To say that I was impressed with Cathedral Peak Hotel would be an understatement. Its allure began before we even got there. As we drew closer to the hotel, the air became fresher, the mountains greener and the views more spectacular. I pulled out my camera hastily and began snapping away merrily - as my husband drove up the winding roads. Local children played in streams and rivers to cool down from the scorching heat, cows and goats grazed on the side of the roads and baboons watched us inquisitively. I felt the stress of the city escaping as serenity washed over me.
Nestled in one of the worlds oldest mountain ranges, the uKhahlamba Drakensberg park, which also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage site, Cathedral Peak Hotel is renowned for the natural beauty of its surroundings. It lies approximately 400 km from Johannesburg and 250 km from Durban in the province of Kwazulu Natal.
The family owned hotel has a colourful history which is detailed in a book available at the hotel shop. It was opened in 1939, when the Second World War began and provided an ideal location for wounded Allied soldiers to recuperate. Due to petrol rations, most of the first guests arrived by train and were met by the hotel at Winterton station. Despite the restrictions /difficulties many prominent visitors from around the world became frequent guests at the hotel.
The hotel ranks extremely high in child friendliness. There are several different options for family rooms. We stayed in inter-leading rooms with our children. They were happy to have their own room and we were happy to have our privacy while knowing that they were easily accessible. There are indoor and outdoor play areas. If there are enough children at the hotel, they get their own dining room and menu. There are baby sitters as well as child minders who host activities to keep the kids occupied and entertained.
There are many different accommodation choices. The rooms are all spacious and feature huge windows and sliding doors with panoramic views of the mountains. When we were tired from all the activities, we relaxed in our comfortable bedrooms and enjoyed the views. Our room had a luxurious bathroom as well as a dressing room with more than enough closets for a fashionable woman. The kids received welcome t-shirts and we received a beautiful coffee table book called "Africa by Inspiration” by Bruce Mortimer. The exclusive Mponjwane Presidential Suite boasts a spa bath and electric curtains and comes with the exclusive use of a golf cart. There are also not one, but seven honeymoon suites.
Entertainment was a feature from the very beginning. Cathedral Peak Hotel is one of those places where you can easily spend a week without getting bored. A daily programme is left on ones pillow every night at turndown, with a sweet treat and a bedtime story. The programme features activities for kids and adults. You can amble along on a horse trail, hike up mountains, go bird-watching or trout fishing. There are many different sporting facilities (including a heated pool), a 9-hole golf course, a games room and a climbing tower.
There are mountains to conquer, and exquisite views to soak in. A resident helicopter is available to give you a bird’s eye view of the majestic mountains. Although I didn’t do this, I met foreign guests returning from the helicopter ride and they were still in seventh heaven. There is also a massage therapist on site to de-stress you further and there are plans underway to develop a full spa facility.
We went on a guided hike through the mountains. It was one of the gentler hikes as we were accompanied by children although the heat made it more strenuous. Just as the kids were beginning to complain, we came upon Doreen Falls –named after the founder’s wife - where we took a break. The adults and the kids took turns to stand under the refreshing waterfall to cool down while our guide made fresh tea and coffee for us from the running water. A little later our guide took us further up the mountain to a cave to see bushman paintings which were over 1000 years old. Even the kids were excited.
Rates include dinner, bed and breakfast as well as a very English tea served twice a day on the terrace with treats like scones, pastries and cakes and a side serving of picturesque views. Breakfast and dinner were both huge buffet feasts and I absolutely loved the fresh smoked trout from the on-site dam that was a staple at dinner-time. It’s only understandable that we’d pick up weight after eating so much.
Cathedral Peak Hotel has been welcoming guests to its mountain wonderland for over 75 years. The number of repeat visitors it has, is testament to its appeal. It is also a popular wedding venue, with good reason. Imagine the stunning photo backdrops. It makes a great corporate getaway too. And for families, a holiday at Cathedral Peak promises to be a very special time indeed. I’d recommend staying for at least 3 nights.
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