Nestled in one of those breathtaking valleys at the foothills of the KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg Mountains, lies The Horseshoe Guest Farm. You first notice it when you drive over the Normandien pass – the farm is surrounded by huge bluegums on the perimeter that all look exactly the same on the horizon; like they could have been cloned at their inception.
Driving down into the valley you are met with rolling yellow grasslands which are surrounded on all sides by a 360 degree view of the distant blueish-grey mountains. It will never fail to impress a family from the flat Free State…
A magnificent, extensive garden welcomes you at the gate to The Horseshoe, your first thought being: HERE BE WATER!
Immediately our three potted Clivias back home feel totally inadequate as it takes us a while to drive past the Clivia-patch at the entrance (‘must be close to a thousand bulbs’) towards the house.
After some pleasantries and a warm farmhouse welcome by very friendly staff, Kobus lugs his camera bag onto his back and disappears into the grounds, missing lunch and not returning until dinner time. This is a good sign! There is much to explore.
At dinner we meet most of the guests who seem to suddenly appear from everywhere on the farm where they were lounging in the gardens reading, walking in the hills at the back of the farmstead or just resting in their rooms to enjoy the silence.
The food is simple, but superb! We had at least five meals at The Horseshoe during the weekend and we were never disappointed. Owner-manager Koot Dippenaar is a former restaurant owner and a well-loved caterer with top notch facilities in neighbouring Newcastle. His staff knows exactly how to recreate his finest recipes and it never fails to satisfy even difficult guests.
Sunset at The Horseshoe is an event, a rather spectacular one! Most of the guests joined us for a coffee on the balcony overlooking the gardens where you can see the sun set in the west.
Facilities were more than adequate: Good beds and good bedding with en suite bathrooms in every room, and gas geysers ensuring there will always be warm water. Each garden room sleeps at least four persons, but there are rooms that can accommodate a family of 5 or 6. There are 10 garden rooms adjoining the main house and hall, and three rooms available inside the house. These sleep two persons each and share bathrooms (no children). In total the Horseshoe can sleep up to 50 guests.
Who should visit?
If you just want to get away from it all, this is the place. The mix of silence, fresh air and spectacular natural scenery cannot fail to make an impression on anyone.
This is where I imagine you will come to write the last chapters of your book, or your thesis. You will get up at the break of dawn to brew a coffee and take a walk before settling down in front of the laptop in a room with a fantastic view and be inspired to create.
Or after dinner, you could wind down in front of a fireplace, a glass of red in one hand and a good book in another. Be sure to seek out some conversation with Koot. He is the quintessential, old-school gentleman with a superb intellect and a big heart for ALL people.
You could bring the whole family – teens included. Essentially this is still a working cattle farm and the owners are more than happy to take guests on tour, or to include them in daily workings. Our kids mostly explored the gardens and surrounding areas. They even pulled out a compendium of games and played a game of snakes and ladders in the middle of the lawn.
While we were there, no less than three brides and their entourage visited the farm to make bookings. It is the perfect background to the perfect wedding. Facilities are ideal for big, family weddings and The Horseshoe can accommodate up to 50 sleepover guests (not counting those who are happy to camp in the extensive garden, which is allowed!).
Other groups that often visit the farm are organised yoga retreats, choirs for repetition weekends (they have two excellent, tuned pianos in the two adjoining halls), school groups, leadership conferences, training weekends for companies, etc.
A special weekend with special people
The stately but homely Horseshoe gave me the idea that it is the perfect place to entertain secret societies.
Indeed, there are groups that return year after year. Every second year a very big family books The Horseshoe for their Christmas family gathering.
Once a year, The Horseshoe also presents the Horseshoe Extravaganza. This is a bit of a misnomer; the stately cattle farm shakes its feathers for a weekend of sequence and silly dress, a weekend with weird and wonderful people from all over South-Africa.
The Horseshoe Extravaganza
It all started when a group of friends reconnected during a 50th birthday weekend at The Horseshoe a few years ago, and most of them find their way back every year to come and unwind, and rewind, for the last stretch of the year.
They come alone, or as couples, and whole families also turn out. Some just need the break; some are well-known personalities that need a break from being well-known; professional people (there were doctors, architects, designers, readers, actors, writers, decorators, artists, chefs, businessmen and -women) all thrive in each other’s company over the Extravaganza weekend.
By a stroke of luck, we were included in the weekend and The SA Family Robbertze was invited to the fancy dress and dinner extraordinaire on the Saturday night. This was the most fun I’ve had in a very long time! I went as Lois Lane and Morgan did an impression of Marilyn Monroe. Kobus and Logan each donned a pair of steam punk glasses, which is a MAJOR detour from ordinary daywear in their view.
There was a man with (plastic) goldfish tied into his man-bun, and people turned up in turbans, drapes, kimonos and red checkered table cloths(!?). There were beautiful women of all ages dressed in layers of silk, shiny heels, and plush velvet skirts. It was all kind of surreal, really.
Will we return?
Yes! We have already decided to do a day-long stayover on our way to Durban this year, and perhaps on the way back as well.
And next year’s Extravaganza is already booked as a prelim getaway.
Rates and the Rest
Bed and Breakfast rates are R400 per person. Lunch is extra at R90 per person and dinner at R130 per person (usually two courses, served buffet-style).
Children up to 5 years stay for free, children ages 6 to 11 pay half price and those aged 12 and over are considered adults.
Kobus’ cellphone didn’t have any reception over the weekend. Naturally, he was ecstatic about this. Most Vodacom users, however, do have reception now and then.
The area surrounding The Horseshoe is great for adventure biking, trail running and 4×4.
If you are interested in bird watching, there is a serious group from Newcastle who’ve been at it for years. Ask the owners for their contact details and get in touch.
Guests with an interest in history would also not be disappointed. The area is rich in history and an important beacon in the Battlefields Route (Anglo Boer War).
Please contact Koot Dippenaar for more information and bookings on 082 691 0822.