Chris Harvie moves into a mansion away from Plett’s seaside hordes
Opening the oversized front door, we step into a panelled, yellowwood-floored hall which seems to extend for ever through a sumptuous but unpretentious drawing room and then onwards again through Georgian-style sash windows and into the fynbos beyond.
So my one of travelling companions does the only thing one can really do when faced with such magnificence. He sits down at the grand piano and plays Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. Not perfectly, but well enough to pay tribute to a glorious setting …
Staying at Fairview is like having your own country house, away from the seaside hordes but close enough to be on the beach at Nature’s Valley in 15 minutes or shopping in Plettenberg Bay in ten. The house is fully serviced and it is managed from day to day by the unobtrusive but ever-enthusiastic Willemijn Murray.
The drawing room is well-furnished but uncluttered, the walls decked with understated artworks and shelves lined with a remarkable collection of books. Bedrooms ripple with crisp white cotton and modern bathrooms are fully supplied with soaps and smells.
The house is set in 30 hectares of fynbos and looks westwards over the Keurbooms indigenous forest to the mountains beyond where, on the night of our arrival, the sun sinks languorously between two distant peaks as we wander around the lovely semi-formal garden, a large gin and tonic in hand. Near the house stands a small pond with trickling fountain and deeper in the fynbos and almost hidden from view we find a swimming pool. This would also be a wonderful place to bring children, safe as houses in the walled-off garden.
While Fairview would undoubtedly be a great place to do nothing but soak up the, let’s face it, very fair view, it is I think probably best suited to doing the exact opposite and to assembling a gang of mates with walking boots, fishing rods and mountain bikes and making the most of all that this unspoilt corner of the garden route offers without mingling with the masses.
As dawn streaks the sky orange the next day, we head down the winding pass to Nature’s Valley for a potter around the lagoon followed by an hour-long walk along one of the region’s most unspoilt beaches and then breakfast in the village shop.
By midday, we have made our way through Plett to the car park at the outset of one of our country’s most magnificent day walks, and headed right to the end of the Robberg Peninsula, with its dense flowers, long views and bobbing seals. It is not an easy walk but, on a sunny day, it’s an absolute must.
In the evening, shoes and socks off, we knock up a toothsome kudu salami salad in the kitchen-cum-dining-room-cum-parlour where a roaring fire in the grate means that everyone can snuggle down after supper, nibble on a delicious Emmentaler from Nature’s Way Farm Stall and sip on a Boplaas Port from the excellent Thyme and Again deli.
Plettenberg Bay has so much to offer the weekender apart from the obvious shopping. There’s a snake park, there’s Monkeyland and there’s Birds of Eden which, under a two-hectare dome, is the world’s largest free flight bird sanctuary. If you prefer your birds completely unfettered, Fairview is also right on the edge of the Tsitsikamma National Park and there’s any number of walks and Big Trees with great birding.
If you are really bonkers and up for even more superlatives, the world’s highest bridge-based bungy-jump is just up the road on the Bloukrans Bridge.
Plettenberg Bay is a prime tourism town and as such there’s a wide range of restaurants from which to choose. We lunch at the delightful Emily Moon and then enjoy a really good dinner at Simon Ash’s restaurant, The Fat Fish, where under pressure from the maître d’ we even try some of the local wines. Plettenberg Bay is a relatively new Wine Region and the LuKa Sauvignon Blanc is excellent with the Hake en Papillotte, steamed in a paper bag. Strongly recommended.
After a night out on the town, the ten minute drive back to Fairview fades into nothing. We pour ourselves another port, just to round off the evening as the moon rises over the silent fynbos. It is hard to imagine that the N2 is less than a kilometre away and that we are deep in tourism country. We soon fall for the allure of the rippling cotton-sheeted beds and our contented snores become our own Nachtmusik in our own baronial mansion.
Where it is: Just inside the Western Cape at The Crags, between the Tsitsikamma Forest and Plettenberg Bay.
Why go there: To fool yourself that you have your own mansion within minutes of the beach and to make the most of all that Plettenberg Bay has to offer without actually having to stay there.
What it has: In the main house, a master bedroom with en-suite bathroom and a family suite upstairs with two bedrooms and a shared bathroom. In the cottage there are three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
What it’s like: Classic, classy, cool, comfortable.
Rates: R800 per person per night in the main bedroom and R700 in the family room. R670 in the cottage. Off-season from R560. Exclusive use and self-catering options also available.
Getting there: Fairview is 10km from the Keurbooms River Bridge, heading from Plettenberg Bay towards Port Elizabeth. The entrance is before The Crags village and just past the entrance to Royston farm.
Emily’s at Emily Moon – open Tuesday to Sunday for lunch and daily for dinner Tel 044 533 2982
The Fat Fish – open daily from 11.30am to 10.00pm Tel 044 533 4740
Nature’s Way Farm Stall – excellent cheeses and a small coffee shop menu available. 044 534 8849
Thyme and Again – on the N2 just east of Plettenberg Bay. 044 535 9432