Find your bliss among Springholm’s rolling hills
There is something idyllic about KwaZulu-Natal’s Midlands. The rolling hills and winding roads dotted with shops selling crafts, nibbles and everything in-between beckon to all manner of traveller, from the curious explorer ready to take on the Midlands Meander to the weary soul wanting to curl up with a glass of wine in front of a fire. It is a measured place that invites you to take a breath and centre yourself.
It is this setting that makes the new Springholm Cottages just off the N3 between Johannesburg and Durban a soothing escape. Found in the heart of the Midlands at Blue Crane Nature Reserve, Springholm borders the larger Brahman Hills property where you can enjoy the comforts of restaurants and a spa on offer to guests.
On a weekend visit you soon find yourself unwinding in one of seven new cottages, four of them overlooking a dam. Nestled in a beautiful valley where the quiet is only interrupted by the occasional splash of a duck on the water, this is the kind of place you go to find peace; where you snuggle up beneath plush blankets and sink into oversized pillows with a book or a loved one and let your worries melt into the sun’s rays bouncing off the water outside your window.
The blankets, it turns out, are essential. In winter, the temperatures can easily plummet below zero overnight.
The misty air that sets in at daybreak is the perfect accompaniment to a beautiful drive on the Midlands Meander with an occasional stop for a steaming cup of coffee. For this, The Barn Owl is a must.
Set on Groundcover farm on the Midlands Meander, the glass-and-steel building is built in the shape of a barn. Think wooden tables, origami birds hanging from the ceiling, potted green plants with little pink flowers — it nudges visitors to take a seat and stay for a while. The menu changes regularly, taking into account seasonal ingredients sourced locally.
If regular coffee stops and all manner of shops selling leather goods, works of art and edible delicacies become exhausting, it might be time to head to the Blueberry Café and Happy Days Brewery. If gin is your cup of tea, be sure to sample a taste of the Netherwood blueberry gin and freshly baked blueberry cheesecake. If a brew sounds more appealing, the Happy Days Brewery aims to please. The pièce de résistance of this venue is the view from the toilets: large glass windows look out onto cows lazily grazing on the rolling hills outside. It is peculiar but also strangely amusing.
If your idea of a weekend getaway is your feet propped up, stay in and arrange for a luxe picnic on the grass overlooking the dam, complete with chairs, pillows, cushions and umbrellas. Sporting sunglasses, this is the way to spend an afternoon: glass of champagne in one hand and a fork of nibbles in the other.
As far as indulgences go, a visit to Springholm won’t be complete without a dinner at 89 on Copper at Brahman Hills. Slip down a staircase leading from the elegant reception and descend into the wine cellar that houses a bar and cosy restaurant. Dimly lit and filled with rustic charm, 89 on Copper is perfect for intimate fine-dining dinners. Soft lighting emanates from portholes in the wall that store a variety of top-shelf wines that are served alongside options such as seared duck breast as part of their pairing menu.
Centring yourself comes with a bit of balance and for this Blue Crane Nature Reserve offers the perfect backdrop. A hike through the undulating landscape, past the magnificent Brahman cattle, wildebeest and sprightly buck, provides the perfect amount of fresh air and exercise, complete with crossing logs over babbling streams and conquering a small hill that feels much larger midway up.
In wrapping up an outdoor adventure, a full-body massage, body scrub and soak in bath crystals are just what the doctor ordered. As you sip on a cappuccino or cup of tea, enjoy a manicure or pedicure in the afterglow of an afternoon of relaxation along with the view — a stretch of lovely landscape blanketed in green in summer. You’ll want to stay and, when you leave, you’ll want to come back.
• The writer was a guest of Brahman Hills
• For more information or to make a booking visit www.brahmanhills.co.za.