My first thoughts were that I had died and gone to heaven.
It was misty and dreamy and beautiful... but colder than I imagined. I pulled the covers up over my nose, closed my eyes and dozed off for 10 more minutes...
I was sleeping in the green room at Walkersons Hotel & Spa's Waterfall Cottage and had left my window ajar the night before. Waves of fog were now billowing into my room, clouding my vision so I could barely see my toes sticking out from under the duvet. I could still hear the waterfall which the cottage overlooks, gushing below. The familiar sound was a relief; I was still in this world... albeit on the very top of it.
The highest point of the Mpumalanga province lies just outside the town of Dullstroom in the Steenkampsberg, elevated at 2 332 metres above sea level. If the famous look-out point in Mpumalanga is called 'God's Window', surely Walkerson's Hotel & Spa just outside Dullstroom must be the 'Stairway to Heaven'.
The Waterfall Cottage view at sunset.
Situated an easy two-and-a-half-hour drive from Joburg, this exclusive 5-star, 27-room boutique hotel is a real-life Monet masterpiece. When the clouds roll in, as they often do here, views are vague impressions of lakes, oak trees and mossy stone structures.
The stables at Walkersons Hotel & Spa.
Walkerson's manor house and the surrounding outbuildings, which make up the hotel 'rooms' and self-catering cottages, are dotted along the mountain slope on the 800-hectare nature reserve. Everything is close enough to the main building where the restaurants are, but far enough to ensure utmost privacy.
If the fog clears, opt for a long walk on the estate to soak up the fresh air, or tempt the hills and river crossings on horseback or mountain bike. If you're more passively inclined, the Walkerson's Spa offers deeply satisfying massages and the option to relax in the steam room after your treatment. Or, just grab a book to doze off with on a comfy couch...
It couldn't help but be romantic, even for our group of journalist ladies, who had the Waterfall Cottage all to ourselves. With no men present, we could drink champagne to our hearts' content without any 'mansplaining', or heaven forbid, bad braaiing.
The best part of checking into this luxury, self-catering unit at Walkerson's is that cooking is optional... The hotel has recently assigned Chef Adri van Wieringen for exclusive, bespoke requests - such as whipping up 5-star meals for guests in the comfort of their cottages. Chef Adri ensured our exclusive braai was done to perfection and laid out an entire spread before disappearing into the night. Magic!
If you're in the mood for fine dining, Head Chef Natasha Smith oversees the operation of the Flying Scotsman Restaurant down at the main manor, to where travellers flock for the indulgent four-course menu. It sings of local inspiration and flavour, with slow-roasted duck, regionally sourced venison and the inclusion of the locally produced fruits being regular treats on the ever-changing menu.
Trout is celebrated prominently; an ode to Dullstroom's world-renowned fly-fishing status. It features in many of the dishes, from the abundant harvest platter to the delicate trout linguine, made with fresh dill, white wine and cream. For the hungry, the whole baked trout basted in butter is a winner.
The estate has a strict catch-and-release policy, so all trout is sourced from the sustainable trout farm at Machadodorp, about 40mins away. The local country store in town, Milly's, also stocks these local gems in all shapes and forms.
Constantly feasting on an abundance of fresh trout, however, can create a false sense of one's fly-fishing abilities… and the occasional trout, mockingly jumping in the lake next to the Terrace Restaurant, doesn't help either. We opted to try it out…
Poor Bongani Mahlangu, Walkerson’s in-house fly-fishing guide, had his hands full with tangled lines, missing 'bugs' and dwindling optimism on our fleeting fly-fishing stint. He kindly blamed the weather on our trout misfortunes as we retired to breakfast to lick our wounds over some more easily obtained trout delicacies.
I'll be back again, even if it's just to teach those teasing trouts a lesson...
Good to know – The Waterfall Cottage at Walkersons Hotel & Spa can be booked for R 5 425 for the unit per night (Sunday to Thursday) and R 9 135 for the unit per night on weekends and holidays.
This works out at only R540 per person for midweek stays and R915 over weekends and holidays. Bookings require a minimum 3-night stay over long weekends and minimum 4 nights over Easter.
Traveller24 TIP – Book your stay during the week and you’ll qualify for the Walkersons Hotel & Spa’s 30% discounted Midweek Special! This is valid for hotel rooms only on a Bed and Breakfast, or Dinner, Bed and Breakfast basis. This special runs from 1 May to 31 August 2019.
The hotel’s The Flying Scotsman and Terrace restaurants cater for both fine dining and light meals for guests and day visitors. Bookings are essential!
Reservations on 013 253 7000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
*Disclaimer: Louzel Lombard Steyn was hosted by Walkersons Hotel & Spa, including all meals and accommodation.