Is it a coincidence that the number plates in Elgin begin with ‘CEO’?
Maybe, but it’s a certainly a fact that Elgin is chief of many things, like apples, wine, food, nature and adventure. My brother, Khwezi, and I embarked on a weekend journey through the Valley, which is just an easy hour from Cape Town.
1. Peregrine Farm Stall
There’s a reason why Peregrine is a fixture on many of Getaway’s road trip stories – it’s just that good and the throngs of people prove it. You can set yourself down at the cafe, fill your picnic basket with artisanal goods or find yourself in bakery heaven.
Vegetarians and vegans can treat themselves to a veggie burger that doesn’t disappoint or falafel from the cafe. Those of a more carnivorous persuasion can try the venison pie that Peregrine is well-known for. The spanakopita, a Greek spinach pie also has rave reviews and can be purchased from the deli.
If you thought that was all, people come from afar just to satisfy their craving for the tradtional mosbolletjies at Peregrine’s bakery. There are also freshly pressed juices produced on site and in winter, they sell a warm spiced apple juice. If you prefer simplicity, don’t miss out on Peregrine’s farm-style pies. The farmstall also sells wines from Elgin Valley.
Peregrine Farmstall opens from 07:00 to 18:00 in winter and 07:30 to 18:30 in summer.
Don’t miss: tastings of Everson’s Cider (10:00 to 17:00) from Wednesday to Sunday. There’s a pomegranate-flavoured cider which we enjoyed. There is also a play area for children and stalls that sell clothes.
Contact: Tel 0218489011 or firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Almenkerk Wine Estate
Meander along Viljoenshoop Road (a right turn after Peregrine Farm Stall) and you’ll arrive at Almenkerk Wine Estate. It belongs to Belgian/Dutch couple, Natalie and Joris van Almenkerk who transformed the apple farm into a vineyard, although they still have apple and pear orchards.
From the elevated tasting room, the valley rolls out like a plush, green blanket and the dome-like sky makes it feel like you’re in an intimate natural space. Ruth who conducts the tastings admits that Almenkerk is ‘off-the-beaten track’ but that’s what makes it unique. Ruth is passionate about what she does and you will feel very involved as she furnishes you with her knowledge. The family-run estate is known for their white wines, specifically their chardonnay which is served slightly warmer than usual and has a citrus profile.
Almenkerk have long used sustainable practices and are recognised as conservation champions by WWF. In fact, Joris says that the presence of Cape foxes, mongooses, caracals and the Spotted eagle-owl on the estate is an indication that they’re doing well in terms of protecting this ecologically sensitive area.
For the wine tasting you can expect to have a more one-on-one experience and a brief lesson on farming methods if you ask for one! There is also an art gallery. Tasting and sales are from 10:00 to 16:00 in summer and winter.
Don’t miss: vineyard tours and tastings can be arranged upon request for larger groups.
Cost: R25 to taste three wines (from Lace by Almenkerk range) and R35 to taste three wines from their flagship range. R60 to taste all wines from both ranges. The price of the tastings drop if you purchase a bottle.
Contact: Tel 0218489844 or email@example.com
3. Paul Wallace Wines
If you head back along Viljoenshoop Road and turn onto Highlands Road, stop at Paul Wallace Wines where owners, Nicky and Paul will host you for a tasting and adoringly tell you about their wine.
It was a very personal experience to sit with Nicky, a former wine-buyer for Woolworths and not just taste, but truly learn about wine. The tastings are paired with chocolate and Nicky’s anecdotal storytelling, so you’ll want to sit on the patio all day soaking in the Elgin’s welcoming nature.
Paul, who is a viticulturist and vineyard expert, uses an Australian method of planting a double crop, which is something to look out for when you visit. According to Nicky, Elgin is the best place to grow wine grapes because of the diurnal fluctuation of temperature which adds to the quality of grapes and the decreased use of sulphur. It’s also possible to farm without irrigation because only 450 millimetres of water per year is needed.
Paul Wallace are renowned for their Malbec, named Black Dog after their furry friend. The Nix Sauvignon Blanc returned as a gold medallist from the International Wine Challenge in London. Their Pinot Noir is also one of the best in SA and received an award that hasn’t been given since 2012.
Don’t miss: bass fishing at the dam and the self-catering guest cottages which is R1800 per night per cottage on the weekends. Sleeps four.
Cost: R50 for wine and chocolate tasting. There is a waiver on the tasting if you buy a bottle.
Contact: Tel 0825721406 (Paul), 0832551884 (Nicky) or email firstname.lastname@example.org
4. South Hill Estate
Eat tapas in the company of friends or taste wine against the exquisite vineyard backdrop. South Hill Estate’s Gallery Restaurant is an establishment with a contemporary feel. The artwork of Hermanus artist, Tay Dall adds vibrance to the restaurant’s atmosphere and the estate’s indigenous gardens also feature sculptures.
The ingredients are local and fresh from Elgin’s soil. You can also explore more of the cool-climate wines Elgin is known for. Though trendy, you won’t experience overwhelming crowds, which means you can enjoy a bit of seclusion with friends and family. Tastings are from 09:00 until 17:00, daily.
If you’re hoping to stay over, the Guest House is there to give you a home-away-from-home experience. There are six en-suite bedrooms, which can cater to families, a braai area and pizza oven, and the dining/living/kitchen area is surrounded by lawns and vineyards. The Guest House’s location means that you can also enjoy sunset and there’s also a pool.
5. Old Mac Daddy
Your weekend trip can only get better when you take Elgin Valley Road to Old Mac Daddy. I didn’t know what to expect but when Khwezi and I arrived, the list of things to do seemed endless. Old Mac Daddy is known for their vintage airstream caravans with quirky names (Birdy, Dig’it, Dirkie Sanchez, For Better or Boerewors, etc.) and eccentric interiors to match. Last year they also introduced their tented camps.
Old Mac Daddy is super kid-friendly with indoor and outdoor play areas and nature walks, but it will also bring out the child in you if you get excited about things like zorbing. I certainly surprised myself when I stepped inside this inflatable sphere at the beach and didn’t want to come out. Speaking of beach, Old Mac Daddy has one and it’s just as good as any seaside escape.
You can SUP, kayak, fish (catch and release) and recline with a cocktail from Daddy’s Beach and Bar. Under the watchful eyes of lifeguards with lifejackets, it’s completely safe. Entrance to the beach is R150.
Don’t miss: the Barn Restaurant or the tractor rides, archery, Lebanon Mountain Biking Trail (R30 permit) or the wine and cider tasting tours in a vehicle.
Cost: to stay in an airstream caravan during the weekend it’s R1995 per night (Friday and Saturday) for two including breakfast and R1395 per night for two from Sunday to Thursday.
Contact: Tel 0218440241 or email email@example.com
6. Cherry Glamping
The scent of fresh pine took on a whole new meaning when we retreated to Cherry Glamping – I’d only ever known the fragrance out of an air freshener bottle and the real thing is definitely better.
Cherry Glamping is another jewel in Elgin’s crown. It took some time to get used to the silence, but once my ears got used to hearing rustling leaves, the absence of city noise was most welcome.
It was only a two-night stay, but the canvas tent felt like home. The interior has a minimalist, rustic vibe – white bedding and copper side lamps with a bare bulb. When the sun shines on the tent, it illuminates softly from within.
There are 12 fully-furnished bell tents and Cherry Glamping hosts a group at a time. There are also catering and self-catering options with a fully equipped kitchen and braai area. If you’re seeking cosiness by a fire, there is a lounge and a 24 seater table. There are also ablutions facilities with hot and cold water taps, toilet and shower.
Don’t miss: the opportunity to picnic or take morning walks. There’s plenty of space and you’ll be surrounded views of the valley. There’s an open-air theatre which you can enjoy with friends or family.
Cost: R1800 per tent for one night; R2500 per tent for two nights and a R1000 per tent, per night after. The rates include ice, wood, coffee, tea and a continental breakfast.
Contact: Richard (0827889837) or Margriet (0824561981)
7. Hickory Shack
This establishment on the N2 epitomises the laidback, small-town living of Elgin. ‘Low and slow’ is the motto at the Hickory Shack and with all things that take time, quality is what you get when you dine at this traditional BBQ smokehouse.
Locals praise it and on weekends it’s where outsiders lunch. What started as pure experimentation evolved into a popular eatery where meat is prepared and flavoured by the smoke pulled across the direct smoker by a draft. A simple dry rub in the Texan tradition is used instead of brines or sugar and the low temperature allows the meat to baste in its own fat until it softens.
Ribs take about six hours, chicken about four and brisket is 12 to 16 hours. Different woods are used for different meats – apple or pear wood from the valley for pork and chicken and oak for beef to give it a punchier flavour.
It was love at first bite for my brother and I, who enjoyed a platter of beef brisket, belly ribs, pulled pork and Applebee BBQ wings. Meat isn’t the only thing the Hickory Shack does well because their baked beans are famous and you can also have fries, corn salad and slaw.
Don’t miss: the smoke pit to see how everything is done. Hickory Shack also has an ice-cream parlour and you should definitely try their waffles (R45).
Cost: breakfast or brunch from R60 (breakfast bun); meat from R85 to R115 (beef brisket and belly ribs)
Contact: Tel 0213001396
8. Elgin Cape Canopy Tour
If you’re a thrill-seeker, see the valley from above on a canopy tour. It’s definitely a must because and locals will ask you if you have done it. There are many perks to rising above in a full body harness: it’s liberating, incredibly safe and you will be in the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom.
I joined the limited edition sunset to full moon tour and left with a greater sense of appreciation for nature which is partially the point of this eco-adventurous activity. You can read about my experience here: soaring at full moon on a night-time Cape Canopy tour. Also, who wouldn’t want to zipline in Christmas lights at dusk?
The next sunset to full moon tour will be towards the end of October or beginning of November (2018) but you can always do it in the daytime between 08.00 and 15.00.
Don’t miss: the promotion where Cape Canopy Tours is offering R100 off online bookings for Getaway readers. The promo code is ‘GETAWAY’ and is valid until 30 November.
Cost: R895 per person. Book online: canopytour.co.za/book-now/cape
Contact: Tel 0213000501 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
9. Elgin Cool Wine and Country Food Festival
From 28 to 29 April the Elgin Cool Wine and Country Festival shows that you can still make the most of the outdoors after summer. This autumn festival showcases one of Elgin’s major products: wine. And you can tailor the wine tasting options to suit your preferences.
Live entertainment, food and kids’ entertainment is all the more reason get tickets. Early birds are R140 per person and are purchasable online. If you buy on the day, head to Peregrine Farm Stall where tickets will be R160 per person.
Cost: tickets are R150 per person.
Contact: Tel 0712679785 or email email@example.com
10. Applewood Harvest Festival
When in the land of apples, confirm your attendance to the Applewood Harvest Festival at Applewood Preparatory School. It will be on 5 May 2018 and celebrates the end of the apple harvest. There is a five-kilometre and eleven-kilometre trail run through private farmland (R100 and R200 to enter each event respectively).
Local restaurants come together to offer gourmet artisanal and farm-grown produce. There will also be wine and cider tastings as well as fun games (apple bobbing or hay diving anyone?) and artisanal goodies and local crafts on sale.
Cost: R50 per adult and R20 per child