If you’re anything like us, you’ll find any excuse under the sun to head out on the road and go in search of a new adventure. And that’s just what we did. We took a much-deserved leave day and started our weekend early, heading out on the N3 last Friday morning for greener pastures (literally).
Though I’ve driven the N3 route many times, I’ll be the first to admit that I was sorely lacking in a Midlands Meander adventure. When my parents used to drive us the familiar route to “the coast”, my dad did not believe in stopping, road-tripping or exploring the road. It was all about the destination! Unless of course the car broke down, in which case we spent a great deal of time exploring a particular patch of the road.
This is why I feel so blessed to have met my match in my Tall Dark & Handsome (aka Travel Gigolo). Like me, he is an avid road-tripper and explorer and we spend loads of time stopping on the road on many of our journeys – to explore, photograph and just stare in wonder.
See the episode Travel Gigolo did on our stay in the Midlands here:
This time, for a change (and let’s face it, we only had the weekend), our Brahman Hills adventure did not require an epic road-trip. A mere 5-hour journey (and some comfort stops) and you’re right in the middle of green, rolling hills and the gorgeous countryside. The grass really is greener!
I’ve seen and heard so much about Brahman Hills that when the opportunity to visit presented itself, we were overjoyed. I put in my day’s leave without a moment’s hesitation, and we planned to depart from Gauteng early (“planned” being the pertinent word here). Though we got on the road only 1.5 hours later than intended (we’re bad at “early”), we still had loads of daylight left by the time we reached the area.
I cannot believe it took me this long to visit this lush, amazing part of South Africa. The Midlands definitely requires even more exploration! What better position to venture from than the expansive property of Brahman Hills. Whether you prefer self-catering or hotel stays, they’ve got you covered. And all with truckloads of class and exceptional quality for pretty great pricing.
We stayed in the Serval self-catering cottage. This is a 2-bedroom cottage that has all the amenities you would expect plus amazing views of wildlife just beyond your deck, all while you view the sunset from your jacuzzi. Oh yes, from your jacuzzi! If it’s too cold outside, a fireplace inside will keep you nice and toasty! Need even more swank? There’s a spa just a hop, skip and a jump away from the cottages, offering the classiest look and feel I have come across to date in a spa, with exceptional care and attention given to every detail.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. When we arrived at Brahman Hills, a friendly and professional security guard took our details and then directed us to reception. The first thing we noticed arriving at reception was a cat, and then another cat, and then some more cats! It became obvious that the reception area was very feline-friendly. And we found out why when we noticed a sign just inside. Apparently the area has quite a big feral cat population and all the cats on the property are rehabilitated ferals that have been spayed or neutered and that are eventually re-homed when a family is found. The notice goes on to tell you that the cats may come closer to say hi and deign to be stroked but are not necessarily guaranteed cuddle buddies. This is such an awesome initiative on the part of the hotel and I spent a good deal of time seeing if any cats would come say hi before finally finishing our check in.
Once I tore myself away from the friendly felines and we completed check-in, we were directed to our accommodation for the weekend. As we drove toward the Serval Cottage, the rolling hills of the property came into view. The cottages are grouped together in twos and threes and these little groups are far away from one other. This means that you can have a lovely group getaway with a space all to yourselves, which is especially great if you are a bunch of friends or families who plan holidays together. Despite being next to two other cottages, we were completely unaware that someone was even staying at one of the neighbouring cottages and only realised it when we saw a car parked there.
When we walked into our unit, we were welcomed by colourful, hand-picked flowers and bunches of lavender. Scented granules were infusing the room with a lovely fragrance. They had even placed some jugs of water in the fridge, prepared with lemon and cucumber, chilled and ready to enjoy.
Our first order of business was to get into the jacuzzi. Wonderfully, there was a bag of ice in the freezer (what a great touch!) and we were able to chill our bubbly and beer immediately in one of the ice buckets supplied. The jacuzzi was pre-heated and ready for sundowners, so after unpacking the car and first taking some photos, we hopped right in without any further ado. We were getting comfy in the hot water just as sunset approached. This is the way to unwind from a stressful week at work! Bubbly in hand, the sun setting while you relax and sit back in a hot jacuzzi as the cool evening air descends around you.
It was hard to move but we had to eventually get our puckered selves out of there, and it was only once we stepped out of the hot water that we realised we were well and truly in for a nippy night, despite it being October already. This was likely because of recent snowfall in Lesotho. Once again, the little touches of class really makes a huge difference in having an amazing stay – the fireplace in the cottage was prepped with kindle and firelighter already, and only required a match strike. So while we also got the braai going for a quick and easy steak dinner, our fire was already crackling away inside. Wood is supplied, as much as you could possibly want, and you would well and truly be able to enjoy your cosy fire late into the night.
The next morning, we woke up to enjoy more of the gorgeous views from our cottage, and some unexpected sights. We had a great view of the sloping hills from Serval, and everywhere we looked, there were buck and zebra grazing, guinea fowl darting about, and a very playful red hartebeest happily running here and there all by itself. We decided that we would go walking around the trails on the property after breakfast. It was a lovely sunny Saturday with just the slightest breeze. Entirely idyllic! We tried to sneak closer to the wildlife but they would have none of it. Every once in a while, we spotted one of the Brahman cats too.
Truthfully, the property offers so much that you could spend your entire weekend just exploring it and enjoying a spa treatment or a meal at one of their on-site restaurants. But we did manage to tear ourselves away that Saturday to go grab a bite to eat at the very nearby Midlands Kitchen. More on that soon! As we were walking to reception to find out more about possible lunch options, we came across a horse-drawn carriage! Where else would you meet a horse named Robin Hood than in the Midlands? The horse, and the owners of the beautiful carriage, were there to collect the bride-to-be. We didn’t realise it until that moment, but a wedding was about to start at Brahman Hills. We got to chatting to them while they waited, by the way, so if you’re ever keen to arrive at your Brahman Hills destination wedding in a horse-drawn carriage, know that it is entirely possible.
Back at the “ranch” after lunch, and it was time for a spa treatment. For both myself and my Tall Dark & Handsome, the stresses of work get more intense as the year starts drawing to a close. By the time we reach December, we’re stressed to the max. It’s one of the many reasons we made a promise to one another to steal more time away and find more ways to enjoy time for us and time for travel. And this is the year we’ve made good on that promise in many ways, and it has been extremely rewarding. So a spa treatment was definitely on the cards in this new “living my best life” plan. I was blown away by the on-site spa. Despite having seen photos and coverage of it beforehand, I was still amazed. Entering the premises just to walk up the path is an experience all its own as you are surrounded by extensive lavender bushes and beautiful bursts of purple. The soft hum of bees everywhere gently fades away as you approach the door, where the sound of rushing water from a very unique rippling fountain already sets you on the road to relaxation.
As you enter, you’re enveloped in gorgeous scents and struck by the intense bursts of blue everywhere. Once you’ve done all the necessary paperwork, they give you the option of choosing your bath salts & minerals. You do this by getting a whiff of each jar on display, while being told what each group of salts, minerals and essential oils assist with – whether stress, sleeping problems, circulation issues, headaches and so on. It seems they have a combo for everything. From the moment you arrive, you feel like you are in good, capable hands. You then descend a flight of stairs and head to your treatment room. Ah! If only I could make room in my schedule (and budget) for a treatment like this every week. A gorgeous sugar scrub helped get rid of all that dry winter skin. This was followed by a hot, scented bath filled with your salts & oils of choice. All the while, you’re hidden from prying eyes by gushes of water running down their signature round windows. Then it’s time for a lovely massage. So difficult to not simply drift off into a deep sleep in such excellent hands. Shout-out to Dineo for a beautiful treatment.
I strolled back to my cottage and to my Tall Dark & Handsome feeling so relaxed and content. The sun was just getting low on the horison. We had just enough time to kick back and chill for a while before our dinner booking so we enjoyed the sunset and the views. We considered walking back to the main buildings for dinner but the nights were still chilly so we drove instead. We passed a number of buck and zebra relaxing on the cricket pitch. It’s so nice to come across wildlife everywhere.
We really enjoyed our dinner at 89 on Copper. I hope the photos will do it justice. This is an extremely unique cellar venue and the warm and cosy decor makes for a perfect romantic dinner. They have quite a labyrinth of underground rooms. There is a bar, called Copper. We discovered a private room too. I didn’t explore every nook and cranny but there seemed to be other doors. Every room and venue down there, except for 89 on Copper, boasted a small wood-stove fireplace. Gorgeous copper colours, decor and furniture featured in every cellar venue. This was our second favourite space, second only to the jacuzzi with the views.
One of the evenings, as we were settling down in bed, we noticed that the outside motion-sensor light kept going on. Curiousity finally got the better of wanting to stay warm and we crept toward the curtains. A buck was triggering the light. It was attempting to balance on its hind legs, trying to reach some presumably juicy twigs on a young tree in our parking area. With that last vision of nature, we crawled back into bed and drifted off.
Next morning, it was sad to have to pack up knowing we were saying farewell to one of our absolute favourite hotel stays to date. After a quick breakfast in Brahman Café, we decided to do one last bit of exploring and went to check out the chapel. It must be an amazing location to get married. Especially considering how you can make an entrance with that carriage!
We spent the rest of the morning doing a little exploring in the Midlands and visited the Nelson Mandela Capture Site as well as Howick Falls, before finally heading back to Jo’burg and home. You’ll be able to see more on the visit, including the Midlands explorations, when Travel Gigolo loads his episode on it in a few weeks’ time.