Head for the hills

PHOTOS: Adriaan Oosthuizen | PRODUCTION: Cornelia Badenhorst | WORDS: Mirelle Leyden

Tucked between the rolling hills of the Overberg region in the Western Cape lies an old farm transformed into an idyllic weekend getaway retreat.

The farm gates at the entrance to Halfaampieskraal have come to mean much more than mere functional markers built to keep strangers out and welcome guests in.

They signify that it is time for all who pass through them to cast off the effects of urban living in favour of spending hours lazing in the sun with a book in hand, distracted only by the aroma of freshly baked bread and the sight of a flock of sugar-white geese in the distance.

This is but a glimpse of the pleasures waiting to be enjoyed on a farm that has been transformed into an idyllic weekend getaway.

Jan-Georg Solms inherited Halfaampieskraal, a wool, down, wheat and dairy farm near Napier, from his father. He spent his early childhood at a farm school, his horse waiting to be saddled up after his homework was done so that he could visit neighbouring friends a few hills away.

Keeping a legacy alive

It was the memory of this country way of life that inspired Jan-Georg to keep the legacy of this magical place alive. A firm believer in the adage that, “The pleasures of life taste sweeter when shared,” he has made the magic of Halfaampieskraal accessible to whomever wants to experience it.

Jan-Georg has transformed the manor house into a masterpiece of colonial elegance met with contemporary and sometimes idiosyncratic charm. Even more impressive was the metamorphosis of the old farm school and blacksmith’s forge into a three-bedroom guesthouse that is worthy of a five-star rating, a project he undertook with his partner, Cobus Geldenhuys.

“With countless friends making their way to the farm every weekend, it soon became clear that we needed to create more accommodation,” he explains. “Fifty metres or so away from the manor house, the answer to our dilemma was staring us square in the eyes. It took a mere six weeks – strongly motivated by the reality of a looming party – to transform the existing building into three bedrooms and build on three accompanying en-suite bathrooms.”

A true farm experience

A dazzling welcoming party of sunflowers greets visitors who arrive at the guesthouse, where it is immediately apparent that Jan-Georg has created a resting place for his guests that captures the essence of a true farm experience. This authenticity has been achieved by paying impeccable attention to detail.

The beds have been custom-made to be about 30 cm longer and higher off the ground than conventional beds – a hallmark of farm-style living. To give modern bathroom accessories a time-honoured essence, Jan-Georg scoured ordinary Cobra taps to make them look like classic antique finds, while the tiles on the bathroom walls have been placed in a staggered pattern to create a feeling of depth and texture.

Jan-Georg’s keen eye and natural aptitude for styling has resulted in an effect that is more like a work of art than interior decoration: A solitary heart-shaped antique glass vessel gracefully lying on the windowsill, or a lampshade filled with antelope horns are but a few examples of this. But what remains the most integral part of this experience is inhaling as much of the fresh farm air as is humanly possible.

For this reason, two of the rooms have outside showers, for there’s nothing quite like watching cows grazing in the fields while hot water and fresh air give your soul its daily fix. And there are many more special touches.

Guests are welcome to enjoy the fresh milk available in the manor- house kitchen courtesy of the farm’s Jersey cows, as well as the use of the dining room and pool area. Sundowners are served from 6pm, followed by a hearty dinner on the front porch.

Lazy days

Days are spent lazing around or exploring the area on Halfaampieskraal’s mountain bikes, and Napier is only 20 minutes away if you’re in the mood for visiting a quaint restaurant or coffee shop. Chances are, however, that you won’t want to set foot off the farm, even if you’re in the mood for entertainment.

Jan-Georg has transformed an old shed into a party venue that oozes chic style and elegant Cuban extravagance. Club Havana serves luscious Cuban food prepared by Cobus, and acts as a venue for a variety of functions. A party of 60 can be seated comfortably, while still leaving ample room for a dance floor.

A delightful host at night and a rooted-in-the-soil farmer by day, Jan-Georg has created a farm fantasy that will keep you longing for those magical Halfaampieskraal moments long after your visit has passed – and keep you coming back for more.

• Halfaampieskraal: 028 452 1744, 082 569 0438, www.kraal.biz, rooms@kraal.biz