Grand Dedale Country House

Wellington, Cape Winelands & West Coast, South Africa Book from R2,520

Reviewed by Robyn Hodson
Opulent living in this Cape Dutch country house set deep in a tranquil valley on a working wine estate, 1 hour from Cape Town
Grand Dédale (Great Labyrinth) is a classy country house on the Doolhof Wine Estate a few kilometres outside Wellington, and an hour's drive from Cape Town. Within striking distance of the Paarl - Stellenbosch - Franschhoek winelands triangle, not to mention the picturesque Riebeek Valley ("Franschhoek 15 years ago"), it’s in the perfect situation for vineyard tours, mountain hikes, riding and cycling, as well as gentler sorties out into unspoiled Cape Province countryside. If you can bear to leave the comfort of the estate, that is...

The farm dates back to the beginning of the 17th century and was stylishly renovated in 2009 to show off its traditional Cape Dutch architecture. Inside, the manor house is exquisitely decorated with 6 opulent rooms and suites, plus a separate Romantic Cottage done up in an elegant European style - pastel wallpapers, clawfooted bathtubs, Cath-Kidston-esque fabrics - that might make you forget you're in Africa. But not for long. Sit back on the wide veranda and drink in those classic Cape views: over a valley filled with verdant paddocks and orange orchards, up a grassy hogsback peppered by tall blue gums and ancient oaks, to the cliffs of the Limietberg... breathtaking. Best of all, it retains such a relaxed air that you can kick off your shoes, pour yourself a drink and pretend that you’re Lord of the Manor!

Highs

  • Set in a "cul-de-sac" valley, which adds to the seclusion and intimacy of the place
  • Fridges in the house and poolside, so you can help yourself to drinks without worrying about bills (even local wines are included)
  • The service is so discreet you’d think everything is done by fairies
  • We loved the complimentary high tea - a delicate foretaste of the excellent dinner menu showcasing local produce
  • The vast, nouveau-Victorian bathrooms - you just have to see them!

Lows

  • The Jacques Potier Suite has limited privacy, as it’s set just off the veranda and is next to the front door
  • Although the valley is blissfully quiet, sounds do carry around the house
  • As you’re on a farm, your room may be visited by loudly chirruping crickets
  • Not child-friendly, unless you book the whole place (which - for family celebrations - would be bliss)
  • Not cheap - but better value than similar places in Franschhoek (and rates include afternoon tea and almost all drinks)

Best time to go

Wellington and the surrounding winelands are beautiful all year round, but can be particularly hot in summer (from November to February) with sunny days for months on end. Spring (September-October) and especially autumn (March-May) are wonderful times of year to visit: absolutely perfect balmy days interspersed with cosy wintry ones, which can change back again almost overnight.

Local festivals include the Wellington Harvest Festival in March, Riebeek's Olive Festival in May, its Shiraz and Art Weekend in October and its annual MedFest in March (celebrating the wine, olives and culture of the area), plus the Pinotage on Tap festival at Diemersfontein (Wellington) in October.

Our top tips

It's all about quality downtime here. Take a good book as there are plenty of reading nooks; if you're into photography the estate is perfectly picturesque (wander into the valley and past the river); or sit on the wide step in the pool on a balmy summer evening with a glass of sparkling wine.

Great for...

Foodie
Honeymoon
Spa
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 7
  • Restaurant
  • Over 12s welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
  • Bicycles Available
Room: Andrew Bain Suite

Rooms

The 7 bedroom suites are as palatial and elegant as you could hope, yet still homely and airy. Wonderfully chic touches include leather cases housing the tea/coffee sets, pewter vases with fresh roses, delicate china trinket boxes and deluxe Malée toiletries.

Upstairs in the thatched main house are 3 loft rooms which share a communal lounge - perfect for a family or group of friends, who could take over the entire floor. They're surprisingly cool in summer and, being a little darker, quite a relief from the midday glare too; in winter they're wonderfully cosy. Although the rooms' footprint is generous, those over 6ft (1.8m) should watch out for overhead beams between the rooms.

Downstairs are the 3 Elegant Suites, each with a private patio, lounge and dining area. Their bathrooms are definitely a highlight. They have 2 entrances as well as double wash units, each with a generous basin and drawers. Huge mirrors in gilded wooden frames sit on top of the cabinets and stretch up to the ceiling, while the freestanding clawfooted bathtub sits under an entire wall of mirrors (if you don't like looking at yourself, book a loft room!). A large shower opposite is separated by cheerfully striped footstools.

A little way from the manor house is the Romantic Cottage, with 2 bathrooms (1 with a shower, 1 with a jet bathtub), a large and gorgeous lounge and dining area, and a long staircase leading up to a romantic loft bedroom.

Wherever you stay, expect kingsize beds (some are extra long), luxurious 300-count bed linens, allergy-free down duvets and pillows, iPod docking stations with a radio and alarm clock, and chocolates at turn-down. Bathrooms have underfloor heating, heated towel rails and both a shower and a bathtub.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Bathtub
  • Coffee tea making
  • Hairdryer
  • Ipod dock
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • Twin sinks
  • Underfloor heating
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

Breakfast is a truly decadent affair: help yourself to a buffet of healthy mueslis, nuts and yoghurts, tuck into continental breads and pastry goodies with homemade jams and juicy fruit… then fling caution to the wind with pancakes or omelettes from the hot menu, or even a full Wellington breakfast (same as the English one but all ingredients are sourced and produced in Wellington).

If you’re staying put for the day, the kitchen will whip up a delicious light lunch or snack for you. A good idea is to picnic on the estate, so alert the kitchen in advance, or have a chat with co-owners and hosts Angelo and Tina Casu, and they will arrange a basket of goodies (or a backpack if you’re hiking or biking). Alternatively, ask them about the wine farms in the short meander towards Stellenbosch - most serve food, and there are more options just down the road in Wellington town centre.

Come back in time for tea and you'll find dainty pastries and delicious rolls filled with salad, ham and goats cheese. Later on, guests get together over a glass of sparkling wine, or one of Doolhof’s own award-winners from the free bar, whilst savouring the magnificent sunsets on the veranda, or the warmth of the fireside on winter nights.

Then sit down to a romantic 3-course table d’hôte menu which leans toward locally-sourced ingredients like game (eland, springbok, gemsbok) and fresh seafood. The Cape has an eclectic culinary history drawing on tastes from Europe and Asia, so each night is quite a gourmet adventure. You’ll be presented with the menu upon arrival (or at breakfast), so let the kitchen know if you have any special requests or food allergies, or if there’s anything that you don’t eat.

If you want to try dinner at a local restaurant, try Oude Wellington, or if you don't mind driving a bit further, there's the Grand Roche Hotel and Terra Mare Restaurant in Paarl (20-25 minutes' drive).

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Coffee tea making
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Lounge by the pool, on the veranda or pick a shady spot on the lawns, and enjoy the absolute peace and quiet of the valley

  • There are leisurely walks within the estate, along the river or through vineyards, as well as some pretty hardcore hikes for more active guests - rocky crags, river pools and flowering fynbos - up the Bain's Kloof Pass or in the Limietberg Nature Reserve, a short drive away

  • Being part of the Doolhof Wine Estate, you can sample the full range of their award-winning wines in the tasting room; or head to any of the Cape’s famous wine routes - Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl, Wellington - or the Brandy Route around Paarl and Worcester

  • Explore the picturesque Riebeek Valley nearby, a favourite with artists who love the soft light and olive- and vine-studded landscapes; plenty of interesting festivals too

  • Two mountain bikes are available for guests to use around the estate

  • Horse riding, clay pigeon shooting and quad biking can be arranged nearby - all at a surcharge

  • Trout fishing in Worcester, hot-air ballooning over the Swartland, paragliding and canyoning are all available close by

  • There are a few highly rated golf courses within a 45-minute drive, and guests can enjoy preferential rates at Pearl Valley Golf Club

  • Guests can go kayaking on the Breede river by Worcester (du Toitskloof Pass), 45 minutes away

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Clay pigeon shooting
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Horse-riding
  • Hot air ballooning
  • Kayaking
  • Mountain biking
  • Paragliding
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Quad biking
  • Swimming
  • Wine tasting

Kids

All children over 12 are welcome; they pay the same as an adult rate and get their own room. Children of all ages are welcome if the house is rented for exclusive use.

Kid Friendly: Jacques Potier

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
9/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
10/
Overall

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