When I mentioned I was going to be visiting the Hartford House, I was met with “ooooh’s” and “aaaaaah’s.” Clearly Hartford had set high standards already judging by the responses.
So of course, you can imagine my excitement leading up to our staycation in Mooi River.
But first, let’s dive into a bit about its history…
Hartford’s beauty was discovered by the Moor family almost 150 years ago, when they came by its vacant landscape in the early 1870s. Home to the family of John and Sir Frederick Moor, the last prime minister of old Natal, the property is now part of the greater Summerhill estate, former domain of Colonel Richards, a senator in the first Union government.
My husband, Nick and I left Umhlanga and set off towards Hartford House. Only a 1 hour & 50 minute drive and we were in paradise.
Driving through the gates of Hartford, we were greeted with herds of horses and their young, scattered across the fields. I knew then and there that we were going to have an incredibly special experience.
Arriving at reception, we were offered a welcome drink before being escorted to our room. Our room was the Moor Suite 1, named after the founders of Hartford House. We felt as if we had an entire apartment all to ourselves! With two bathrooms and an outside private garden… what more could you ask for?
This suite has accommodated the last Prime Minister of the Colony, Sir Frederick Moor, the first Prime Minister of the Union, General Botha, and the former British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill.
Dinner was to be at 7pm. We had a courteous knock on our door from a staff member around 6:30pm to remind us, leaving me speechless at how thoughtful the staff were.
We walked into the dining area and were shown to our sweet candle-lit table for two, perfectly decorated with fresh lilies. A 4-course menu was presented to us to which we quickly glanced at.
Aa we ordered a bottle of champers from our lovely waitress, we met the head chef, Matthew Armbruster who promptly introduced himself before running through the menu in full detail.
We kicked off our dinner with artisan breads and snacks from the kitchen before tucking into our first course, the kudu carpaccio paired with biltong, picked red onion, charred grapes and cured egg yolk. It sounds strange, but this combination was nothing like we’ve ever had before.
Shortly afterwards, we were presented with a pork and scallop dish, complete with sweetcorn, summer squash and col’tempo chorizo. Once we had wolfed down this, we had a short break before commencing, chatting over our glass of wine.
The escort lamb was served next complete with summer peas, kiwi, radish and baby onions. Soft and tender, this was my hubby’s favourite!
We then ended off our meal with a Flowers of Hartford House for dessert which included chamomile, lavender, lemon verbena and rose.
After the best meal(s) and dining experience we’ve ever had, all thanks to Chef Matthew Armbruster, his culinary team & the restaurant team, we headed back to our castle – I mean, our room for a much needed good night’s sleep.
But not before being surprised by a scatter of rose petals around the bed and in the bathtub! Hartford House’s housekeeping staff had attended to our room while we were dining. Such a thoughtful touch to our already incredible experience. I decided to trade in my normal everyday shower routine for a bath in their marble bathtub. I was in heaven.
Saturday morning rolled in and we were up. We took a short walk down the passageway to the dining area for our breakfast. Seated at our table, our breakfast orders were taken down and we indulged in a good cup of coffee, (or two.)
The weather was somewhat moody and cloudy, with a sprinkle of rain. That didn’t put a dampener on our plans, however. We decided to make use of Hartford’s bicycles to tour around the farm. Returning back from our cycle, we noticed hundreds of beautiful brightly coloured orange birds resting in the reeds. We stopped and watched in awe. Truly a remarkable sight!
We headed back to our accommodation to change out of our cycling gear and slipped into something much more comfortable, before taking a walk down to the lake.
At the lake, we decided to try our hand at canoeing, something we rarely get the opportunity to do back home. After a ‘wobbly’ start, we paddled off to the middle of the lake. With the sounds of birds chirping – it was somewhat both peaceful and exhilarating.
Midday came and our tummies were rumbling. We used this as an opportunity to explore the surrounding area of Hartford House. Just down the road from Hartford, is a cute little town of Mooi River.
After our mini adventure, we felt homesick for Hartford House and made our way back. We had a little afternoon snooze in our giant king-sized bed before getting dressed for the traditional zulu dancing show.
We were offered drinks by the friendly waiters and escorted into the garden in front of Hartford House. An array of chairs were laid out for us to sit. With a drink in our hands, the show kicked off and we were treated to a spectacular performance from zulu dancers that were from a local township.
Afterwards, we dined in style, only this time in our own private room! Oblivious to the fact that my top matched the curtains, I loved the experience. It felt like a proper date, and just what we needed.
Chef Matthew Armbruster was incredibly attentive and accommodating during the entire dining experience, personally serving some of the dishes himself. It was wonderful being able to interact with the chef while dining.
Hartford House is definitely a unique experience and something to be considered for your next weekend away.
We were thoroughly impressed by the attentive staff, the housekeeping ladies and the waiters. Their attention to every detail really blew us away and added something extra to an already special experience.
Visit www.hartfordhouse.co.za to book your next stay.
Twice voted “Best South African Restaurant” in the Visa/House & Leisure Awards.
- Voted Best Boutique Hotel in the Travel category of the “Top Billing Momentum
- Hartford House was nominated by the travel trade in South Africa and the United Kingdom as one of a select group of Gold Achiever Award Winners in the AA Travel Guides Accommodation Awards programme alongside the leading establishments in the nation.
- Voted by Fair Lady as the No 1 Romantic rendezvous.
- Several times ranked in the top two Fine Country Estates category at Indaba, South Africa’s premier international travel show.
- Voted by Femina magazine among the top special wedding destinations countrywide.
- Topcar magazine’s preferred destination.
- Described by Marie Claire magazine as one of Africa’s most memorable experiences.
- Rated by Cosmopolitan magazine as South Africa’s leading romantic destination.
In its only assessment in recent years, American Express counted Hartford House among its Top Five Luxury Lodges in its Southern African Classic Collection.
Want to stay in the heart of Cape Town? Here’s why The Cape Milner should be your go-to.
For Durbanites, a trip to Cape Town is always enthralling. White-sand beaches, throngs of restaurants, and sea life sightings are just some of the things we look forward to when visiting our Mother City. Of course, the various accommodation on offer forms part of said hype – and can either make or break your experience!
Well, we’re here to tell you this: If you’re looking for a hotel that’s contemporary, comfy, central, quiet and not too costly, we’ve found the place for you. Not to mention its fascinating decor, great hospitality, and luxury charm that just wraps you up and keeps you snug throughout your entire stay.
The opulent Cape Milner building matches Cape Town’s Victorian aesthetic. But inside you’ll find a mix of art-deco, modern and African chic; much like the feel of modern Africa today.
As if wedged at the bottom of Table Mountain, the views from the rooms and lounges are spectacular. We particularly enjoyed dining out in the swanky Glass Lounge, where you can look up into the blue sky or night stars while you enjoy a hearty lamb shank below.
Our homely rooms overlooked the serene Milner Road, with its impressive avenues of trees. We were given complimentary macarons on arrival and enjoyed them with tea as we watched the rain pitter-patter on the tails of unbothered squirrels — how cute! The Milner Hotel really is a place you can enjoy come rain or shine.
The hotel was the absolute, perfect base from which to explore pretty much everything and anything. Just a few minutes drive away lies Bree and Kloof – two favourites, Metropolitan streets for tourists and locals alike. Over the few days of our stay we visited many great spots, all within 5-10 minutes away.
We sank our teeth into cheesy pizza at the much-hyped “I love the dough” and tried out “Mochi Mochi” for dessert; we ordered fizzing and steaming cocktails from “Cause and Effect” at the V&A; and of course, we spent a fun-filled evening at the cheeky and illustrious “Beefcakes” in Green Point.
After each jam-packed day, coming home to our state-of-the-art bathtub and luxurious linen was the cherry on top. It fitted in perfectly with our diverse range of activities we had planned, and matched the entire style of our trip.
We didn’t want to leave!
And of course, we can’t wait to stay again…
To book your stay at the Cape Milner, contact
Tel: +27 11 516 4367
Tugela River Lodge – A must for your bucket list!
Tugela River Lodge is a self-catering eco-lodge situated in Winterton. They are completely off the grid, using solar power and gas to run their lodge.
Being pet-friendly, Tugela is the perfect place to bring the entire family, literally! As well as for singles, couples or friends.
With 5 cottages to choose from, you can either book the Main Lodge which sleeps up to 14, The Hideaway which is a 6 sleeper and The Rapids, The River House and Kingfisher Cottage which are all 4 sleeper.
All of the cottages don’t have any TV sets. Tugela River Lodge wants to instead encourage visitors to experience nature – which we definitely agree with.
We stayed at the River House which was a double storey house, ensuring we each had privacy as a couple.
The Green family have been running the lodge for over 20 years. They have a passion for mountain biking, trail running and the outdoors in general. Every year, The Berg & Bush cycle ride and The Oxpecker trail run take place.
Upon arrival, check in was such a breeze – we found our accommodation easily and settled in for the night.
For dinner we opted to have a braai. The boys loved catching up while us girls chilled on the comfiest couches with a glass of red.
We were joined by two of the owner’s dogs, as well as a cat, making us feel right at home.
Our double storey house had more of a modern feel than the rest of the cottages. We had a spacious lounge all to ourselves which was part of an open plan kitchen. The main bedroom had a double bed with an open plan shower and toilet, while the upstairs room had a double bed with the most gorgeous outside view.
We were fully equipped with high speed WI-FI too. A bonus if you’re needing this feature while on your trip away. The River House is the only unit to have this functionality.
The River House is also ideal for bringing your pets as the property is well fenced off – You don’t have to worry about losing your fur-babies!
WHAT TO DO NEARBY
You don’t really need to leave Tugela. With plenty of walking trails available, one can find themselves walking along the beautiful Tugela River.
If you feel like a drive however, we would recommend Spioenkop Nature Reserve. A popular water sport destination, it also offers a serene game reserve environment. We saw rhino, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest and many different species of birds.
You can also take a drive through the Tugela game reserve with a cooler box and watch the sun go down with views of the Drakensberg on one side and the Freestate on the other.
ACTIVITIES AT TUGELA:
Other activities at Tugela include trails for walking/running, kayaking along the river, daily animal feeding and use of their farmstall for any fresh produce.
BOOK YOUR STAY AT TUGELA RIVER LODGE:
Cellphone/Whatsapp: +27 82 823 4746
REVIEW: Hilton Hotel Umhlanga Arch
Hilton Garden Inn is the first of its kind in South Africa, situated at the new Umhlanga Arch, welcoming both local and international guests. Durbanite recently experienced first hand what they have to offer.
From the moment you walk in, you experience a relaxed environment, making you feel right at home. The Hilton Garden Inn Umhlanga Arch is a technologically advanced hotel, allowing guests to check in, select and unlock your room, as well as access the guest lift, easily from your mobile phone. The hotel boasts a fitness centre, outdoor swimming pool with a great view of the upcoming developments in the area as well as the stunning sea Durban has to offer, as well as a laundry room and currency exchange for international guests.
The staff at the Hilton Garden Inn Umhlanga Arch are friendly and extremely helpful and have adopted a “Brightheartered Hospitality” approach.
“It was amazing, the staff remember your name, they learn more about why you are visiting and really go out of their way to make your experience a memorable one.” Commented Bianca Hauser, Durbanite contributor.
There are 203 rooms kitted out with coffee and tea brewers, a flat screen HDTV, a hairdryer, iron and ironing board (perfect for out of town guests), along with a mini refrigerator. Hilton Garden Inn Umhlanga Arch ensure to adhere to Covid-19 safety regulations by cleaning rooms before check in as well as after check out. They are currently participating in the Hilton CleanStay Program with Lysol Protection to deliver an even cleaner and safer experience for guests.
“I really felt comfortable during these times, as once staff clean a room, they have the Hilton CleanStay Room Seal that indicates to us that a room has not been accessed since it was cleaned and disinfected.”
The hotel ensures sufficient spacing in the dining hall and hand sanitizers can be found throughout the hotel. Guests are encouraged to use disposable gloves provided when dishing up salad for the meals and the Chefs are responsible for dishing up dinner, limiting exposure.
Together & Co aims to bring people together, “one meal, coffee and conversation at a time”. Those who are not guests at the hotel are also welcome to dine at the restaurant or have a drink at the bar. Hilton Garden Inn Umhlanga Arch also boasts a 24-hour self-service retail space, “The Shop”, which offers snacks, locally sourced food and beverages as well as essential personal items, should guests need anything.
To book your stay, visit their website.
Durban, 4320, South Africa
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