We recently had the privilege of staying over at the newly renovated Hartford House in the Kwazulu-Natal Midlands. This is where you need to go if you are looking for a Bridgerton-inspired stay in South Africa – whether it’s for your honeymoon, anniversary or just a romantic getaway. Here’s why:
We meandered the midlands in search of some of the most romantic South African destinations and what we found was so much more. Tucked away between rolling meadows, under gigantic old eucalyptus trees is a sandstone manor house that was built in 1875, covered in ivy and encircled by outstretched lawns home to hidden fountains, a magnificent pool area (with a wellness centre that is currently being renovated) and a lovely Tijnhuis.
The bar has been renovated under the first phase of Hartford’s renovation schedule (together with the Moor room, in which we stayed, the reception area and more). It now overlooks the gardens, has a luxurious, colonial feel to it and had us lingering for what seemed like hours. As the sun came peeking through the windows, giving our glasses those glimmering, golden rims, we headed for our room to prepare for our unexpected, yet very intriguing 6-course dinner.
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Our room was pure luxury from foyer to fireplace and as we entered, a stone bath lured us to the bathroom first, overlooking a huge tree and the lush gardens of Hartford House. The bathroom was like a room of its own, complete with a white Victorian chair for those much-needed bath chats, perfectly placed ornaments and amenities, lovely robes and slippers, large stained glass windows and more.
The bedroom had a romantic fireplace in the one corner and across from it was a lounger with a cosy blanket that looked out onto the outstretched lawns of Hartford House. The room’s decor has carefully been selected to create a luxurious feel, with the matching wallpaper and curtains bringing things full circle. The king-sized bed has a stately flair with a large headboard and floral scatters complementing the wallpaper details and the wooden floors are accompanied by elegant, antique-themed rugs for a final Victorian touch.
The Moor room is now the only room that can be booked within the manor house, which made our stay even more special.
The history of the house is tangible all over – from the bay windows and the wooden floors to the ivy-covered sandstone walls and the beautifully restored and reused furniture. There are reading corners around almost every corner – on the porch that hugs the house and in the lounge; in the bar and even in the garden.
The sun has been given selected spots to shine through, highlighting special elements in the home to make you feel welcome. And, when the sun goes down, beautiful lighting replaces it to create a romantic atmosphere.
Before its latest owners took over in 2020, the house’s flow was much different to what it is now. The reception and bar areas have moved, the porch has been cleverly lined with glass windows that allow guests to linger outside for longer and they’ve added some lovely public restrooms to the manor house that are worth a peek of their own!
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At Hartford House, going out and exploring is inevitable. Summerhill Farm where Hartford House is based, is a working stud (and cattle) farm and boasts 1000 hectares of misty meadows drizzled with the likes of literally hundreds of warmbloods and thoroughbreds. We got to meet some of the studs at the stalls right next to the manor house and also took the circle route down to where most of the daily farm activities take place. What probably impressed us most, was the shere finesse that is so evident in the day-to-day running of the farm and the hotel – there is a certain sense of pride in everything that is being done here.
Hartford House also boasts its own tennis court, a (soon to be relaunched) wellness centre with a large swimming pool, a quaint wedding chapel coupled with a lovely wedding venue, lovely lakeside lodging (also to be renovated soon) and more.
O, my, goodness. Don’t even get me started! The 6-course dinner was certainly one of the best Midlands meals I’ve had to date; one of the main reasons I will be returning to Hartford House sooner than later. Dinner was elegant, complete with white table cloths and professionally plated dishes. Chef Paul Antolik recently moved back to the Midlands after being involved as chef trainer in Tanzania. He spoiled us with cuisine fit for a queen, while also pulling in his passion for education by allowing a student to try her hand at serving a decadent dessert. Although perfectly plated and elegant, dinner was also heartfelt with a tangible human element, which I loved.
Breakfast was brilliant with sunlight perfectly playing on our plates.
If you ever have the opportunity to treat yourself to a luxury, Bridgerton-inspired, romantic Midlands getaway, Hartford House is the place to go.