Worcester: the hidden valley of plenty

Posted by David Henning on 22 December 2021

Worcester tends to be one of those overlooked towns as travellers from Cape Town hurry through, some even snubbing their noses, not even bothering to consider that this town might have hidden gems around each corner, you just have to know where to look.

Situated in the Breede Valley, arguably one of the most panoramic valleys, is a small town punching above its weight. Most outsiders have no idea what goes on in this town, or why more than 120,000 people choose to live here.

Travellers who pass through Worcester probably only associate it with the newly built mall on the side of the N1, but this is a  gross misrepresentation of the town, where the valley and its people form part of the Cape’s best-kept secret. After spending a few days in this valley of plenty, I left with plenty of reasons to return.

Worcester Museum

To get intimate with the town, it was necessary to know where it comes from, and this museum gives you the background information you need.

The museum is a sort of cultural exhibition that covers the region’s history when it was inhabited by indigenous hunter-gatherers followed by the trekker farmers moving into the area, and what they got up to.

Getting the rundown of all the antiques in the museum.

Housing some ox-wagons in still pristine condition, and the strong focus on the region’s agricultural history, the grounds of the property have been developed with structures forming a traditional Cape farmyard.

But it’s when you step outdoors that the museum comes to life. The farmyard turns the museum from a standard cultural exhibition to a living display where the scattered dwellings are utilised to perform agricultural tasks as they used to in the past.

One of the replica dwellings that would have been used to make butter and another dairy. Featured above is the floor, made of old apricot pips and beeswax, which makes it easy to clean after spilling milk and leaves no odour.

In one house, you’ll find an old dwelling still used to make Boer soap in the old traditional way and roasting coffee beans over the coals, and even candle-making. The museum even makes its own range of witblits, or mampoer, a drink that tells the long history of distilling in South Africa.

Along with soap, coffee and candles, Witblitz is also made at the museum at available at the gift shop on the way out.

The witblits, along with the soap, coffee and candles are on sale at the museum’s gift shop, so if witblits isn’t for you, there are plenty of other souvenirs to take home.

The Barn Art and Glass Gallery and Coffee Shop

Situated in a restored 1789 wine cellar is a gallery and cafe created by Lorna and David Reade, two artists who made Worcester their home, but whose establishment forms part of the furniture of the town.

The unsuspecting entrance to the barn, which opens up to more than just a coffee shop, but a working studio in the heart of Worcester.

The Barn coffee shop is the go-to cafe for a coffee and delicious lunch, with a cosy setting inside a refurbished Cape Dutch cellar and  Lorna’s art decorating the walls, the ambience of the space makes for a pleasant stop.

When the weather is ideal, there are seats outside, giving you glimpses of the glass blowing studio at the back. David Reade, originally born in England, began his apprenticeship as a glassblower with a master glassblower, Micheal Harris, at Isle of Wight Studio Glass.

After a holiday in South Africa in 1984, David decided to make South Africa his home, building a new studio in Worcester in 1986. David and Lorna then bought and renovated a 1790 barn, opening The Barn cafe in 1992 which has become their home and studio

Their studio’s operations have then expanded to include a team of several glassblowers and polishers, a skill that Lorna says takes six years to master. She also says that their studio is an A-Z production, where even the glass is made from sand in the studio, involved in every part of the production process.

David Reade explains some of the glassblowing processes in his studio.

David even got his hand’s dirty building furnaces for moulding glass, which gives the studio a constant hue as they burn. A visit to The Barn for lunch or a cup of coffee makes for an intriguing stop. It is not just the show you get from seeing glassblowing in action, they know what they doing and the final pieces speak for themself. Forget about the mystique of crystal ball, there’s something more entrancing about looking into the craftsmanship of their work.

The care capital of South Africa

Unbeknownst to most South Africans, Worcester is the care capital of South Africa, with the National Institute for the Deaf and the Innovation for the Blind. So you can’t really say that you know the town until you know how integral it is in providing support for South Africa’s disabled.

In a visit to Innovation for the Blind, where they do vital work in potentiating individuals in being able to go out into a labour market incredibly hostile for the disabled. With education facilities on the premises, the blind has access to computer skills training, and teach each other.

With peers educating each other, it’s especially empowering the obstacles they overcome in upskilling themselves. One such person is Joseph Matheatau, South Africas first accredited blind barista and the country’s first blind barista trainer.

Joseph serving the best coffee in Worcester

Without the aid of sight, Joseph seems to know his way around a barista machine like a pianist knows a keyboard. He has to use his other senses; when texturing the milk, he senses how milk feels when he works with it, and that’s how he knows if it’s ideal for a latte, flat white or cappuccino.

Mountain Biking

Worcester’s locations amongst the mountains mean that there are activities abound for adventurers and the more active amongst us. A stay at Golden Valley Lodge means that the trails are located right behind you.

The hotels managing director, Keenan Bergins, showed me some of the trails sprawled out amongst the fynbos slopes. There are more than enough trails to suit mountain bikers of any level and the nearby roads into the valley are safe and quiet in the morning for a relaxed, panoramic morning ride.

Stay Here

Golden Valley

Part of Sun International’s resorts, Golden Valley maintains the same standard, where rooms are tastefully decorated, and provide everything you need and more. With amenities including a swimming pool and a casino next door, you can even try your luck on the slot machines in the casino next door for a fun night out.

If that’s not to your taste, the hotel is centrally located, so the town centre is a short drive away from a selection of restaurants, and leaving at dawn gives you the chance to see the town in a different light where the tree-lined streets add the quaint aesthetic of the towns old buildings.

Eat here

The Hussar Grill

Conveniently situated in the centre of town, this grill has the personal touch of owners, Theunis and Peter, whose welcoming demeanour resonate through the rest of the staff.

With a quality menu you know you can trust, rest assured, you’ll be dining like kings during your stay in Worcester, where you can also savour the region’s wines from the local wine menu.

Visit their website here

Exploring more

Protea nectar

There is nothing quite as quintessentially South African as the Protea, and this incredible flower never ceases to amaze. Not only is it part of the most unique flora i the world, but who would have thought that distilling its nectar could produce premium Vodka?

Christopher Van Heerden thought up this idea while strolling the Breede Valley mountains his house is rested against and noticed a sugarbird feeding on the nectar of the protea.

Christopher, a programmer by trade, mentioned how he loved fermenting ginger beer as a child and always enjoyed the process of brewing and distilling.

Christopher trying to find the words to match his enthusiasm when explaining the distilling process.

‘It’s amazing, it was great the first time,’ Chris answered when I asked how many times he tried before he got it right as if Proteus was destined to be.

What are the possibilities for this vodka? That’s for you to determine, where Christopher says he just wants people to enjoy it, and it’s sure to add a great new twist to summer cocktails.

Visit their website here.

Six Dogs Distillery

A gin that has made its way beyond South Africa’s borders, Six Dogs Distillery has humble origins. What began as a project in the shed that six dogs used to sleep in, a converted copper geyser was used for a pot still, with a fire burning underneath for heat.

Surrounding this still, were six dogs trying to keep warm and over time, a gin distillery unfolded, with bottles on the shelves of bars and cafes in 22 countries.

Situated in another one of the many breathtaking valleys of the region, where they grow their Karoo botanicals and source fresh ingredients from surrounding farmers, the distillery is nestled amongst the mountains, where the infrequently travelled road makes you doubt if you took the right turnoff.

It is also home to some of the Six Dogs, where three of the friendly great Danes are excited to greet you. The tasting is relaxed and informative, and the distillery’s secluded location means you’ll have an intimate tasting as you are taken through their five gins.

There is of course a London-dry style gin-infused with karoo botanicals such as Karoo thorn blossom. They spent more than two years trying to perfect this recipe, and the results will speak for themselves.


Fortunately, their next gin was perfected a bit quicker, the Six Dogs Blue Gin. Infused with blue tea flower, which distiller Charles Bryant and his wife stumbled across while on holiday in Indonesia. This is often drank as a tea in Indonesia as well as an antioxidant and alleged aphrodisiac, but gives the gin its blue colour and shouldn’t have the same effect as a certain blue pill.

They are three other gins, which include the Blue Light, also infused with the blue tea flower, but this botanical spirit is lower in alcohol (24%), with all the characteristic flavour characteristics of a quality gin.

Visit their website here

De Wet Cellar

Just a stone throw away from Six Dogs, lies De Wet Cellar, one of the several great wine farms in the region. A stylish tasting room welcomes you, where you can indulge yourself with any wine that you fancy.

With their range ranging from light white wines to full-bodied reds and even the sweeter things like a muscadel or a heartier Cape ruby port.

Their Mash-up range, however, deserves a mention,  which includes a white blend, red blend and rose are all fantastic wines to enjoy with a meal or on its own.

Visit their website here


Not far from De Wet Cellar, is a farm so elegant with wines so good that even Queen Elizabeth visited the farm during her grand tour in 1947.

The quirky art adorning the surrounding walls on the farm adds to the farm’s charm.

Leipzig is a beautiful boutique wine farm in the idyllic Nuy Valley. The old cellar has been turned into a grand wedding venue and quirky art adorning some of the farm rustic walls, adding to the overall charm.

The white wine that Queen Elizbeth drank was found when clearing out the cellar, alongside the new vintage on the right.

Tasting here is laid back and unrushed on this quiet farm, which is more known for its reds, but be sure to try the whole range. Because it’s a boutique cellar, their batches are limited to a few bottles which often sell out. This little gem is the perfect stop, where a scenic drive takes you away from the country’s main arteries.

Visit their website here

Willow Creek Olive Estate

This valley is not only for the wine and spirit drinkers, but the valley of plenty is a culinary treat, and Willow Creek Olive Estate has been producing international award-winning olive oils since 1999.

With their olive oil range extending as far as 9 different infusions and varietals of olive oils, a visit is a treat for the pallet, which desperately needed a break from the wine.

While there, be sure to also try their table olives, tapenades and balsamic vinegar range.

Visit their website here

Nuy on the Hill

Situated at the top of a hill at end of the Nuy Valley, Nuy Winery’s tasting room and restaurant is the place to go to cap off your tasing experiences for the day.

The view from Nuy on the Hill is perfectly perched to see the mountains.

Nuy Winery produces 10 000 tonnes of grapes each year, but selects only 3% for their winery, with the rest sold off. With their range including wine for every kind of wine drinker, their muscadel has a legendary status.

The Breede and Robertson Valleys are strongholds of the Muscadel, where this style of wine, a sweet salacious surrender, is only really produced in South Africa and is one of the hidden wine treasures of the world, and this valley is keeping it well and truly alive.

Nuy Winery’s renowned muscadel. Picture: Nuy WInery.

This sweet fortified wine is a delectable delight, and Nuys award-winning muscadel never disappoints. Thanks to its high sugar content, muscadels age well and some of Nuys vintages are sought after by wine connoisseurs  Be sure to settle down for a meal after the long day, where the kitchen serves up hearty meals that are sure to hit the spot.

Visit their website here

Saggy Stone Brewing Company

Situated on a gravel road that veers away from R62 is Saggy Stone Brewing Company, which has been making quality local craft beers since 2007.

Picture: Saggy Stone

Even though the brewery may have bars in Cape Town and Stellenbosch, visitors to the original brewery, where all beers are carefully brewed from the fresh mountain spring water.

The brewery also has live music on Sundays, and with delectable wood-fired pizzas and 15 delicious, but different beers to try, a stop here is a must for when you tire from drinking wine (if that is even possible).

Visit their Website here

Stay here

De Wilge

You going to want to squeeze in as many stops as you can, because you are not going to one to skip any, so it will be wise to book nearby, in the Nuy Valley.

De Wilge offers manor house rooms and self-catering suites included two rooms, with en suite bathrooms, a kitchen, and a gorgeous stoep that looks over the Hex mountains. The honeymoon suite is kitted with a wood-fired hot tub to relax with a glass of your favourite wine of the day.

To Book

Contact: [email protected]

Visit their website here.

For more information, visit Worcester Tourism

Pictures: David Henning & Suzanne Scholtz


6 incredible wine farms to visit in the Breede River Valley



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