The one thing I love about travelling and exploring new destinations, is that nothing is ever as it seems. That is exactly what we experienced at Fordoun Hotel and Spa in the Kwazulu-Natal Midlands, where you get to relax in a luxurious flotation pool that was once a dairy farm silo in which maze was kept. Like I said: Nothing is ever as it seems.
Fordoun Hotel and Spa was our final stop during our search for the most romantic, luxurious stays in the Midlands and we were quite smitten with the fact that it has such a rich history and that it is a family-run business with so many stories to be told.
Drinks with Managing Director, Richard Bates was one of the highlights of our visit. He had so many stories to tell and I wished we could stay longer to hear more. I suppose with a dairy farm that has been transformed into a luxury hotel and spa, there will always be a lot to talk about. And, despite the rich history that has been so well preserved, it also seems that with such an inspirational, uplifting and go-getter family at the steer, there will always be something new to talk about too!
Fordoun Hotel and Spa has a variety of accommodation options for guests to choose from. We stayed in one of their Superior Mountain View Suites, which offered incredible views of the Drakensberg range, even from the shower, which is both an indoor and an outdoor shower. I know, right? In addition to the Superior Mountain View Suites (the latest addition to their accommodation options), they also have Luxury Suites that have a village feel (and a lot of history) attached to it, seeing that it was initially the original farmstead’s sheds that date back to the 19th century. The walls were literally taken apart and built with the same stones again. Then there are also the Deluxe Dam-facing Suites, with magnificent views across the stocked trout dam and outstretched lawns. All the rooms are individually themed and decorated by Jon Bates’ daughter.
In addition to these 5-star accommodation options, they have also added a self-catering option down at the wedding venue and cricket field. These units are not star-graded and are a little more rustic, but it still boasts a lovely, quality stay with everything you might need.
In addition to the accommodation options, Fordoun also boasts a lovely, modern wedding venue, a cricket field, beautiful outstretched lawns ideal for picnics, a well-manicured tennis court, a pool with a pool bar and braai area and a state-of-the-art spa with a yoga room and more.
I guess you’re wondering about the floating part… Well, a visit to Fordoun is not a proper visit if you did not experience their spa, especially the flotation pool. What you probably didn’t know is that Fordoun was originally a dairy farm, owned by Sir George and Lady Nora Usher. They were from England and were looking for a summer residence, but during their first summer in the Midlands, they decided to stay for good. Lady Nora was Jon Bates’ aunt and never had children of her own. Hence, Bates later inherited the farm and after realising that it wouldn’t be possible to expand it as a dairy farm, he decided to transform it into a boutique hotel and spa.
The spa as it stands today, was initially where the cows got milked and the flotation pool (also known as a flotation tank) used to be the granary or silo where the maze was kept. The flotation pool contains a high level of Epsom salt solution, which creates a similar experience to that of the Dead Sea. It is a wonderful alternative for detoxifying, healing, relaxation and rejuvenation.
During our stay, Wikus and I were both also treated to a full-body massage, which was pure bliss and as parents we just once again realised how important it is to take time to relax. Therefore, with Fordoun being so close to the N3 highway (a mere 7-minutes to be exact), it will undoubtedly become a must-stop whenever we’re in the area, even if it’s just for a 30-minute float. 😉
Skye Bistro (named after the Isle of Skye and Jon Bates’ granddaughter) is one of those restaurants you just have to have on your bucket list. I stood at the entrance for at least 10 minutes, looking at old photographs of Sir George and Lady Nora in front of their farmstead; of the dairy that’s now the spa; the farm manager’s home that is now the restaurant.
Both dinner and breakfast was served at Skye Bistro – both very elegant and flavourful. Of course, the wine list boasted some of South Africa’s finest wines and we went for a good ol’ De Grendel – a personal favourite – to accompany our 3-course dinner.
All in all, Fordoun Hotel and Spa is a must whenever you meander the Midlands. The history of the farm and the family that has owned it since the 1940s is evident in the day-to-day running of the destination and I, for one, take my hat off to them for making it look so easy. Still, nothing is ever as it seems and coming from a hospitality background, I know the hard work that goes into keeping a place like Fordoun Hotel and Spa running, which is why I urge you to pop in – even if it’s just for that 30-minute float in a silo!