I spend a night at Jan Harmsgat Country House in Swellendam

One of my resolutions for this year was to explore as much as I could of our beautiful country. We don’t need to travel overseas for epic landscapes, pristine beaches, luxury accommodation and fine dining; we can get it right on our doorstep. A little while ago I joined a media trip to the Langeberg valley, which includes Bonnievale, Robertson, Swellendam and Montagu, and I was once again blown away by the beauty and bounty on offer just a hop and a skip from Cape Town.

Our second day in the valley ended at Jan Harmsgat Country House, a spot I’ve been keen to visit for a while now. It had been a busy day exploring the wine valley and we were happy to finally arrive at our home for the evening. We reached the farm just as the sun was dipping behind the hills, colouring the valley from orange to pink and purple, until finally throwing us into that cool, dark evening you only find in the platteland.

We stayed in The Classic Quarters, four en-suite rooms in what use to be the original slave quarters. They have retained the historic character of the house, which was built in 1723. You’ll find original yellow wood finishes, shuttered windows and a selection of antique furniture pieces that reflect the Cape Dutch heritage. At the same time the space has a modern, sophisticated comfort to it, with a plush king-size bed covered in ultra luxurious percale bedding, so that the first thing I did on arrival was to kick my shoes off and settle down with a cup of tea.

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Jan Harmsgat Liezel Malherbe 9Lives 1

After a quick R&R session we headed to dinner at Just Amy restaurant, housed in the main building. Like the rooms, the restaurant has a homey, comfortable feel with chic, modern finishes. The kitchen plays to this tune, serving comforting, hearty dishes made using fresh, seasonal produce from their garden and the surrounding area. They are constantly changing their offering to reflect the season.

After a full day of eating and more eating, I didn’t think I could possibly fit in another bite. But then the food arrived and found myself eagerly digging in. For a starter I had  succulent and salty sweet oriental-style fish cakes with a lemon aioli, corn salad and baby leaves. And as a main I tried their chicken ballotine, simple but delicious with fresh veggies and a crushed herb potatoes.

Dinner was paired with a selection of the Jan Harmsgat wines. I particularly liked the Shiraz on the red side, and their Sauvignon Blanc from the whites.

In Afrikaans we have a saying, “magies vol ogies toe”, as in, when you’re tummy is full it is time to head to bead. At this point I was more than ready to curl up under the soft white duvet in my room so after a final sip of wine we headed back. The crunch of our shoes on the gravel was only broken by the low grunt and rustle of a wildebeest herd in the distance, and other than than the night was perfectly quiet.  Just what you want from a breakaway.

The next morning arrived cool and tranquil, with the sun taking its time to dip into the valley. We still had a full day ahead so we grabbed an early breakfast before heading on a quick drive to explore the farm. Normally breakfast is a full buffet packed with pastries, homemade muesli and yogurt, freshly brewed coffee and juice, and if you still have space you can order a hot breakfast to follow. That morning they were prepping for Mother’s Day and so they brought the buffet to our table, complete with croissants and muffins, cheese and charcuterie, fresh fruit, and really delicious, fresh pomegranate juice.

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After breakfast we took a drive across the farm, taking us through the vineyards, their pomegranate and pecan nut orchards, past their herds of wildebeest, and finally right to the top of the mountain from where we could take in the entire valley on all sides.

According to them the best time for guests to visit is during summer, when they can pick pomegranates straight from the trees and enjoy a picnic or a braai on the mountain. I am definitely eager to go back for a longer stay. There is plenty to taste and try on the farm, and it’s a quick drive to Swellendam, Bonnievale, Roberson and McGregor, all gorgeous little country towns.

For more information and rates, visit janharmsgat.com

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