13 hot spots to stay in Barrydale

Posted by Pippa de Bruyn on 17 January 2019

This lively, welcoming town in a narrow valley at the foot of the Langeberg combines the best of Klein Karoo and Cape farm country. Here’s where best to soak it all up.

 

Bobbejaansberg’s dining platform is made for unforgettable gatherings. Image: Jotham van Tonder

How it works?
Trip Advisor 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 20 years for the likes of Frommer’s and The Telegraph, scours TripAdvisor and other online sites when researching a destination.

What we found in this town

• Very good value, in a very pretty village. Perhaps because it is slightly off the beaten track, Barrydale offers bargains galore.

• Good vibes. There is no evidence that Barrydale is located on ley lines as some suggest, but it does attract a good number of healers and artists.

• Amazing hosts. A spirit of generosity, be it free wood for the braai or fireplace, complimentary bikes or simply the enthusiasm of the many rated ‘superhosts’ (coined by Airbnb for those who ‘provide a shining example for other hosts, and extraordinary experiences for their guests’).

• Surprisingly good stock, given the slim pickings on TripAdvisor (1 hotel, 6 B&Bs, 9 Speciality Lodgings), Booking.com (6 listings), Lekkeslaap (11), Wheretostay (0) and so on. Airbnb had by far the longest list, and on inspection that is indeed where the best stock is concentrated.

• A wonderful rural atmosphere, with encircling mountains containing the size of the town – it’s small enough to ditch the car once there. There are crowing roosters, lowing cows, church bells on a Sunday morning and vineyards in the centre of town.

• If you’re self-catering, bear in mind that the supermarket, butcher and liquor store all close at midday on Saturday and only open again on Monday.

 

Best for romance

1. The Inside-Outside House

Unlisted

If you love outdoor living (but like me are married to someone who won’t countenance camping), this is the perfect solution. Using Barrydale leiklip stonework, artist Zavick Botha and wife Shona MacDonald have created a terraced back garden that steps you seamlessly into the mountainside that lies just beyond their boundary. There are ponds and benches, but the best part is the built-in double bed tucked into a weatherproof corner of the house, affording unobstructed views of the garden and mountain. Next to it is the braai/fireplace, and just beyond is an outdoor bath – lying back in a body of hot water, looking up at the mountain and stars while a fire crackles behind is surely an aphrodisiac for the soul, combining the key elements of earth, air, fire and water.
Interiors are filled with art and well furnished.

Room Tip: There are three bedrooms, but I’d think twice before sharing this romantic bolthole.

Cost: From R2,100 a night (sleeps five). Book three nights and get the third for free.

Contact: 0825566808, airbnb.com

Best for a family or group 

2. Ruth 62

Unlisted

Ruth Goodman’s gabled 1930s house is located in the heart of the village, directly opposite the imposing NG Church. Interiors are crisp white throughout, with restrained decor touches providing a cool, soothing atmosphere. The four bedrooms, all leading off the central corridor, share two large bathrooms, and guests have a choice of gathering spots: two sofas aside a wonderful wood-burning convection fireplace, a fabulous black-and-white kitchen, a long stoep overlooking the main road, and the garage annex with braai, dart boards and hot tub (filled afresh with leiwater for each new guest). Ruth and husband Mark Saul, who live on-site in an adjacent cottage, are classic ‘superhosts’ – warm, generous and super-enthusiastic about their village. A basket with milk, rusks and coffee welcomes you on arrival; guests may pick fruit and vegetables from their garden; Mark will even light your braai fire on request. The only complaint seems to be from people who stayed only one night and wished they had booked more.

Room Tip: The house sleeps eight comfortably. Ruth will put in extra beds/mattresses (max two per room) if needed, for R200 pp. Children under six stay free.

Cost: From R1,000 for two rooms; from R1,500 for all four rooms.

Contact: 0741422861, ruth62barrydale.com

 

Best village farmstay

3.Blue Cow Barn

TripAdvisor No. 2 of 9 Speciality Lodgings

Barrydale is surrounded by mountains and in the crook of one is the 900-hectare farm where Bertus, the fifth-generation Cooke, has renovated an old barn and workshop in the garden of the main farmhouse. The driveway is off Van Collier Street, the road which demarcates the eastern boundary of town, so you enjoy the best of both worlds: a 15-minute stroll and you’re at the Karoo Art Hotel and Mez Karoo Kitchen, but sit on your stoep for a postprandial nightcap and you might spot an owl or hear jackals yipping under the star-spangled sky. There are three options – Ansie, aka ‘Cottage with Garden View’ (sleeps ??); Betsie, aka ‘Cottage with Mountain View’ (sleeps ??); and Corlie, aka ‘Cottage with Panoramic view’ (sleeps ??) – all equipped for basic self-catering. Beds are dressed in fine linen imported from New York by Bertus’s mother Hannette, shower pressure is good and there is a limitless supply of wood. Good Wi-Fi too. Decamp for breakfast (it’s a steep hill so you may want to drive) to Hanette’s Blue Cow Barn, a coffee shop with the best view in town.

Room Tip: Corlie, the smallest and cheapest unit, has the best view and a built-in braai on the stoep. 

Cost: From R250 to R450 per person sharing.

Contact:0793551760, bluecowbarrydale.com

Most stylish cottage

4. 39 Steyn Street

Unlisted

Terri Leppan and Ren Engelbrecht were away when I visited but clearly they, too, have the hospitality gene – ‘amazing hosts’; ‘charming, friendly, warm and thoughtful’; ‘nothing too much trouble’, read the reviews. Their perfectionism and decor flair is evident the minute you step into the luxuriously appointed cottage, adjacent to their own home on a large plot on the edge of town. The double-volume space is filled with light, and comprises an open-plan living-dining-kitchen area, with the bed on a mezzanine level. Aside from the tasteful furnishings and art, Teri (a film director who has travelled extensively in Africa, collecting artefacts, along with stories) and Ren (a reputable cook who will, by prior arrangement, serve you a meal on your terrace) have made sure the cottage is well equipped for long-stay guests, ideal for those who like to cook. Plenty of firewood (the convection fireplace is a real boon in winter), a generous stoep with private braai area and the pool – the deepest, most alluring body of water – make this level of luxury unheard of for the price.

Room Tip: If 39 Steyn Street is unavailable, Moon Cabin is similar – not as luxurious but with a great atmosphere, for the same price.

Cost: R350 a night (sleeps two).

Contact: 0825661163, airbnb.com

 

Best for hospitality

5. Karoo Art Hotel

TripAdvisor No. 1 of 1 hotels

Authentic hospitality is a hallmark of this town, but this quirky 15-room hotel takes the prize, with every member of staff fully engaged in making sure guests are 100 per cent comfortable. It’s a down-to-earth and very homely experience, with a spirit of generosity spilling over into the breadth of facilities. These include the Belanti Theatre & Bioscope (Fridays are movie nights), vintage Dutch bikes lined up on the stoep, a festive dress-up rail at reception, DJ turntable and vinyls set up in the bar, and live music occasionally. For a donation, a traditional rieldans performance can be arranged. Decor is eclectic, with every room completely different in character, and the hotel’s walls are covered in art (most for sale). Chef Derek Lowe serves delicious Karoo comfort food – the restaurant is a member of the international gastronomic guild Chaîne des Rôtisseurs and winner of the Klein Karoo Gourmand Award for two consecutive years – and the bar is a
local institution.

Room Tip: The Klein Karoo rooms are great value but most have a shower cubicle within the bedroom. If you prefer a separate en-suite, shell out for a Groot Karoo room. Of these, Magpie (decorated by the acclaimed Magpie Art Collective across the road) is gorgeous, but I thoroughly enjoyed staying in Room 2, opening onto a private balcony with marvellous views over the village.

Cost: Klein Karoo room from R995 per person sharing B&B; Groot Karoo room from R1,300 per person sharing B&B.

Contact: 0285721226,
karooarthotel.co.za

Best luxury self-catering 

6. Bobbejaansberg

Unlisted

Like all mothers, Helen Untiedt of Perfect Hideaways can profess to no favourites when discussing her extraordinary clutch of accommodation, but she lights up when discussing Bobbejaansberg, the property that made the cover of her first coffee-table book. And indeed, Bobbejaansberg is a very, very special place. Barrydale is only 15 minutes away but bumping along unsignposted red gravel roads, you enter a remote and untrammelled wilderness, backdropped by the arid beauty of the Klein-Karoo mountainscape. The entire house seems to grow organically from the rocky landscape, as it’s constructed and clad with Barrydale’s distinctive leiklip stonework. Interiors, designed by Gregory Mellor, suggest an elegant, top-end safari destination. You’ll likely spend your days on the covered veranda sprawled in front of a roaring fire in winter, gazing at the stone-framed views, and summer evenings dining under the stars on the alfresco platform – a grand stage, with only the mountains as audience. But perhaps the most surreal element is the pool: a xx-metre length of sparkling blue set in such an arid landscape, surely the ultimate decadence.

Room Tip: If you need to extend numbers, De Hoek is another Mellor-dressed Perfect Hideaway a few minutes’ drive away. It also sleeps eight and is slightly cheaper.

Cost: From R11300 a night (sleeps eight); minimum stay two nights. It gets cheaper the longer you stay, so from R9,900 a night for three or four nights and R8,500 a night for five nights.

Contact: 0217900972, perfecthideaways.co.za

Best bargain cottage

7. A Piece of Quiet

Unlisted

This dinky cottage, located above the R62 in the garden of Tessa Bruning, is a cosy little womb, ideal for the solo traveller or a romantic breakaway for two. The bedroom, furnished with a double bed, is entered from a stoep that enjoys elevated views over the garden. There is a bathroom with shower, and a cute kitchen equipped with the basics and a small table seating two. Guests are welcome to use the swimming pool, relax in the garden and explore the hills behind the cottage, or they can book a more structured retreat with Tessa. A one- or two-day retreat can be tailor-made to your needs, but could start with a sunrise meditation on the hill overlooking town, followed by a silent walking meditation. Mindfulness is encouraged in a mix of creative activities, preparing a shared meal and periods of silence alternating with discussions. Or simply check in and enjoy the privacy and serenity that permeates this aptly named cottage.

Room Tip: If Peace of Quiet is unavailable, check on one
of the Blue Cow Barn cottages (see page xx) – they cost slightly more but for last-minute bookings, Bertus may
be negotiable!

Cost: R250 per person sharing (sleeps two). Retreats from R950 per person, including two meals.  

Contact: 0824118206, pieceofquiet.co.za

For a spiritual retreat

8. Little Samadhi

Unlisted

Barrydale has always attracted healers, but Terry de Vries, who has been working in the complementary health and wellness field since 1995, looks set to up the ante.  She purchased Little Samadhi earlier this year, citing the location – high up against the mountain, with sweeping views – and the excellence of its yoga studio as key reasons. She closed the retreat for a few months to spruce up the accommodation, injecting vibrant colours and original artworks, before opening this month. There’s a beautiful wisteria-covered deck overlooking the indigenous Karoo garden, and a raised terrace on which she is building a rose-quartz labyrinth. Only guests who have signed up for the healing work she offers can stay here. Aside from being a labyrinth facilitator, Terry is an internationally certified yoga teacher and shamanic breathwork facilitator, and has studied reflexology, reiki, bio-energetics, sacred geometry, vision questing and more.
Sounds daunting, but this earthy Afrikaner believes that the simple joy of laughter and learning acceptance can be the greatest of healers.
Check me in already!

Room Tip: All three rooms are beautiful, but Blue/Frida Kahlo off the terrace is the most private and has the best view.

Cost: From R550 This lively, welcoming town in a narrow valley at the foot of the Langeberg combines the best of Klein Karoo and Cape farm country. sharing B&B. Yoga retreats from R1,800 per person.

Contact: 0824425623, littlesamadhi.co.za

 

Worth a look
9.
Villa Limonicella This well-appointed double-storey wins ‘best bargain for a big group’. Kent Bjorklund has spared no expense renovating it, with a wonderful kitchen-lounge opening to the braai and pool area, and seven neat bedrooms. Retired restaurateurs Guiseppe and Esther Slaviero live on-site in a cottage – from serving snacks and sundowners to breakfasts and fabulous dinners (the latter on request), the Slavieros make for a next-level self-catering establishment. Given that it includes breakfast, the price tag is a bargain. R5,445 (sleeps 12). airbnb.com

10. Moon Cabin This is a great conversion of a garage, artfully transformed with large steel-framed windows and enough creative touches to make it feel like an artists’ retreat – the kind you could hive away in for a month. R650 (sleeps two). airbnb.com

11. Tradouw Guest House Decades of collecting have produced this characterful guest house, with six rooms entered off the courtyard or garden, and a cosy lounge and bar that’s doubtless seen many an impromptu celebration. R350 per person sharing. Breakfast on request.
tradouwguesthouse.co.za

12. Karoo Moon If you just want a place to rest your head without departing too far from the R62, then this well-decorated ‘motel’, part of vintage diner Diesel & Crème, is a great choice. Rooms sleep two or four. R400 per person. dieselandcreme.co.za

13. Doodles Den Again, if you’re just wanting to overnight, you will be very comfortable in any of these three quirky cottages (one sleeps four), tucked behind the main house in a garden on the hillside above the highway. R380 per person sharing. safarinow.com

 

Don’t miss this

• Warmwaterberg’s hot springs – it stays open late, so you can lie back and enjoy the Karoo night skies. You can see Ronnie’s Sex Shop from the main pool.

• Hiking in the mountains, amid fynbos or succulents – there are four trails from town, plus two in Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve (one in a forest). If you’re lucky you may stumble upon San rock art, dwarf baobabs or ghost frogs.

• Some fairly un-ordinary cuisine: Karoo lamb burgers, molasses bread, salami and beetroot salad, Mexican-style mole, Karoo tapas, chicken cheesecake, red velvet milkshakes… Plus roosterkoek at the ‘church’ market.

• Wines of the Tradouw Region: Star Hill, Joubert-Tradouw and Barrydale Cellar (which also makes the famous Joseph Barry pot-still brandy).

• Two new arrivals: the Donkey Shed lifestyle centre and The Makers craft brewery.

Photos taken by Jotham van Tonder

Also read: Route 62: Montagu and Barrydale






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