Look, I really don’t want to turn this into a brag-o-logue – but over the few decades as a hack, I’ve travelled a bit. Some of those trips and destinations remain indelible.
The Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok comes to mind. It wasn’t hard to see why it’s hailed as one of the finest hotels in all of Asia. The glorious vulgarity of Las Vegas took some beating. And New York! A drive from Tanzania to Kenya, across the Masai Mara, was hard to forget. So was Istanbul and all its history – some of it cruel, all of it colourful. Namibia’s moonscapes still haunt my dreams. Then there was Italy. It’s impossible not to love a country and culture that has a word like simpatico in its lexicon.
Yet time and again I return to the pet-friendly Ardmore Guest Farm in the Drakensberg and have done so for decadews. It’s my refuge.
Years ago Gatsby, my late Staffy, would come with me to Ardmore. He now waits for me at The Rainbow Bridge. In more recent years Milo and Daisy, my rescue dogs have accompanied me here. Daisy is a feisty, ageing Dachshund-y creature. Milo is a perpetually adoring Jack Russell-y creature. They love it here as much as I do, whether they’re romping across emerald-green lawns or snuggling in front of a fireplace. All the cottages have fireplaces.
And me? I’m at my most content when sitting – I have a PhD in parking off – in the front garden, under a vast amber tree, with the country’s three highest peaks touching the sky in the background. In summer those peaks are velvety, in winter they’re all snow-capped, but at any time of the year the serenity of Ardmore makes the rest of the world seem a grubby, noisy, tawdry, rude place.
Just as attractive is Ardmore’s lack of pretension. It’s neither ritzy nor glitzy, nor grimly rustic. Instead it strikes a balance between the two. It has a high rate of return visitors, both local and foreign.
Owner Paul Ross and his gorgeous wife Sue – both of whom have become friends over the years – say Europeans enjoy the pension atmosphere at Ardmore. The food is home-cooked and the room rate includes a full dinner and breakfast. Light lunches are an optional extra in the Ardmore tea garden, although most guests spend their days exploring the nearby Champagne Valley and all its attractions.
Since Paul bought Ardmore in the mid-’90s when he was still a bachelor it has expanded tastefully and gradually. Ardmore will never be allowed to mushroom into a crassly commercial enterprise. The serenity is included in the price.