A weekend away is always a pleasant prospect to look forward to and when the destination happens to be a five-star hotel in the countryside, then one’s eager anticipation can be forgiven. I had been to African Pride Mount Grace Country House & Spa twice before and was looking forward to a weekend of pampered luxury. The main difference on this occasion though, was that I would be accompanied by my children.
The iconic Mount Grace has long enjoyed a sterling reputation as one of the grand dames of the Magaliesberg region and has a fascinating history. The hotel began welcoming children in 2014. Previously, they were only allowed only during selected periods. I was now keen for my kids to experience it.
We arrived at the hotel on Saturday afternoon and were warmly welcomed by Clyde, the Guest Relations Manager – as we opened our car doors. Once we had entered the reception area and were settled in the comfortable couches with refreshing welcome drinks, he presented the kids with goodie bags. We already felt at home.
A friendly staff member took us to our room with a golf cart. The thatched hotel rooms are set in lush gardens, in little clusters, and come in several varieties. Our room had a little private garden with a heated plunge pool - great for year-round dips. The elegant interior consisted of a king-sized bed, a desk and chair, couches and coffee tables.
Beds had been made up for the kids - with a Spiderman duvet for my son and Minnie Mouse for my daughter. We also had a Nespresso machine to satisfy our coffee addiction, a minibar, a television and sufficient cupboards.
A jar of candy and a personalised, handwritten card signed by the General Manager and some of the staff members had been left on our table. When we returned to our room after dinner, rose petals had been strewn around the room, and little boxes of delicious fudge labelled “Sweet Dreams” had been left on our bedside tables. We were impressed, to say the least.
The sprawling property is set on ten acres of landscaped gardens and pristine bushveld. The public areas are beautiful, inviting one to sit back and relax in them. The streaming sunlight, rustling leaves, tranquil breeze, and flowing water features running through the property all combine to create a soothing effect in an English country-style setting.
There are attractive indoor lounges where one can get warm and cosy near the fireplace in cold weather and outdoor garden seating areas where one can indulge in afternoon tea.
The restaurants and the gardens overlook the valley. Twist Restaurant focuses on fresh, seasonal country-style food. It is ideal for families and we enjoyed our breakfast and dinner buffets here. There was a huge food offering for both meals and we were spoilt for choice. My kids especially loved the pastas and desserts, as well as the delicious honeycomb produced on-site. The Rambling Vine is a fine dining restaurant, perfect for a romantic treat. Although we didn’t eat there on this occasion, we did experience it on our prior visit.
It was only at mealtimes, when there were barely any empty tables at Twist Restaurant that we realized how busy the hotel was. The rest of the time, we barely saw other people as the property is so huge. A staff member told me that weekdays were usually busy with corporate travellers and weekends were busy with leisure travellers, a testament to the hotel’s popularity.
Mount Grace’s award-winning spa is just as renowned as the hotel itself and many people take the one-hour drive from Johannesburg just to visit the spa, although combining it with an overnight stay is highly recommended. The spa has won the award for the Top Spa in South Africa for the second year running.
My daughter and I were provided with thick lush toweling robes and slippers and proceeded to enjoy our pampering treatments in an enclosed bush spa room - a massage for me and a pedicure for her. Then we headed for the Hydrotherapy Spa Gardens where the flotation pool, outdoor jacuzzi, and reflexology walkway beckoned to us. The flotation pool is a beautiful place to zone out in. It is rich in minerals and 20-25 minutes in there is equivalent to 8 hours of sleep.
The Kids Club was added on in 2014. It caters for all age groups from toddlers to teens – in separate sections, so that kids can have age-appropriate fun amongst their peers. It also has a small tri-cycle and scooter track. My children spent many happy hours in the tweens zone. I saw several families with kids of all ages during my stay and they looked contented too.
The Mountain Bike Activity Centre, appropriately titled the Cog & Sprocket, is another recent addition. It is ideal for mountain-bike and trail-running enthusiasts to test their skills on the open road and get their adrenaline pumping in the stunning countryside. Other activities include tennis, hiking, bird-watching as well as heated and cold swimming pools. There is a dam on the property with wading ducks too.
Mount Grace is a synonym for serenity. If you are looking to unwind and connect with nature, or wake up to tweeting birds, and gurgling streams, then this is the perfect place – whether you are looking for a family escape or a romantic getaway. The moment you arrive at the hotel, time slows down, your city weary soul is appeased and you succumb to the tranquility. Although, we only spent one night there, we felt rejuvenated when we returned home. On bidding farewell after our late check-out, we were given chilled water and more delicious fudge for the road. It was another thoughtful gesture, reflective of the hotel’s care for its guests.
Brief history of Mount Grace
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