I’ve reached that point in the year where thoughts of holidays have started to consume my mind. Sadly there is still a mountain between me and December beach bliss, which means that weekend getaways have become essential to my survival. We were invited to stay at the pristine Cellars-Hohenhort hotel, a haven at the foot of Table Mountain that provides all the calm of a countryside boutique hotel while being a stone throw from Cape Town.
The Cellars-Hohenort is tucked away in the Constantia suburbs. Thirty minutes drive from Cape Town takes you along winding roads shaded by lush forest, hugging the side of Table Mountain, until you finally dip down Hohenhort road and enter a world of estate homes, manicured lawns and clear opulence.
The nine acre estate sits on what used to be Klaasenbosch Farm. Since 1693 it has changed various hands and gone through a couple of face-lifts until Liz McGrath took over, establishing the current modern-meets-historic charm. They’ve gone through some trouble to preserve that old-world elegance while giving you the comforts of updated, chic finishes.
They’ve gone through some trouble to preserve that old-world elegance while giving you the comforts of updated, chic finishes
The best thing about Cellars-Hohenort is that you can treat yourself completely. They are home to a spa that offers full body treatments, facials and mani-pedis. You can enjoy fine dining at The Conservatory and Greenhouse restaurants, and you can even have your hair done for dinner at the beautiful Hair by Elouise salon. Upon arrival I ran off to the spa where a poor therapist took on my tension riddled muscles, while the husband was left to taste some wines, have a leisurely lunch and stroll through the gardens. I might have abandoned him a tiny bit, but he didn’t seem to mind.
Our suite was one of a few cottages to one side of the Cellars and Hohenort buildings, which house the rest of the 52 rooms. A gate leads you into a small courtyard garden with a long reflecting pool where a family of ducks had made themselves at home. It might have been the post-spa euphoria or all the fresh air but I really felt calm wash over me as I climbed the steps to our home for the weekend.
The Premier Suites are generously spacious and set up for visitors who are planning to stay a while. Each room has a different layout and style, but in our case you entered through a small kitchenette area where they spread out the basic selection of teas, along with a Nespresso coffee machine and pods for your morning fix. They also provided us with a fresh plate of fruits and a bottle of Klein Steenberg Cabernet Sauvignon as a welcoming gesture.
This hallway area leads through to the living room, with the bedroom and bathroom beyond that, all open plan to create the sense of light and space. Large glass windows take up one side of the suite, flooding the room with natural light, and doors lead out into the courtyard garden between the various suites.
One end of the living room is taken up by a small lounge area, where you can kick off your shoes and watch a movie on the large flat screen television, or lean back in the comfy wing with one of the books they’ve provided. I was particularly excited to see The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling) among their selection – it’s a favourite page turner of mine. They also offer complimentary Wi-Fi if you need to catch up on work or update your Facebook status.
On the opposite end of the room is a two-seater dining table where you can enjoy breakfast while reading the complimentary newspaper or paging through one of the magazines spread out for you.
The living room leads through to the bedroom where a large, fluffy four poster bed looked all kinds of inviting. I was very tempted to have a quick afternoon nap before heading out for dinner, but I don’t think I would have gotten up again.
Apart from the king size bed, the bedroom has also been furnished with a single lounge chair at one end, and a chest at the foot of the bed. In one corner there is a walk-in closet where you’ll find a safe to stow away any valuables as well as laundry bags, slippers, and plenty of shelf and closet space if you would like to make yourself at home.
The room has been decorated in a simplistic, modern style and that makes you feel at home, and as a whole I found the space inviting. The only thing I missed was a two-point plug by the bed to charge my phone. There was a point in the walk-in closet and another by the television, but since I set my alarm on my cellphone, it’s a bit cumbersome if you can’t have it on your bedside table.
The en suite bathroom is really beautiful with double basins, a large bathtub and a spacious shower with clear glass doors. There is plenty of counter space on the side of the basins to pack products, or some storage space below if you prefer to keep things tidy.
They have provided all the necessities, including a house-brand skincare line that I found pretty decent as far as hotel products go. I loved the heated towel rails in the bathroom – it is one of my ultimate luxuries to wrap a warmed, fluffy white towel around me after stepping out of the shower, just before slipping on one of those thick gowns and a pair of slippers.
Something we found a bit, um, intimate, was the rather exposed toilet situation. The bedroom and bathroom are open plan, and the toilet is separated with a glass door that has a large hole for a handle. Even though the husband and I have been together a while, there are some things we prefer to keep to ourselves and I don’t know whether a pair of newly-weds, for instance, would enjoy sharing absolutely everything on their honeymoon.
We went for dinner at Greenhouse that evening and on our return we found a warm, cosy bedroom thanks to their turn down service. They were clearly trying to create a romantic mood, with a bottle of bubbly waiting on the table in the living room and a plate of macarons on the bed surrounded by a scatter of rose leaves. The hotel slippers were taken out of their packaging and placed by the side of the bed, the fluffy duvet cover was folded back invitingly and a bottle of still water was placed on the bedside table.
We were so thoroughly wined and dined by the Greenhouse team that we couldn’t possibly fit in another crumb of food, so instead we phoned reception and ordered a morning coffee with our wake-up call before crawling into bed.
The next morning we were woken up on time with a quick knock on our door and a tray of freshly brewed coffee and biscuits. It was one of those murky October mornings and we had no problem taking it slowly, drinking a few cups in bed and reading a little before heading out to breakfast.
Breakfast is served at The Conservatory in the main building, a beautiful room with floor-to-ceiling glass windows looking out on the gardens. The buffet spread was pretty simple, with all your standard pastries, cereals including homemade muesli, and some fruits, meats and preserves. You also have the option to order a hot breakfast from your waiter, and I can highly recommend this. The husband went for The Cellar’s Full English breakfast complete with two fried eggs, back bacon, beef sausage, grilled tomato and sauteed mushrooms. I ordered the Eggs Benedict, served on a toasted English muffin with poached eggs resting on loin bacon, covered in a perfect Hollandaise Sauce.
After wiping up all the last bits from our plates and indulging in a slice of toast with jam, we decided to take a quick stroll through the garden and take in all the historic gems before heading home.
As mentioned, the Cellars-Hohenort was originally known as Klaasenbosch Farm, an estate that belonged to the chief surgeon of the Dutch East India Company, Hendrik ten Damme, in 1693. The Cellars building was the original wine cellar on the farm. In 1906 the farm was bought by Arnold Spilhaus who constructed the Hohenort Building. He replaced the original thatched farm house with the German-style manor and gave it the name, which means ‘High Place’.
After the death of Spilhaus in 1947 the farm was split into sections and sold off. Then in 1991 the Cellars Building was purchased by Liz McGrath, who wanted to restore its historical beauty. The Oregon pine staircase in the Cellars was built with the original timber from the roof of the building, and the lounge still shows off the original beam structure. The Conservatory was built around an oak tree as old as the Cellars, rising up between the two dining areas.
The Hohenort Hotel, which was being run by different owners until that point, was purchased by McGrath in 1993, uniting the two buildings and nine acres of surrounding property.
We took a stroll past the Hot Garden, down the Azalea and Rhododendron Walk and the Fern Walk, ending up in the Clivia Garden. From here we continued past the eight ancient Camphor Trees that have been growing here for over 150 years and are some of the oldest in the Cape. Then on and past the Chef’s Kitchen Garden Terrace until we reached the hand-wrought garden gate created by Professor Luck of Plettenberg Bay. This gate shows off details like tree frogs and snails, and took the Professor over a year to complete. It’s rather unassuming up close but actually impressive if you think it was all done by hand.
From there we walked through the Woodland garden to the Rustic Garden, which as been planted to reflect the more natural look of Edwardian gardens. With the overcast sky and light breeze it really did feel as though we had walked into a little piece of Europe, and when a gust caught one of the blossoming trees the sky was filled with a stream of tiny petals floating away.
And finally we walked past the Vineyard which which is planted with Hanepoot grapes used to make roughly 500 bottles of Vin de Hohenort each year, and ended up at the Liz McGrath Rose Garden with its collection of 2500 roses.
The Cellars-Hohenort is a beautiful getaway and a great choice if you want to spoil yourself. The premiere suites are gorgeous but they don’t come cheap. We were, however, taken through a couple of the room options and while you loose space when going for more afforable options, they haven’t compromised on the luxury. Their double rooms start at R3 850 and the premier suites like the one we stayed in starts at R8 300. You can click here for their full rates.
All in all we had an incredible stay at Cellars-Hohenort and I can definitely recommend it. If you are visiting South Africa as a tourist it is an ideal spot to stay since you’re close to the city but you can still enjoy the incredible beauty of these historic winelands. And if you’re a local, it is a stunning spot to treat yourself and a loved one.
For more information, go to collectionmcgrath.com