After a blistering hot spell, the cold front arrived as we checked in to Brahman Hills . However, apart from the fact that our panoramic views were obscured by rain and mist, we were happily ensconced in our comfortable cottage with a warm fireplace, electric blankets, heaters and a jacuzzi. We weren’t bored either, with a wide selection of television channels and complimentary wi-fi at our disposal.
I had heard much about Brahman Hills before going there. The name always evoked serene images of rolling pastures with grazing cattle. Perfectly situated within the Blue Crane Nature Reserve, in the heart of the Kwazulu Natal Midlands, the hotel lies at the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains. It has undergone an extensive makeover since its days as the Windmills Hotel and is now a charming four-star country retreat.
We were welcomed by a friendly receptionist and a bunch of adorable felines lazing around the Cappuccino Lounge - to my children’s excitement. After an introductory tour of the public areas, we took our keys and headed off to our home for the next two nights, the Otter Cottage.
There are 30 hotel rooms and 12 self-catering cottages of various sizes, which are ideal for families. Ours consisted of 3 en-suite bedrooms, and an open-plan lounge, dining and kitchen area. My kids immediately ran through the cottage and proclaimed their delight with it, in no uncertain terms. It was the first time that they had their own bedrooms and bathrooms!
The décor was simple but homely, with creature comforts such as king-size beds and white percale linen. The kitchen was well-equipped, and beverages were provided with Ouma Rusks, my son’s favourite tea-time treat. Comfy couches faced the television, while pretty umbrellas were available at the doorway to counteract the unpredictable Midlands weather.
Glass sliding doors opened onto our private deck where we had our very own jacuzzi, and an al fresco dining area. The deck overlooked the surrounding landscape, and a waterhole where wildlife came to drink. I saw zebras, impalas, and red hartebeest from my lounge, as well as the Brahman cows after which the property is named. One afternoon, after returning from a drive, we found a huge herd of impala and some zebras outside our cottage, several of them nibbling on our hedges. I loved having wildlife on my doorstep!
The public areas consist of two restaurants, a Cappuccino lounge and a conservatory. There is a beautiful glass chapel on the lake, where weddings are frequently held, and several event venues including the huge Glass House and the Agility Hub. On-site activities include hiking, mountain biking and spa treatments. Or you can explore the scenic Midlands Meander, which promises much to see and do. We took a drive to the beautiful Howick Falls, which is near the Nelson Mandela Capture Site.
The Spa at Brahman Hills was once the home of Winks Green, who was known as the “healer of horses”. Today, it has 8 treatment rooms, a dedicated manicure and pedicure room, and a tranquility lounge. The “Out of Africa” exterior blends into the natural surroundings while the striking white and cerulean blue interior creates a calming, Zen environment. In-house and day visitors are both welcomed.
I was lulled into a light slumber by the signature treatment at the spa - a blissful 60-minute massage followed by a full body scrub and a spa bath. After my treatment I relaxed in the tranquility lounge with a cappuccino as I was further soothed by the views of the streaming water and pretty gardens.
There are several dining options should you prefer not to cook. We had a delicious breakfast at the Brahman Café. My husband and I enjoyed poached eggs, smoked salmon and guacamole on rye toast, while the kids relished crumpets with chocolate sauce. A fresh fruit platter and fresh fruit juices complemented our breakfast.
For lunch, we sampled the vegan delicacies, health juices and coffee at the Midlands Kitchen, a market-style foodie hub consisting of 15 different kitchens, adjacent to Brahman Hills and easily accessible from the N3 Freeway. It is a convenient place to grab a quick meal, especially where everyone in the family has different tastes or cravings.
At dinner, we were impressed by 89 on Copper, the hotel’s underground fine-dining restaurant. Here, we relished a sumptuous meal which included calamari and sesame-coated camembert, seared tuna, prawn curry, cheesecake and chocolate pudding. Our expectations were certainly exceeded.
Our stay at Brahman Hills was so idyllic that we were loathe to leave. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. We left with heavy hearts, but fond memories.
If you are driving between Johannesburg and Durban, Brahman Hills is en-route. I would suggest taking a detour there for some great farm-style relaxation and rejuvenation, which you won’t find in the city.