Given a choice of vacation destinations and activities, my children would choose to go to the beach, my husband would rather play golf and I would prefer to spend my time in a nature reserve or a spa. Fortunately for us, Selborne Hotel, Spa and Golf Estate, offered all of these.
Based in the coastal town of Pennington in the beautiful South Coast of KwaZulu Natal, less than an hour away from Durban, the estate lies within one of only two privately-owned coastal forested areas in South Africa. As with most of the coastal areas in KwaZulu Natal, they are home to troops of vervet monkeys but also to various species of antelopes and birds. We saw an antelope lurking in the trees, observing us, as we were en route to our room one evening.
Selborne Hotel, Spa and Golf Estate has its roots in South Africa’s colonial history. Built in 1954, it was named after Lord Selborne, the first owner, who was the Secretary for the Colonies. Originally a private residence, it was later purchased by Denis Barker, a dairy farmer, in 1979. He first used it as a stud farm. A few years later, after playing golf at a residential golf estate in the United States, he decided to transform it into the first residential golf estate in South Africa. This idea was then replicated many times throughout South Africa and these days, we have an abundance of golf estates around the country.
The hotel is now managed by First Hotels and Resorts, which is better known for its timeshare resorts. This is the first hotel in their portfolio and they have beautifully restored it to its former glory while still retaining the elegance and charm of a bygone era.
The estate consists of a golf course, a residential golf estate and a hotel. The rooms are spread out over the vast property, amid the landscaped sub-tropical gardens and water features. Rooms are in the Manor House (the original building), the gardens or on the fairways. All have great views. The Presidential Suite is where special guests and honeymooners stay and is on the top floor of the Manor House. A wellness spa, also in the Manor House, offers a wide variety of treatments and has a sauna and a beautiful relaxation room. Selborne often hosts weddings and conferences and has a chapel and adequate reception venues.
There is an enormous pool which is beautifully lit at night for those fancying a night time dip during the summer evenings as well as a floodlit tennis court.
The public areas
I adored the opulent lobby with its beautifully crafted staircase, and fine oak panelling, window panes and flooring originally imported from England. The grandfather clock in the corner chimed periodically adding to the old-world ambience. The lobby leads into the elegant Hunter’s Lounge, another nostalgic place to relax in, where high tea is often served. The piano in the corner of the lounge evoked images of lords and ladies gathering in days gone by. When we arrived at the hotel, my husband and children wasted no time in making themselves comfortable there, while I was shown around the hotel. I arrived to find them engrossed in a game of chess with the hotel’s quirky chess set.
Our rooms were in a garden bungalow on the far end of the gardens near the pool. We had two inter-leading en-suite rooms for our family – one for the kids and one for us. It was perfect as we could have our privacy while keeping an eye on them too. The rooms were large and had balconies overlooking the lush gardens. Each bed was big enough for four people and we had dressing tables, wardrobes and sitting areas too. We also had a TV again, after four days in the bush. Pillow menus lay on our bedside tables. The bathrooms had showers and bath tubs, which the kids were quite happy to have bubble baths in.
We were welcomed with a generous platter of cheese and crackers, a fruit platter and a hand written note from the General Manager. I loved the personal touch and my kids wasted no time in attacking the platters. In the evenings, we would return to our rooms to find that our beds had been turned down and luxurious towelling gowns, slippers and night time treats had been laid out on them. The hotel is graded 4-stars although after experiencing it, my travel-savvy children proclaimed that it should be graded 5-stars.
The hotel offers fine dining at The Lord Selborne Restaurant and casual dining on The Terrace overlooking the gardens. We had a delicious breakfast at the restaurant, consisting of eggs, creamy mushrooms, fresh juice and freshly-baked pastries, before setting out in the mornings.
The championship golf course at Selborne, is known as the Augusta of South Africa as it was designed along similar lines to the Augusta National Golf Course in Georgia, USA. My husband played golf here while I took the kids to the beach. He was suitably impressed and found it to be a stunning course offering a great combination of challenge and picturesque beauty.
The hotel is 3 kilometres away from Pennington Beach, a Blue Flag beach. Selborne Hotel has its own private beach house with restrooms and a swimming pool at the beach. I took the kids to the beach for the day where they had great fun playing in the water and building sand castles. In between playing, we took breaks at the beach house.
As you can see, Selborne Hotel, Spa and Golf Estate has a lot to offer. But one of the main things that stood out for me is that management was actively involved in the running of the hotel and the staff look motivated and happy – something that I don’t always experience. And happy staff = great service!
For more information and to book, go to http://www.selbornehotel.com
Here is a short video on Selborne Hotel, Spa and Golf Estate
Disclosure level: 7