The Hemel-en-Aarde near Hermanus is far from a bargain-hunter’s paradise. Top-rated wineries and equally remarkable eateries line the R320, the valley’s aorta, and the Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs for which these wards are known are priced at R150 and up. So why go? Unlike some other Cape winelands regions, when it comes to accommodation there are serious bargains to found.
For setting and affordability, my favourite place to stay is a free-range pig farm (or rather the purveyors of ‘happy hogs’) about 20 kilometres from Caledon. Glen Oakes Guest Farm has just two self-catering options. The Wooden Cabin is a wonderfully secluded, romantic retreat tucked into a thicket of oak and poplar trees. If you must bring the kids, the cabin does sleep four (albeit snugly in a queen bed in the bedroom and a two-sleeper bunk in the lounge). There’s also small stone pool catches the ice-cold water from a passing mountain stream, offering respite from the summer heat.
For larger families, the Stone Cottage is a cobbled hideaway dwarfed by towering pines. From the screed cement verandah with its built-in braai, green lawns roll towards a fresh-water rock pool flanked by a deck that’s made for lazy afternoons. The house sleeps eight in two double bedrooms and two bunks in the cosy living area. But I wouldn’t recommend filling it to capacity unless you’re happy to get very familiar with the rest of your party. The kitchen is small and there’s just one bathroom, plus an outside shower.
The appeal of a getaway at Glen Oakes is the simplicity. Neither cottage has electricity, but the fridge, stove and geyser run off gas and plenty of lanterns are provided. The décor is unpretentious but tasteful: cream couches, white linen, stone walls and cement floors. Plus the cottages are located such a wonderful distance from one another that you won’t know there are other guests on the farm unless you happen upon them on a walk through the fields.
Place an order for coppa, parma ham and salami, as well as fresh farm eggs and honey, and you’ll find it in your fridge on arrival.
Rates from R700 per night for the first two people. R200 per person thereafter. R150 per child. Camping is also available at a private campsite. www.glenoakes.co.za
Where to eat and things to do
There are 15 wine farms dotted along the R320. If you’re short on time, I suggest a stop at Hamilton Russell Vineyards for its icon Chardonnay. Then move on to Bouchard Finlayson for its unusual red blend called Hanniabal, Newton Johnson for its various incarnations of Pinot Noir, and Creation for a guided food and wine pairing.
Mogg’s Country Cookhouse (tel 076-314-0671), about 15 minutes’ drive from Glen Oakes towards Hermanus, serves a great lamb shank and has a large lawn and jungle gyms for kids.
Stop at the Wine Village at the Hemel en Aarde Village (www.hemelenaardevillage.co.za) for a spectacular selection of wines, including wines from the area at cellar price.
If you’re in the area on a Saturday, make a stop at the Hermanuspietersfontein Saturday Market (www.hpf1855.co.za) to stock up on farm bread, cheeses and fresh fruit and veg.