This place of wine and olives is home to a thriving, creative community that specialises in the good life. It’s surprisingly good value. Here are 14 accommodation spots in Riebeek Valley recommended by Pippa de Bruyn.
How it works:
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 Number 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 the Riebeek Valley, she created a longlist of 29 to inspect. The following made the cut.
What you need to know about accommodation in Riebeek Kasteel:
• Riebeek Kasteel, with its still-charming streetscape and untarred roads, is the retail and artistic heart of the valley. Accommodation stock here is very good but I also spread the net to include options in Riebeek West (five minutes away) and Hermon (20 minutes’ drive).
• Regardless of whether you’re looking for a luxury break or a pretty-looking bargain, the Riebeek Valley offers exceptional value – and it’s only an hour from Cape Town. Prices drop in winter (take advantage of this before 1 September); most owners are also very negotiable if you’re planning to book weekday stays – it pays to ask!
• Book well in advance for event weekends: The 2018 Olive Festival is 5 – 6 May; best to book that weekend right now. riebeekvalleyolivefestival.co.za
• The top single site to browse for a full range of accurately placed options is the tourism office’s Riebeekvalley.info. Apart from our choices given here, for rated listings, Booking.com has the biggest selection. For self-catering it’s worth also trawling Airbnb.
Also read: 23 things to do in Riebeek Kasteel
Best for a special occasion
1. Bartholomeus Klip
No.1 of 4 B&BS/Inns, Hermon
This romantic country retreat on a working farm in a fynbos reserve ticks so many boxes – exclusive (10 guests maximum), peaceful and authentic; the farmhouse (which should be listed on TripAdvisor under Speciality Lodgings rather than B&Bs) offers the most wonderful evocation of an earlier era. The house is run by a team of great women, headed by twin sisters Lesley and Louise Gillett, who make it a warm and welcoming place: a fireplace burns all day, side tables groan with high-tea treats, evening drinks and canapés are served in the immaculate garden, followed by a flawless dinner and breakfast experience. The nature drive in an open-sided safari vehicle is surprising – aside from spotting quaggas (the farm is home to the successful Quagga Project), you’ll see baby geometric tortoises (too cute), bat-eared foxes, black wildebeest and fabulous birds. Equally pleasurable is to just stay put in a lounger next to my favourite pool in the whole of South Africa. The farm is 25 minutes from Riebeek Kasteel.
Room tip: Of the four luxury rooms, I liked Disa best. For privacy, views and space, the separately located Orchid Suite is well worth the extra cost.
Cost: From R4375 per person sharing.
Most eco-conscious cottage
2. Blaauw Cottage
No.2 of 4 Specialty Lodgings, Riebeek Kasteel
Down a narrow panhandle, Blaauw Cottage is a very compact, double- volume two-bedroom cottage designed by owner Klaus Piprek (who lives adjacent) to be both water- and energy- efficient. It has an open-plan kitchen/ dining/living area with slide-and-fold doors opening onto a shaded stoep and an eye-level braai. An energy- efficient Scandi stove warms the house in winter, fans cool it in summer, and there are double-glazed windows and doors throughout. The plunge pool in the garden is surrounded by shrubs and trees; greywater is piped directly into the garden, and water tanks capture rain. Up a flight of exterior stairs, above the garage, is De Zolder, a third en-suite bedroom ideal to book with the cottage if you’re travelling with kids, or the twin beds can be made into a king-size for another couple. The cottage is in easy walking distance of the village centre.
Room tip: The two bedrooms (both with queen-size beds) on each side of the living area are mirror images, making this an ideal house to share for two couples.
Cost: From R990 a night; De Zolder from R550. Minimum two-night stay.
Most elegant B&B
3. Shiraz Estate
No.1 of 16 B&Bs/Inns, Riebeek Kasteel
Kristine Fuller-Gee and Thorbjørn Hansen took over the running of her Norway- based parents’ guest house last year, layering their cool, minimal-modern design aesthetic over the whitewashed walls of this 1881 farmhouse. The sensitive restoration by Kristine’s architect father has provided six en-suite rooms plus a double room in an adjoining barn; furnishings and fittings are locally made (including an ingenious headboard by Thor) but the clean Scandi-design eye is all theirs. Located in a small gated estate with spacious grounds, it’s a 15-minute walk to the centre of the village. The back garden is a lush, green oasis with a great pool and inviting tables. The three- course breakfasts are by all accounts legendary, and Kristine is a font of knowledge about the area.
Room tip: Room 6 is the smallest but has a delightful location off the stoep with picture-window overlooking the garden. The Family Suite in the eaves sleeps four.
Cost: Room 6 from R800 per person sharing B&B; other rooms from R525 per person sharing B&B.
4. Vineyard Views
No.1 of 4 Specialty Lodgings, Riebeek Kasteel
From the minute you are ushered into this elegantly furnished house and led to the stoep overlooking the vineyards, where afternoon tea and a home-baked cake awaits, you know you are in for a pampering experience. By sundowner time, when hosts Grant Dewar and Gareth Dewar-Pienaar serve delicious canapés and local wines, you feel like you are visiting friends. At night you’ll return home to a warm cocoon of a room: curtains drawn, bed invitingly turned down with a home-made sweet treat, and romantically lit. Breakfast is a decadent spread, splendidly presented. Well-travelled and hospitality-savvy, Gareth and Grant designed the house as both beautiful home and eminently functional guest house, and their attention to detail and appreciation for quality – from lighting to linen – is excellent.
Room tip: All four rooms are lovely; each has a door to the garden and vineyard view. Three are in the downstairs guest wing, while the largest suite is completely separate from the others.
Cost: From R1550 per double room B&B, plus tea and cake, sundowner drinks and canapés on arrival. This is amazing value given how much you get! Dinners are available on request (R300 per person).
Best bargain in town
No.3 of 16 B&Bs/Inns, Riebeek Kasteel
Tucked away behind a large parking area, Katarina’s offers five pretty, well-maintained en-suite rooms with their own entrances and outside seating areas. Each room is stocked with rusks and tea/coffee-making facilities and has Wi-Fi and air con (essential in summer). Room 5 offers the option of self-catering with a small kitchenette opening onto a private patio area. Located off Riebeek Square in the heart of the village, you’ll hardly need your car once you’ve parked it here, with plenty of dining and bar choices strolling distance away. That said, this is also a potential drawback as there can be heavy traffic on the main road at times – if you’re a very light sleeper, this is not going to be the best choice for you. It’s listed as a B&B on TripAdvisor but no food is served.
Room tip: Room 3 has the most private outside area. It’s also the furthest from the main road (along with the self-catering room). If you like a big bed, Room 1’s is king-size and extra-long.
Cost: From R680 a room (sleeps two). Self-catering studio R900.
Best bargain farm stay
6. Della Vigna Cottage
Unlisted, Riebeek Kasteel
A few minutes’ drive from the village, on Welgevonden fruit farm (just the other side of the R46), this rustic two-bedroom self-catering spot overlooks a reed-fringed dam filled with birds. The cottage is small but you are surrounded by big views and so much space; there are manicured lawns and shade trees, a circular firepit and mobile braai, a jetty from which to birdwatch, and – the pièce de résistance – a gorgeous plunge pool, its location and design so discreet it almost looks part of the dam. The cottage comprises a single living space, easy to heat in winter with the large indoor braai-fireplace. Remote and private yet safe (security patrols at night), with all the essentials that count, for a very affordable price – ‘So everyone can receive its blessings and peace,’ says warm owner Sonja Vlok. The cottage is understandably booked months in advance, so call now.
Room tip: There are two bedrooms sharing a bathroom. If Della Vigna is full, Obiekwa (see Worth a Look below) also has a gorgeous setting.
Cost: R350 per person (whether one or four people).
Most creatively styled guest house
7. Dennehof House
No.3 of 5 B&Bs/Inns, Riebeek Kasteel
This wildly eclectic guest house comprises just four rooms – each individually decorated – sharing a lounge and honesty bar, and an outdoor pool. It’s owned and managed by affable Francie Kruger, with renovation and decor by her son Coenie (who incidentally co-owns Mama Cucina, Riebeek-Kasteel’s most famous restaurant). Coenie has no formal design training but has a truly amazing eye, able to combine antiques and salvaged pieces picked up at auctions in the surrounding towns with bold colours and interesting fabrics – if it hasn’t yet, Dennehof House is sure to feature in a decor magazine soon. The atmosphere is very much luxury guest house or B&B, but no meals are served. There’s plenty of choice in the valley, though, and Francie can make recommendations.
Room tip: Choose either of the upstairs rooms, opening onto a balcony, for the views and privacy. No children allowed due to lots of stairs and the open pool.
Cost: From R950 a room.
Contact: Find it on Facebook or booking.com.
Best self-catering cottage
No.9 of 16 B&Bs/Inns Riebeek Kasteel
Clare Eksteen has created the perfect country-village bolthole: well furnished and supremely comfortable, textured with art, books and rugs, plus a deep, shaded veranda overlooking the garden and plunge pool. It’s a great all-season house: in summer slide-and-fold doors create easy flow to the outdoor lounge centred on a huge eye-level hearth and eight-seater dining table on the stoep. In winter you’ll light the open fireplace indoors. The open-plan kitchen/dining/lounge area is made for easy entertaining (and it’s well equipped with gas stove/ electric oven, dishwasher, washing machine, Wi-Fi etc). This is another to book soon.
Room tip: There are only two en-suite bedrooms, both with queen-size extra-length beds, that open onto the stoep.
Cost: R2200 a night (sleeps four). Minimum two-night stay.
Worth a look
9. Obiekwa Cottage & Country House
A gorgeous two-bedroom cottage at the bottom of Lynne McNamara’s garden and a separate three-bedroom house in a quiet location; both have panoramic vineyard views and fireplaces. R900 and R1000 per night respectively (sleep four to six). sa-venues.com
10. The Loft at Old Oak Manor
This beautiful room, elegantly decorated by Salome Gunter, is the best option at Old Oak Manor (listed on TripAdvisor as the #1 B&B in Malmesbury, but definitely in Riebeek Kasteel). Downstairs is Café Felix where meals are served. R1600 B&B (sleeps three). cafefelix.co.za
11. The Royal Hotel
The best-value option here are the standard rooms in the garden (I liked four and five for their privacy and lovely views); they cost the same as the indoor standard rooms. R1500 a room B&B (sleeps two). Stay here and it’s just a couple of steps to drinks on that lovely stoep… royalinriebeek.com
12. Anni’s Den
Two dinky little cottages on a single plot, each sleeping two, that are surprisingly nice inside. Den is self-catering with an open-plan, en-suite bedroom on a mezzanine level (R1100 a night). Nest is a small en-suite room with a fridge, hotplate and stove fireplace (R800 a night). Both have braai facilities. annisden.co.za
13. Boudoir Santa Cecilia
In the middle of the action, this spacious studio apartment (sleeps three) above a wine shop in the buzzing Short Street enclave means you can stumble from the nearby restaurants or bars directly into bed. R880 a night. santacecilia.co.za
14. The Wine House
The Family Unit here is a total steal: two neat-as-a-pin bedrooms (sharing a bathroom), with the entrance off the stoep, at R800 a night (sleeps four). No meals served or self-catering but the village is a three-minute walk away. airbnb.com
Stock up at Crisp, a tiny grocer with a great selection of top- quality fresh produce.
One thing all locals agree on is that Mama Cucina’s pizzas are just totally amazing.
Try gourmet olives pickled in flavours you’ve never imagined.
See what the local artists are producing at The Gallery.
This story first appeared in the August 2017 issue of Getaway magazine.
Our August issue features 14 Northern Cape treasures, a trip along Mozambique’s pristine beaches on a fat-bike, holidays to take if you want to learn a new skill and so much more.