Wonderful Hogsback!

AUGUST 8, 2017

Wonderful is one of my favourite words. I don’t use it flippantly and will only use it as an adjective for something that is truly full of wonder, and no word better describes the village of Hogsback that sits on top of the Amathole Mountains in the heart of the Eastern Cape.

From the fast running, crystal clear rivers to the bright, tumbling waterfalls; from the quaint restaurants to the homely guest houses and hotels; from the deep, quiet forests to the windswept view sights; from the frigid snow covered mountains to the warm, cosy pubs; from the sun dappled hiking trails to the shaded verandas; and, let’s not forget the crazy, happy and friendly locals, Hogsback is truly wonderful.

As a family holiday, secluded honeymoon, romantic getaway or adventurous weekend, there are few places to top Hogsback.

There is so much to do – hiking, mountain biking, swimming, fishing, trail running, picnicking, relaxing, birdwatching and touring of all the interesting places such as the view point and the labyrinth at The Edge, which is free of charge, a tour of the Fairy Realm (R30 per person) and the Eco Shrine (R30 per person).

Home Food and Travel sent a team of people to visit, explore and bring back information on where to stay, eat and have fun.

Laragh - Highlands

By Darren John

Nestled in the woods of Hogsback is where you will find the beautiful Larah-on-Hogsback Cottages, owned and run by Jenny and Norman Newman. Choose from three modern, fully-equipped, self-catering units that each sleep up to four guests in two separate rooms. From your private, covered patio, you can enjoy the sounds of nature; relax with a glass of wine and watch the sun or moon rise over the three hogs.

A cosy fireplace will keep you warm on those cold mountain evenings while DSTV will provide the entertainment. Named after the Gaelic word for ‘this / the place’, Laragh boasts a country garden setting, complete with indigenous and exotic trees.

The Cottages are close enough to the restaurants in town, but also far enough to enjoy the peace of this tranquil setting. Laragh is highly recommended for a stay you’ll return for!

Contact them on 045 962 1187 / 082 781 0470 | www.laragh-on-hogsback.co.za |  jenny@laragh-on-hogsback.co.za   • Facebook: laraghonhogsback

 Away with the Fairies Backpackers

By Marc Jacobson

Perched on the edge of a cliff and overlooking the oldest forest in South Africa and the three Hogs Mountains, Away with the Fairies Backpackers, offers the most breath-taking views and quaint nature experience.

The accommodation comes in the form of camp sites, dorms, bungalows and cottages.  I had the pleasure of staying in the ‘Acorn House’, one of the Backpackers more up-market self-catering cottages with two bedrooms and a bathroom.

The cottage had an open-plan kitchen and lounge area with an indoor fire-place. The cliff edge is a mere stones-throw away from the cottage’s back veranda!

Famously, the most Instagram’ed feature in Hogsback, is the Cliff Edge Bath; a bath bolted just a metre from the cliff edge, and with hot and cold running water, it overlooks the majestic forest and mountain range. The bath is also in complete privacy and bookings are essential.

Away with the Fairies also has a pub and restaurant, which serves the best craft beers, breakfasts and pizza that I have ever tasted. My stay was enchanting and mythical and a great escape from the madness of city life.

For more information, call 045 962 1031, email them at hogsback1@gmail.com or visit www.awaywiththefairies.co.za

Maple Grove

By Liandè Barnard

Situated in Upper Hogsback, along a narrow winding road through the mountain forest, lies the enchanting Maple Grove. We met with owners Lyndsay and Peter, who have built this establishment up from a single stable in 1997 to what it is today.

Named Maple Grove because of the many varieties of Maple Trees on the property, this self-catering establishment consists of three units - a two-bedroom chalet, a cottage perfect for a small family and a cabin ideal for a couple.

If you feel like unwinding, you can relax in the lush garden surrounded by birdsong or curl up in front of a log-fire with a good book. If you are more of an adventurous person, you can take advantage of the hiking trails or take a forest walk or meander along the Maple Grove paths.

Looking for rustic affordable self-catering accommodation?

Maple Grove is the place for you. For more information, call 045 962 1116 or visit www.maplegrove.co.za

Eco Shrine

By Darren John

We are one with the earth and we all exist in an amazing universe. A visit to Diana Graham’s homage to nature through art and sculpture will leave you in quiet contemplation and with the desire to bring change.

Backed by an unrivalled view of the three Hogs and surrounding landscape, The Eco Shrine Centre for Art and Ecology is both a celebration of all life and a poignant look to our future. A definite must!

For more info, visit www.ecoshrine.co.za

The Fairy Realm

By Darren John

Here, there be Fairies! An unforgettable experience for young and old as you wonder along a beautifully kept mystical path with ponds and plants populated by sculptures, big and small. See if you can spot all of the 150 strong inhabitants along the 400m path – and perhaps you’ll spot a few more, who have let their guard down for a moment!

A great way to feed the imagination for years to come...

For more information, call Patrick and Suzannah Smith on 045 962 1098 or 076 331 7313.

Granny Mouse House

By Marc Jacobson

Celebrated as the first ever Hogsback catered accommodation to have attained 4-stars, Granny Mouse House offers an intimate B&B stay for discerning travellers.

The sophisticated yet vintage-like guest house offers three double en-suite rooms, as well as two fully-equipped, self-catering units in a relaxed, country atmosphere.

Staying in the twin-bedded suite, the room was warmly decorated with Cape antiques and warm colours, and topped with a thatched roof, my stay was comfortable and cosy.

The room had a small fridge, with tea and coffee-making facilities, a large wardrobe, as well as access to free Wi-Fi on site.

The bathroom was spacious and well-equipped, with a quarter-circular bath and an elegant shower. Leading out from the room, is a garden-facing patio, which also leads to a well-built, rock-like swimming pool.

The guest house is integrated with a beautiful, well-looked-after garden that surrounds the pool, and is lead out from all the suites and units.

Just off the entrance area of the guest house, you can also enjoy the quiet and cosy lounge room, which has an indoor fire place, comfortable couches and a vastly arrayed book shelf.

With personal service, a delectable and nutritious full English breakfast was cooked to my request by the owner, Ingrid, which fine-tuned my night stayover at the guest house.

For more information, call 045 962 1259, email them at info@grannymousehouse.co.za  or visit www.grannymousehouse.co.za

Starways Art Centre

By Darren John

Starways Art Centre, set in the lush forests of Hogsback, offers visitors the opportunity to view and purchase character-filled wood-fired pottery pieces and beautiful art in the Gate Cottage Gallery.

If you are lucky enough to be present on the evening of a show, then a visit to the Rose Theatre, set amongst the trees, is an absolute must. You’ve never seen anything like Starways – don’t miss it!

For more info, contact 079 776 3728 or email info@starways.org or visit www.starways.squarespace.com

The Edge Mountain Retreat  

By Katherine Grewar and Liandè Barnard

Daring views, unspoiled indigenous forests and the peace and tranquillity one can only find in Hogsback.

The Edge Mountain Retreat offers a range of self-catering accommodation options- from romantic chalets to family cottages set in 15 acres of beautiful gardens and forest.

Our retreat for the night was the comfortable self-catering Lavender Rondavel. Furnished with rich woods and an air of yesteryear, this two person rondavel is the ultimate couples retreat.

A small, but well-equipped kitchen has everything you may need, while an impressive king size bed sits on the far side of the rondavel. My favourite would have to be the old, leather lounger perched in front of a well-stocked log fireplace just calling for a good book and glass of wine.

Do not be fooled by the restaurant’s cosy and informal dining area where Max, the Great Dane, and his inquisitive cat friend can be found lazing in front of the fire. The meals can put some of the finest big city restaurants to shame.

When possible, the restaurant makes use of fresh and organic produce and bakes its own seed-bread daily and it is not reserved for guests only, everyone is welcome. Dinner reservations, however, must be booked before 5pm.

With only four to five listings per course, the menu is small, but superb. Our attentive waiter was rather humorous and happy to chat about the town leaving smiles on our faces long after we had placed our orders.

The food presentation was beautiful, portions rather generous and taste phenomenal. I was blown away by the slow-cooked crispy pork belly served with stir fry vegetables, mash potatoes and cider gravy.

Do not do yourself an injustice – when visiting Hogsback, make a dinner reservation and experience the charm of Edge Restaurant. 

Imagine this; you are standing on top of a mountain with nothing but rolling hills, unspoilt indigenous forest and birdsong surrounding you. You feel the wind playfully fluttering through your hair and all your worries melt away while a feeling of complete peace and serenity come over you.

This is what you can expect when you’re standing at the edge of the cliff at The Edge Mountain Retreat in Hogsback. In addition to the view point, you can also explore their equally magnificent eleven-circuit Labyrinth. With a circumference of 91 meters, the total distance of the walk to the centre and out is 1.4 kilometres, making it one of the largest Labyrinths in the world! The best part is that they do not charge a cent for you to enjoy both the Labyrinth and the viewpoint.

For more information, call 045 962 1159, email them at info@theedge-hogsback.co.za  or visit www.theedge-hogsback.co.za

The Lighthouse Ranch

By Liandè Barnard

It was our first night in Hogsback and the bite of the cold in this little mountain town can be hectic. For me, the only thing worse than being cold, is being hungry, which I was, so we headed to town to find out what the Hogsback restaurant scene has to offer.

We walked into The Lighthouse Ranch where a huge log fire was blazing in the middle of the restaurant. The eatery had a cosy and cheerful vibe and we immediately felt welcome.

I ordered a glass of red wine to aid the fight against the cold. On the tables around us, I saw steaks, seafood, pizzas and burgers. I opted for the crumbed chicken schnitzel that was served with a creamy cheese sauce, crispy onion rings and hand cut potato chips on the side. It was delicious and I will definitely return to try out the rest of their menu!

For information, call 045 962 1101 or like their Facebook page, The Lighthouse Ranch.

Butterfly’s Bistro

By Katherine Grewar

Hands down the quirkiest bistro in Hogsback; Butterfly’s Bistro offers an infectious charm felt from the moment you step through its bright doors.

Once seated let your eyes take in the various nick knacks that cover every inch of wall space. A gift shop, home industry and bustling bistro all in one leaves your senses pleasantly overwhelmed.

The Bistro has a large lawn for children to play on while wooden benches sit under the massive oak tree for diners wanting to enjoy the outdoors. Being winter, we opted to sit inside next to one of the well-stocked fireplaces.

With a days’ worth of hiking ahead, we selected the “Mini Monty”, a generous breakfast of bacon, eggs, grilled tomato, mushrooms and two slices of toast. The food was beautifully presented and the cappuccinos were served in big mugs – being a coffee lover, I was impressed.

The bistro hosts a produce and craft market every Saturday morning. Be sure to check out the locals’ interesting stands. 

For information, call 045 962 1326 or like their Facebook page, Butterfly’s Bistro.

The Arminel Hotel and Village

By Katherine Grewar

Surrounded by the red, brown and gold of a winter forest, this was a great country escape.

The Arminel Hotel lies nestled amongst the beautiful forest of the famous Hogsback Mountains with 26 stand-alone hotel rooms, spacious public areas including a lounge, bar, tennis court and swimming  pool and 18 self-catering cottages.

Our room for the night was the cosy Holly Cottage with its high ceilings, king size bed with down duvet and outside was a picturesque garden setting with a variety of walking trails through the magical forest.

The food at the hotel is not only generous in its portion sizes, but comforting. Hearty soups, a selection of roasted meats, crisp vegetables with melted butter and hot Malva pudding swimming in homemade custard, left us feeling content in front of the roaring fireplace.

The Arminel Hotel provides an exclusive escape for couples, families, or a group of friends wanting to enjoy the simple pleasure of nature while keeping the comforts of home. I will return.

For more information, call 045 962 1005, email them at info@katleisure.co.za or visit www.katleisure.co.za

The Hobbiton

By Liandè Barnard

It’s a given that you will feel a combination of excitement and nervousness when you decide to climb, twist and turn, balance, tip-toe, jump, swing, and leap your way through an obstacle course. But elevate this already challenging obstacle course 10m off the ground, and you can be certain of feeling, and maybe even hearing, the adrenalin gushing through your veins.

It was a matter of ‘don’t think – just do’ when a few friends and I decided to add a little adventure to our weekend in Hogsback and what better place than The Hobitton, a Non-Profit Organisation that is well-known for providing camps for disadvantaged children.

Founded in 1947, this outdoor education centre offers activities to the public at very reasonable prices of between R20 and R40 per activity. Activities include abseiling, wall climbing, King Swing, a variety of ropes courses, a trapeze and a 100m zip line to name a few. It was terrifying and exhilarating, but we had so much fun facing our fears. I would highly recommend this to anyone visiting Hogsback.

For more information, call 045 962 1193, email hobbitons@telkomsa.net or visit www.hobbiton.co.za.

Nutwoods Park

by Liandè Barnard

As you drive through arched Hazelnut trees on a pathway leading up to the elegant Nutwoods Park, you are whisked into yesteryear where good old-fashioned hospitality, quality feasts and attention to fine detail is a custom. I recently had the privilege of spending a weekend in the company of owners, Neil and Atila.

Dating back to 1895, Nutwoods Park offers guests a variety of four accommodation units. The "Nutshell Cottage" is  a self-contained, fully-equipped self-catering cottage with two double bedrooms and two bathrooms, ideal for four people.

The "Pyramids" is a self-contained self-catering unit set at the end of the guest house, ideal for two people.

And lastly, the "English" and "Oriental" suites are two semi self-catering units set in the lodge. Each of these have a private entrance and terrace from which to admire the beautiful three-hectare garden and both units are equipped with a fridge, microwave, kettle, toaster and cutlery.

I stayed in the Oriental suite and my room was immaculate. I had an unforgettable stay at this remarkable establishment and awoke every morning to the sounds of the East Cape Green Parrot and Knysna Loerie. I will definitely return to Nutwoods Park again.

Restaurant review by Darren John

No trip to Hogsback is complete unless you have experienced the Restaurant at Nutwoods Park! Five star fine dining in a cosy candle-lit room. – you may never enjoy another meal of this calibre again. Your hosts, Neil and Atilla will keep you entertained and eagerly anticipating your next course in a unique 150-minute dining extravaganza.

Each of the four courses are expertly prepared and presented, ending with coffee. Bring your own wine – corkage is nominal. Highly recommended and pre-booking is essential.

For bookings, call 045 962 1043, email them at nutwoodspark@mweb.co.za or visit www.nutwoodspark.co.za.  

Contact Franchisee Darren John
Border contact number 082 783 7457
Border email address darren@homefoodandtravel.co.za