Curious to uncover the essence of a country escape, Ryan Enslin heads for the hills of the Western Cape for an adventure, with an ample supply of firelighters.
What goes through your mind when I say the word ‘cabin’? For me, it’s an immediate bout of fanciful visions – an isolated location flashes to a small structure in luscious foliage. Not far off, a river burbles on its eternal path to the ocean. The chilly night air, a very necessary component to this montage of the mind, is placated by a roaring fire, in turn tamed by copious glasses of red wine. And those conversations with friends. A salve for the soul.
While in Cape Town recently, I decided to take a friend and go explore some of the Western Cape’s farm stays and cabin offerings. This is what I found.
White Bridge Farm
Located in the secluded Witzenberg Valley just outside Wolseley and a 90-minute drive from the Mother City, White Bridge Farm ticks all the boxes of my cabin vision. A variety of accommodation offerings are available on the farm but we spent our time in a wooden cabin on the banks of the Breede River.
Eclectically decorated in neutral tones and a white concrete floor, the cabin has an air of country chic. The farm is owned and managed by Peppi and Paul Stanford – you may recall me writing about Peppi’s passion for the greater Wolseley area and her Creative Hub which promotes the artwork of valley locals.
Peppi continues to pour her soul into promoting the region and having spent time at the Creative Hub one Monday morning editing photos, the evidence of these efforts was plain to see.
Peppi’s son Nick is a chef and operates the Olive Rock Wedding and Function Venue, also on White Bridge Farm. The venue was created by repurposing old sheds on the farm and is similarly located on the banks of the Breede River. If you ask Nick nicely he may just make you something farm-fresh to go with that roaring fire and local red wine.
While you’re in the Witzenberg Valley
The greater Wolseley and Ceres area has much to offer guests visiting these parts. We decided to explore the terrain and popped off to Ceres Zipslide Adventures for some time in the Schurweberg Mountains. The zipline consists of eight slides, varying in length from 100 to 290 meters, and will see you cover 1,4km of this rugged landscape.
The staff are super friendly and well trained, able to pull me in after being overly cautious and too enthusiastic in the application of the brake on my first slide. But I learnt quickly and had a phenomenal time sliding from one rocky outcrop to the next.
Having built up quite the thirst from our eco-adventure, we headed off to nearby Loxtonia Cider and their tasting room, located in the cidery (yes, it’s a real word). My coming of age saw me indulge in cider, back in the day when the offering was somewhat limited. Fast-forward some 25 years and cider is quite a thing, and Loxtonia has pioneered some rather artisanal cider offerings.
We opted to do a full tasting of all six ciders plus the latest, lockdown-developed variant. The Pale Amber was my favourite and I think the cherry-flavoured option could get you into a spot of trouble, being so drinkable. While at Loxtonia we discovered they had also developed a cider bubbly known as Loxtonia Blush MTC (there is also a Brut offering). MTC denoting method traditional cider and did we enjoy that bottle of bubbly sitting in the tasting room, taking in the glorious Ceres Valley. The tasting room is open Monday to Saturday and booking is recommended.
Just outside Villiersdorp, coming from the Rawsonville side, lies a relatively undiscovered gem known as the Bossieveld Valley. And within this valley lies Pendennis Farm, a stalwart in the region since 1875. The 42-hectare farm boasts grapes, apples and olives and is home to sheep, cows, ostriches and several rescue dogs. It’s farm life in every sense of the word.
Owned by legendary travel writer Dagmar Schumacher, the farm has a wide variety of affordable accommodation offerings, many the vision of her son Maximilian. We were intrigued by the recent addition of a container home, which became our base in the valley.
We were treated to meals at the main homestead, courtesy of Dagmar, and as even more red wine flowed, we chatted long into the night about travel and journalism and the beautiful valley known as the Bosssieveld. There is something quite special about such conversations, brought to life in remote destinations, bursting with farm-fresh air.
The container home is well appointed with an eye-catching artistic air to it. There is ample space and it lives well, I believe even when it is fully occupied. Villiersdorp is less than ten minutes up the road where we found a quirky little café known as Alwyn Vintcent and enjoyed a late breakfast. Complete with roosterkoek, the eatery is inside an antique shop – look out for the big red apple on the main road through town.
In addition to the accommodation offerings, Maximilian has also created a wedding and function venue from an old blacksmith barn, today known as the Dasbos Barn. Ideal for quaint country affairs, be they a wedding or family get-together, the space lends itself to a slower, more considered pace of life.
While you’re in the Bossieveld Valley
The valley offers many outdoor-based activities, from walks to 4×4 routes and even fishing. Fully immersed in the farm pace of life, we opted to enjoy the fruits of the Bossieveld at the Stettyn Family Vineyards’ newly built tasting room. The farm dates back to 1714 when the land was ceded to Free Burghers Cloete and Radyn, who hailed from the Stattin area in the former Prussia. The farm was acquired by the Botha family in 1818 and has since been in the Botha family for eight generations.
We opted for some bubbly and enjoyed the new Babelki Chardonnay Pinot Noir as we considered life in the valley. The tasting room also offers a variety of cheese platters, oysters and coffee with the wine tastings starting from just R30.
Going off the beaten track for this adventure, I thought it would be a good idea to ensure the vehicle was capable of handling more than just tar. The Ford Ranger Raptor was our trusty steed and turned out to be quite the head turner, both on and offroad. The farms we visited had excellent roads which any passenger vehicle could handle, but it was good to know that we had brute offroad power, should it have been necessary. The Ranger Raptor is a performance bakkie engineered in some of the world’s toughest terrains.
The Western Cape has an abundance of cabin and farm stay offerings, many of which are within an easy 90-minute drive from Cape Town. Grab some friends, pack the red wine and firelighters, and go forth and explore. Your soul will thank you.
Follow more of Ryan’s adventures here.
Pictures and videos: Ryan Enslin