Among the neat trees and quiet streets of historic Swellendam, you'll find the pretty Victorian facade of Schoone Oordt country house, a boutique hotel set among clipped lawns, fountains and rose gardens on the doorstep of the Garden Route. Stay here en route to Plett, or escape the bustle of Cape Town for a few days' R 'n' R in the idyllic Western Cape countryside.
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of local wine with dinner; for stays of two or more nights, a picnic basket or a bottle of local sparkling wine (choose before arrival)
11am (but flexible, depending on arrivals). Check-in, from 2pm.
Double rooms from £100.16 (ZAR2,340), including tax at 15 per cent.
Rates include taxes, home-cooked breakfast, tea, coffee and cake, and a drink and snacks on arrival.
Pets unfortunately cannot be accommodated (the owners already have two dogs and a cat!).
At the hotel
Lovely gardens, swimming pool, conservatory, free WiFi in the main house. In rooms, flatscreen satellite TV, DVD player, embroidered bedlinen, bathrobes, slippers, hairdryer, tea/coffee tray. Bathrooms have underfloor heating and luxe, locally made bath products.
Our favourite rooms
The Luxury Rooms are set away from the main building; they all have similar decor, with pale walls and dark furniture, open fires and Victorian-style claw-foot bathtubs. Tall Smiths will enjoy the extra-length beds. The Honeymoon Suite, in a separate cottage on the edge of the forest, has a handsomely carved wooden four poster and a giant bathroom, as well as a sitting room and large hearth.
The outdoor saltwater swimming pool is big enough for a lung-busting swim or lingering float, with deckchairs and parasols for poolside lounging.
Comfy shoes, for the spectacular walks on your doorstep; binoculars, for bird- and beast-spotting; bikinis, for swimming and sunbathing; books, for reading on the patio or by the fire.
Pampering treatments such as reflexology can be arranged at Schoone Oordt – ask for details in advance if you’d like to book something.
Welcome. Cots and extra beds are available, babysitting can be arranged for around SAR55 an hour. A steriliser, pram and changing mat can be made available with notice.
The kitchen garden supplies many of the ingredients for your home-cooked breakfast each day.
Your private patio is the perfect place for a sundowner.
Breakfast is treated seriously here: fresh herbs, vegetables and fruit are plucked from the garden, and local farm produce fills any gaps. Intimate dinners are served in the Conservatory Restaurant: try dishes from Chef Wander's South African voorsmakie (tasting menu), such as sweetcorn and ginger velouté and pan-seared kudu. As you’d expect, the wines are also wonderful, sourced from the celebrated regions of Robertson and Hermanus.
There’s a little lounge/chill-out room with a wide-screen plasma TV and bar for unwinding in the evenings.
Depends on when the last guest retires for the evening…
None, but there is a tea/coffee tray in your bedroom with home-made biscuits for snacking, and drinks can be served on your patio.
Set in lush riverside gardens, Schoone Ordt is located in the small heritage town of Swellendam.
Schoone Oordt is half way between Cape Town International and George Airport, both of which are two and a half hours away.
The nearby N2 will get you to Cape Town in two and a half hours. Parking at the hotel is free. To reach Plettenberg Bay, you’re looking at three hours and 40 minutes.
Worth getting out of bed for
Your hosts Wander and Sonette can point you toward some lovely local walks – the scenery in this region is stunning. The trip to coastal De Hoop Nature Reserve is a bit of an adventure (about an hour and a half's drive on a dirt road) but worth it for whale-watching in season, and the striking scenery of turquoise waves crashing on jagged black rocks and bleach-white sand. Closer to home, Bontebok National Park (+27 (0)12 428 9111) offers plenty of wildlife spotting, and trips down the Breede River. Swellendam's Rain Spa (+27 (0)28 514 2926) trains local therapists; its muscle-soothing Elephant Walk treatment uses a calabash to sigh-inducing effect. Worth a day trip (or a visit en route to Schoone Oordt from Cape Town) is Robertson, about a 45-minute drive away, where the Graham Beck estate (+27 (0)23 626 1214) produces what is – in our humble opinion – some of the finest sparkling wine in South Africa.
There are plenty of options within rambling distance of Schoone Oordt: a few of our favourites include laid-back Italian trattoria La Sosta (+27 (0)28 514 1470), at 145 Voortrek Street, where staff rustle up daily seasonal specials; and Koornlands (+27 (0)82 430 8188), at 192 Voortrek Street, with à la carte and tasting menus of Cape cuisine (we loved the crocodile sashimi).
For lunch or when you fancy something low-key (although that’s about all there is round here, it’s so relaxed), the Woodpecker Deli & Pizza (+27(0)28 514 2924) at 270 Voortrek Street does fabulous pizzas.
‘Faerie Sanctuary, Mr Smith?’ I’m standing in a tiny tourist office, thumbing flyers about pickle tasting, wondering what on earth we are going to do for the next two days. We’ve reached our destination, Swellendam, a laidback, historic farming town handily placed between Cape Town and the Garden Route. I've just discovered one pair of residents has opened their doors to a private wonderland of wizards and angels. But that’s another story. Right now I need to find our boutique country-house hotel and Mr Smith is no help at all. He’s gone to buy a kudu burger at the café next door.
It’s been left to me to communicate the name of our hotel – Schoone Oordt – to the lady behind the desk. After painful attempts of ‘Shown-eert’ and ‘Shoooon-orte’, she snorts with laugher. ‘Sweetie, it’s just up the road on the right – you can’t miss it! It’s one of the prettiest buildings in town. Oh, and if you get lost,’ she hollers as I leave, ‘It’s pronounded "Skwin-ort".’
Stepping out into the sunshine, I take in a street lined with thatched Cape Dutch houses and jacarandas hung heavy with their iris-blue flowers. Turtle doves dart between the treetops and the whole place is saturated with that bright clean sunshine that makes you feel like you’re on a movie set. It hits me just how astonishingly beautiful this place is. As if on cue, I make out the yawning, bluesy sound of someone playing ‘Amazing Grace’. Two chaps in tartan shirts and muddy hats are serenading Mr Smith while he wolfs his burger beside the car. I shuffle about in my bag for a few Rand (this, after all, is the song I walked down the aisle to) but they’ve waved goodbye by the time I get there. ‘They didn’t want money,’ says Mr Smith ‘They said they were just celebrating.’
We chunter moments up the road to and there, perched on a bank, deliriously pretty in a soft dove grey with filigree-laced verandas, is our hotel. ‘Hi-i-i-i-i!’ sing-songs a voice from the dark cavern of the open front door. A beaming Alison, her Staffordshire bull terrier Oscar by her side, emerges to greet us with warm shakes and wet hand licks. Ushering us through the main house, she tells us it dates back to the 1850s.
All the guest accommodation, apart from the stowed-away honeymoon cottage by the river, is in the garden behind. Eight suites, and a two-storey honeymoon cottage, all with private patios opening out over flowerbeds and tinkling fountains. Alison admits that occasionally guests are disappointed if they’re not staying in the main house itself – there is something dreamy about its wrap-around balconies and creaky floors. Our room, however, is faultless with its glimmering over-sized gold mirrors, a plush chaise lounge, an antique wardrobe and a deep rolltop bath in a sparkling ensuite. We’re also just a few wet steps away from the seductive little pool, sunken into a grassy dell below. Spying the huge open fire at the foot of our enormous bed I mutter to Mr Smith that a crackling fire is, in my opinion, an essential component to a romantic weekend away (and hoteliers being stingy about fire-lighting is a pet niggle).
Famished, we decline the kind offer of a welcome drink, as we’re heading to The Old Goal, opposite the town’s striking, white-as-a-polo-mint, church. At a table outside under the shade of oak trees, we order just-squeezed lemonade and sandwiches made with chewy Roosterkoek bread (baked right here over hot coals). I pull out a tourist leaflet from my pocket. Within minutes we are pulling up at Wildebraam Berry Farm for some pickle, liqueur and jam tasting. ‘They come here in their coachloads!’ we’re told. But this afternoon, thankfully, it’s just us. We work our way through boozy snifters of rooibis and honey through to a bittersweet end care of a large spoon of Ring of Fire chutney. Before they can adminster any samples of their Lord of the Rings, classified at 10/10 hotness, we make a quick exit.
Fields of blackberries and wildberries (which are the lovechild of a raspberry and a blackberry) flank the farm. You’re welcome to pick your own, so we head over the river in the back of an old Toyota pick-up, a thick glue of old jam at our feet. It stalls in the middle of the rapids and we climb over the bonnet only to return with two enormous buckets of juicy berries and bright purple moustaches.
A call from Alison tells us she’s managed to get us a last-minute horse trek with Dee, who houses her award-winning horses next door. A quick fence-hop and we’re tacked up on two glossy chestnut mares, before taking to the foothills of the rugged, ruffled peaks of the Langeberg mountain range.
Rushing home as the sun starts to fall we squeeze in a laze by the pool and Alison won’t let us go without those welcome drinks. We have them picnic-style with a plate of cheeses and biscuits on a tartan rug thrown over the perfectly clipped lawn. By now three sheets to the wind, it’s lucky that dinner is on our doorstep. Popular local eatery Koornlands sadly burned down so head chief Marianna and her team have decamped to Schoone for the timebeing. The menu is a testament to Cape cuisine: warthog samosas, ostrich lasagne, springbok fillet (even my filo pastry and vegetables came with a giant porcupine quill swaying atop). Then a long languorous bath back at the room, a roaring fire (of course!) and then straight into our duck-down duvets.
We awake to another periwinkle blue sky, and handyman Cuthbert giving our muddy hire car an unexpected wash ’n’ polish. A pristine spot had been laid in the airy Victorian-style conservatory and jazz floats through from the kitchen, where Alison is busy prepping her famous three-course breakfast. The first of which, home-made granola, yogurt and fruit salad, is set out on the dresser.
As we string out our final course of French toast with pesto spread, roast tomatoes, and bacon, gulped down with mint-laced freshly-squeezed OJ, Alison fusses around us like a favourite aunty, Oscar dolefully by the French doors eye-balling our bacon, and Cuthbert buffing our ugly car as if it were an Aston Martin.
We feel more than looked after, we feel loved. Normally you need to fork out hundreds a night for this kind of cosseted, nothing-is-too-much-trouble feeling. But Schoone Oordt (‘Skwin-ort’, remember?), which at first has a bed-and-breakfasty appearance, in fact has just the right bells on. ‘So,’ says Mr Smith as we roll away through the gate, ‘when are we coming back?’ For once he’s beaten me to the very same question.
Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Schoone Oordt’s Guestbook below.
We loved the house, its just stunning. We stopped here on route from Plettenberg Bay on our way to Cape Town to break up the journey during our three week honeymoon in Southern Africa. Schoone Oordt very kindly upgraded us to the honeymoon suite which was so special. Fidney welcomed us on arrival with a drink and afternoon tea in the beautiful lounge. The dining room wasn't open the day we arrived, but Schoone Oordt booked us a table in Drostdy restaurant and even treated us to a bottle of wine. Drostdy is in a really lovely lovely building a short walk from the Schoone Oordt. Food was delicious and service so friendly and lovely. This part of our trip was only meant to be a stop over to break up the journey, but ended up being one of the highlights of our three weeks. Thank you for having us, and treating us so well.
To be disappointed. But do be prepared that its a lot hotter here than on the coast. We were naive and didn't expect that, but that was our own ignorance. We were here in spring (end of October) and the team said it was uncharacteristically hot.
Stayed on 28 Oct 2018
The main house, stunning location, the staff and top notch service, the Conservatory restaurant (had dinner and breakfast which were both lovely) and the car being cleaned was a nice touch. Dinner at the Conservatory restaurant was excellent. There were a few nice cafes on Swellengrebel St, also saw a few art galleries around town but did not go in. As it was only a one night stay we didn't have time to go explore the surrounding area but the scenery was stunning so I imagine there is some great hiking and outdoor activities.
1. Peace and quiet. There were two couples with children staying at the same time – one with two babies and the other with two children about 5 and 7 years old. The babies were crying soon after we arrived and we could hear them clearly in our room and out in the gardens. Our afternoon plan had been to enjoy the autumn sunshine reading by the pool, but we decided to go for a walk around the town instead due to the noise. The two older children were quite well behaved at dinner in the Conservatory restaurant that evening, but were running around the restaurant at breakfast the next morning. I think the property would be more suited to adults only. 2. The room door was in need of repair – the middle panel of the top half of the stable door had come away on the left hand side. As a result we could see through the gap and cold air was coming through at night. 3. Also on reviewing our booking confirmation email from Mr & Mrs Smith, now that we have returned home and prior to writing the review, I note that it states a 'Smith Extra' of a bottle of local wine to enjoy during dinner for one night stays. We were not given a complementary bottle of wine with dinner... I had completely forgotten about this as subsequent confirmation emails / correspondence were directly from Schoone Oordt (who did not mention a complementary bottle of wine in any of their emails). This isn't that big a deal for us, and we actually went with the recommended wine parings with each course at dinner and probably would have stayed with that decision if we had been offered the complementary bottle of wine. However I imagine some guests may have been annoyed if they had had to ask for the bottle of complementary wine. Despite the above we enjoyed our stay and I would consider staying again if we were to do the garden route again. Particularly if we got a better rate than this time.
Stayed on 19 Apr 2018
Everything. Absolutely everything was perfect about our stay at Schoone Oordt from the warm welcome by Fidney, to all the details in the honeymoon suite, Alison's wonderful restoration of this beautiful property and the chef's wonderful creations in the conservatory. The staff are the most attentive that I have ever come across and yet they also seem to melt away leaving you blissfully undisturbed and able to fully relax. Make sure that you book in for a treatment at Rain Spa. I had the Elephant Walk massage which was just what my body needed after planning a wedding and a week's skiing!
Wild nightlife. That said, they do make a mean African coffee...