (sleeps 15). Rate negotiable for groups of only two or four people.

Contact: riversown.com

 

Worth looking at

9. Seven Oaks

A cluster of four cottages on a wine farm, each with a private back garden and plunge pool that can be heated by a log fire to become a ‘Turkish bath´ – totally ingenious and decadent.

Cost: From R950 for two.

Contact: sevenoaks.co.za

 

10. The Mountain Barn

This double-storey has the best private swimming hole on the Witte River. The four-bedroom house has an enclosed deck room (great for winter) and DStv, and is serviced daily by Lenos and Precious James who live in the adjacent cabin.

Cost: From R1500 a night (sleeps eight).

Contact: themountainbarn.com

 

11. River Edge

Five stone-clad houses on the Breede, close enough to the Witte for it to still be flowing in high summer. All have fireplaces, decks and Jacuzzis, and sleep six to 10 people. The exclusive-use campsite has a pool, boma and electricity.

Cost: From R1200 for two, plus R365 per person extra (kids R165 each). Campsite from R1120 for up to eight people, R140 per person extra.

Contact: riveredgeaccom.co.za

 

Don’t miss this

• Dipping in the deep pools of the Witte River at Tweede Tol picnic site (R40 per person, open 8am to 6pm).
• Hiking one of four-day trails in the Limietberg Reserve – the easiest (three hours) leads to the ruins of a haunted house; the hardest rewards you with a waterfall. Get permits from CapeNature.
• Seeing the interior of an Anglo-Boer War blockhouse near Wolseley – stairs get you in. 0827807516
• Calabash Bush Pub, a true travellers’ watering hole on the pass. 0233551844
• The ‘neighbourhood’ wine farm is Bergsig (with a birdwatching route, 0233551603). There’s also Botha Kelder, Waboomsrivier, Mountain Ridge, Seven Oaks and Lateganskop on Michell’s Pass (R43).

 

This article first appeared in the April 2018 issue of Getaway magazine.

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