My favourite places seem to be family owned or run and Fordoun Hotel and Spa is one such place. All five senses celebrate at five-star Fordoun … and then further celebrate as birth is given to their sixth sibling. It happens in an extremely romantic setting; weeping willows with their gentle flowing boughs, enormous organic artworks, ethereal azaleas contrasting against rolling hills, iris-lined pathways, ancient terracotta bricks mottled with age evoking a Hansel and Gretel nougat house – all peacefully nestled in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands, a few minutes from Nottingham Road village.
From cascading steps, to greyhound guarded Roman-bath fountains, to mini-canals; there is flowing water around every corner, all creating a vibrant life-giving energy, like a giant vascular system. There is such wealth in the glorious gardens – the essence of it all – which is then brought inside to pamper one in every which way. Fresh food delights of a superb standard are presented in utter comfort in the Skye Bistro.
Chef Lorenzo Giliomee and his team have upped the ante since last I was there. The menu may change but some firm favourites remain – like the grilled beef fillet nestled on horseradish potato mash and red wine tomatoes, gratinéed with gourmet Greek “Brie” cheese and a Fordoun wild herb garden buchu jus. Superb. Vegetarians won’t scratch for options, with offerings like wild mushroom and black summer truffle risotto, topped with creamy Indezi blue cheese, and slow roasted butternut and peppers. Starters and desserts are possibly more enticing, as is the extensive and well-crafted wine menu. Hedonistic indeed.
If, however, you are on a detox retreat, your choices are a juice fast or raw, vegan healthy eating and much time in the spa. Fordoun’s spa is all encompassing and the therapists are delightful, adding to that feeling of rejuvenation. The old grain silo has been brilliantly converted into a magical grotto, where one floats in the essence-imbued pool with calming music being amplified through the water; a unique experience. Apart from treatments from skilled masseurs, Reiki and Bio-energy specialists and aestheticians, the spa features a rasul, indoor swimming pool, gymnasium, sauna, steam room, hydrotherapy room and a couples’ treatment suite with hydrotherapy bath.
Integral to the spa and Fordoun as a whole is Dr Elliot Ndlovu – inyanga, sangoma and ethnobotanist. In Elliot’s garden and around his consulting rooms are over 120 different species of healing plants, used by him and in Fordoun’s products. The poignancy and passion underlying his uthwasa – the necessary process of suffering to become a traditional healer – endear this huge character to believers and cynics alike, including Hollywood stars and the British Queen.
Afternoon walks are a great idea. Oak-lined avenues, waterfowl preening themselves on the shores of dams, a deeply wooded grove full of bee-hives leading to the tennis courts and outdoor pool. One imagines an otter or two in amongst the impressive trout rising for their evening feed. Fordoun has a field of the happiest hens in the entire world; they come to greet you as you arrive at the edge of their enormous scratch-patch field. And yes, the eggs taste wonderful. And, beyond the field, the Fordoun Farm Village comprising a tasteful multi-functional venue, chapel, nine luxurious self-catering chalets, veggie gardens and the spinning classroom – all arranged around a full-size cricket oval.
Although separate to the original establishment, adults staying here have access to the facilities up at the hotel – and vice-versa. The main buildings, originally part of a dairy farm from the 1860s, have been thoughtfully adapted. There are 22 luxurious double suites with verandas, underfloor heating, bath and shower and a dressing area. There is also a wheelchair friendly suite.
If founder John Bates is around, he may share with you Fordoun’s interesting history, dating back to 1850, or enthuse about the social and environmental initiatives Fordoun is involved with – including a nearby crane sanctuary – or let you sample his leonotis (wild dagga) gin. Retiring to one’s suite is a dream – especially one of the five superior mountain-facing rooms set atop a ridge with views toward the Drakensberg.
The bed, the linen, the bathrobes and all the treats are of the highest quality. It’s sumptuously draped and lavishly appointed with high, pitched ceilings. A cold snap makes the ready lit blaze in the glass-fronted fireplace, the bedtime treats and story, most welcome. Stepping out of the French doors, one’s eye is led across rolling pastures to the hills – with the young maiden’s breast, iNhlosane, dominant and framed by not-too-distant mountains.
A table and chairs, loungers and a tumbling water feature in a secluded courtyard is a tempting lolling spot. The thickly carpeted passage takes you to a large dressing room opposite a lovely black and white chequered bathroom with heated towel rails, underfloor heating, dual vanity basins, bath and shower, which leads to a further, outdoor shower. The fresh air and the heightened stimulation of the senses, not forgetting the awakening of that sixth sense, all make one beautifully exhausted. The countryside goes silent, as iNhlosane’s silhouette slowly merges into the night.
Visit www.fordoun.com call 033-266-6217, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for further details and bookings.