And, just like that, spring has officially sprung along the Garden Route.
On a recent media trip to this iconic destination, I discovered that there are plenty of boutique hotels on the Garden Route to choose from. But, once I stepped inside The Manor House at Fancourt Estate, I quickly realised that there’s no finer place to dabble in some luxury during the prettiest season of the year.
Fancourt has long been a favourite for golfers (The Links golf course is voted the best course in the country by Golf Digest), but it has quickly established a reputation as a luxury holiday destination of choice for families and non-golfers, too.
Quietly tucked behind the main hotel, The Manor House stands as the original farmhouse on the estate. It was built as a family home in 1859 by Henry Fancourt White, a British engineer who also worked on the Montagu Pass over the Outeniqua Mountains, the first road between George and Oudtshoorn.
After an unfortunate incident, apparently involving poisonous mushrooms, the house changed hands a few times after the Whites, but it has retained all of its original, stately charm. Every aspect of the hotel offers a subtle nod to its history, which gives visitors the feeling they are about to discover something rare and special.
Guests staying at The Manor House are welcome to browse the public areas, a favourite being the library. The walls of the room are covered in books that you can take home in exchange for your current read. From here, one can also gaze out over the main entrance of the hotel, curiously watching as guests arrive and leave via complimentary transfers to and from George Airport.
Since nights here are still fresh during early spring, a glass of red by the log fire in the lounge is hard to resist. Take your pick from comfy couches, and stately chairs that are classic, solid and beautiful. Before you bed down, evening drinks can be served at The Montagu Bar, which to the delight of many, operates on an honesty bar system.
Professional and attentive staff are also worth a mention. They seem to know precisely what you need before you even think to ask. Guests at The Manor House are also offered a private concierge to help with unpacking, laundry, drawing baths, personal wake up calls as well as arranging sightseeing excursions and in-room meals.
A full English Breakfast and daily afternoon tea and canapés is included in the rate for The Manor House. Choose to have yours served in your room or over at the outdoor gazebo, which seems to float out over the lake.
Time spent in the gardens at The Manor House will do wonders to lift your imagination, even if just for a short stroll before dinner. The clean-washed Fancourt air makes the colours richer and deeper, especially during sunset.
The crown jewel of The Manor House concept is Henry White’s, the elegant-yet-relaxed restaurant serving delightful four-course meals. South African flavours dominate the menu, which changes seasonally. You will never eat the same thing twice during your stay — nor should you.
Aside from the spectacular colours that appear, springtime along the Garden Route also brings new life. Insects, birds and small reptiles all seem to appear on the estate, as if on a holiday of their own.
Whatever the season, The Manor House offers an array of memorable activities. Picnic in the verdant Fancourt gardens, birdwatch or hike the trails, go mountain biking or book a spa treat. There is also an opportunity to tour the area with either a self-drive or via guided visits to neighbouring farms and local producers of homemade cheeses, strawberries, olives and wine.
Almost ironically, spring is still considered low season on South African travel calendars. This means wonderful opportunities to enjoy special rates and fewer people, making your experience at Fancourt Estate and The Manor House all the more exclusive.