TRISH BEAVER enjoys a winter weekend in the KZN Midlands with a warm bed and spa spoils
The thing that strikes you the most about Brahman Hills is the stillness of the surrounding environment even though it is close to the busy N3 highway to Durban. It’s a stone’s throw from the Nottingham Road turn off from the N3, so I expected to hear the roar of heavy trucks driving towards Durban, but there was nothing but country quiet. We stayed in one of their self-catering units – Eland cottage – for a few days of relaxing.
Rising early one morning I heard only the gentle chirps of birdlife and as I sat quietly focusing on the pink sunrise, I accidentally disturbed a pair of hadedas digging into a fresh pile of cow dung looking for a snack. Alarmed by my intrusion, they flapped away with their loud honking. But even as the silence was shattered, it was a blissful scene.
On one side small farm dams interrupted a peaceful winter landscape and on the other side a forest. Over the hills the Brahman cattle gently graze. Their humped necks and dappled hides are a wonderful sight for city folk. You may also see zebra or spot a few of the duikers or eland.
Brahman Hills offers 30 hotel rooms and a few self-catering cottages for families or friends who come to attend weddings at the stylish chapel overlooking the fields and dam.
The self-catering cottages, named after the local wild life have been created using the original farm cottages. Ours was a retro house with wooden floors, corrugated iron roof and wooden paneled walls.
The overall aesthetic of Brahman Hills is to blend the traditional appeal of a rustic farm setting with cutting-edge contrasts. Rusty corrugated sheets from sheds have been repurposed as fences and old wagon wheels add to the decor.
The interior of the cottages are modern and comfortable without a hint of a winter chill as a fire was lit in the evening. Warm duvets and electric blankets top the luxury beds.
A group of us piled into the jacuzzi on the wooden deck for sundowners on the first evening, sipping champagne as we watched the sun go down. Girl talk and chitchat is so much better when the bubbles are flowing and the warm air rising. It was tough to get out of the tub and wander to the main hotel for a delicious three-course meal .
Meals can be delivered to the cottages for those who are too lazy to cook, but we wanted to explore the hotel, which was revamped in 2016. Previously known as The Windmills – it has been upgraded and renovated in style.
Offering accommodation with all the trimmings, this is a great venue. Delicious food is served with panache.
I tucked into lamb chops basted with harissa marinade and served with tempura veg. It was delicious. Vegetables are grown in the hotel garden, where you can see the roosters parading around their turf.
In the foyer of the hotel you may spot a few cats under the illusion that the hotel belongs to them. They stretch and curl up on the chairs in the cappuccino café enjoying the warmth of the fires and tickles from cat loving guests.
The Brahman Hills Spa is perfect for pampering. You could walk a few hours in the Blue Crane Nature Reserve to spot the wildlife, build up a sweat and then relax. The spa has been designed with the views in mind. Porthole windows offer amazing views of the countryside and perfumed lavender surrounds the entrance to the spa.
If you want to pamper your bridal party then you get the whole shebang – champagne and delicious healthy snacks served in the separate Bridal suite as they explain the treatments on offer.
Aromatherapy smells waft through the air. Soft hands and voices are the signature of the professional beauty team here. For a few delicious hours you can cocoon yourself in body pampering in one of eight treatment rooms.
Afterwards, eat dinner in one of three restaurants at the hotel. My favourite is 89 on Copper. Situated underneath the foyer in the basement – the designer used shiny copper pipes as accents against the rustic stone and wooden textures – it feels like a secret, tucked away.
An intimate space, it’s the perfect spot for a birthday celebration, or even a romantic proposal. Three or five course meals are paired with their top wines. We followed a simple mushroom soup starter with a vegetarian lentil dish, and a tender lamb shank, ending with a chocolate brownie and meringue combo. The restaurant is also open to non-resident guests.
Brahaman Hills is a perfect spot to use as a base to wander around the Midlands Meander, which offers five different tourist routes to explore each with their own unique attractions.
Some of the top spots are the Mandela Capture Site, historic Fort Nottingham where the British troops squared off against the Bushman cattle raiders, and Piggly Wiggly or Tweedie Junction where local artists sell their wares. The famous artisanal beer tasting at Rawdons is good and more than 50 local arts and crafts attractions are worth discovering.
Brahman Hills is a classy addition to the attractions in the Midlands area.