A weekend. In McGregor.

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McGregor. – I’d like to tell you about a country village.

One appropriately found at the end of a long windy road, surrounded by the Langeberg mountains with Robertson, Bonnievale, Ashton and Montagu as its near neighbouring towns.

I spent a glorious weekend here joining other media as guests of McGregor Country Getaways, beautifully hosted by the dynamic Mira Weiner, learning much about what McGregor has to offer.

Staying in one of the many properties that Mira manages, it became evident that McGregor Country Getaways has a collection of hand selected self-catering accommodation to suit any style or budget. There are even pup friendly options if you can’t bear to leave your best friend at home …

McGregor is said to be the best preserved 19th century South African village with its white washed reed roof cottages, Victorian and Georgian homes, many of which are available for rent on her books.

We had a packed weekend ahead with activities, meals and attractions to visit, which meant that the home comforts and four-poster bed of my accommodation were just what was needed to get me rested up in preparation.

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Whether it’s in the village or out on a farm, like the cottage above that I stayed in, McGregor Country Getaways will source the best option for you.

These are some of the things we did, which I can highly recommend:

– Arriving on the Friday afternoon, we started our weekend with sundowners at Lord’s Guest Lodge and dinner in their Lady Grey Restaurant. Situated on top of the Koningsrivier hills, its a welcome surprise to find such splendour and luxury in the beautiful stone buildings with their excellent views across the valley. Enjoying a glass of local wine and with a touch of suitable Scottish nostalgia, we chatted about the weddings they offer in their chapel, the accommodation named after Scottish clans and the generous portions of food served. I have stayed here before and know how comfortable the rooms are, also how wonderful the walks from this remote and quietly elevated lodge.

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– Every Saturday there’s the Morning Market in the Square next to the Church which draws the local community. You need to be quick though, as it starts at 09.30 and is all packed up by about 10. Offering local produce, plants, veg, books, pastries, sweet treats and an opportunity to engage with the residents.

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Rodney aged 11 years, who plays the guitar and sings for pocket money.

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The sweeties who were there to visit the doggy-treat lady.

For more of the tastes and flavours visit Rhebokskraal Olive Estate just 2km out of town, where the Van der Colff family have farmed since 1990. Or visit their Villagers Farm Stall where you can enjoy home-made scones and coffee whilst browsing the art gallery. You can do an olive and organic juice tasting here too.

– Make sure you book dinner at Karoux Restaurant, have coffee and carrot cake at How Bazaar Boutique and visit Christina’s Bistro at Van Loveren Wines. You might want to book their chocolate and wine tasting in the underground cellar at Esona Wines.

– If you’re a fan of a great bubbly and top quality wines produced in an idyllic setting, time at Lord’s Winery is a must. Set high on the northern slopes at 500m above sea level, the vineyards are laid out amidst fynbos and Proteas. We were beautifully hosting to a full tasting of their range, matched with canapes and this incredible outlook. The owner Jacie is charming and I felt leaving like I’d made a new friend. One who produces an award winning MCC. Could I be luckier.

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Jacie Oosthuizen who owns and farms Lord’s. I was spoilt with a bottle of his MCC, which I am saving for a very special occasion.

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Happiness in the making. Lord’s MCC on the riddling rack.

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– Take the Noddy bus village tour with the option of visits to the various art galleries along the way. This is such fun! We were guided by Ernest Wiliams who takes great pride in sharing anecdotal details about the various buildings, areas and history.

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Ernest Williams and his son Alerno, our guides.

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– The artistic offerings are comprehensive and varied with ten venues and experiences listed on their Art Route. One that truly stood out was the Edna Fourie gallery where her three-dimensional work created from recycled and found materials, as well as installations, painting and quotes will keep you mesmerised and wanting. Also look at Frangipani Second Hand Book Shop and Dragonfly Studio.

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– The Temenos Gardens have been drawing people to McGregor since opening in 1997 with their soul nurturing gardens, varied accommodations and idyllic spaces for spiritual mediation. We had breakfast overlooking the lawns with resident peacocks for company, before taking a walk. It’s beautiful. Like stepping into peace. Whatever your belief or spiritual ideals, you will find contentment and quiet here. A very welcome escape to contemplative awareness.

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Taking a moment to walk the labyrinth in silence.

– Another attraction putting McGregor on the map is the Eseljiesrus Donkey Sanctuary. Started nearly a decade ago when Dr Johan and Annemarie van Zijl responded to a request from the SPCA to provide shelter for two badly neglected donkeys. They were Vaal and Japie, who demonstrated how many other donkeys were similarly in desperate need of food, water, shelter and care. Today they have 20 donkeys in their care, one on its way and 7 out on foster care.

I’ve actually had an adopted donkey here for about 6 years and it was such a treat to visit her and see how she is thriving. Nothing but love for these too often misunderstood precious animals.

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Founder Annemarie van Zijl with a fellow trustee. 

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Smiling like she means it, what a cutie.

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My Sheila, who was rescued from a breeding place to feed lions for canned hunting. 

There are many ways you can get involved in supporting the Donkey Sanctuary. Adopt a donkey, attend their annual book fair, offer donations, visit their shop or change your My Planet card to support them. More details here.

– A must do is a visit to the Tanagra Wine and Guest Farm where we enjoyed a private tour and tasting with owner distiller Robert Rosenbach. Producing Grappa and a limited amount of Eau de Vie, Robert works the 200 litre still which he brought out from Germany when they relocated in 2009. As he says, ’they use German technology combined with the freshest and best local products to distill fine spirits of distinction’. They are certainly achieving just that.

The hand numbered bottles offer up a choice of Grappa produced from fermented and macerated fruit as well as from their Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz wine lees. All delicate in flavours.

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– For the nature and outdoor lovers, have a look at the activities, hiking trails on offer in Cape Nature’s Vrolijkheind. If you’re feeling brave, consider the Boesmanskloof Hiking Trail between McGregor and Greyton too, a distance of about 14km which feels like 30 when you’re doing it. But that’s probably just me not being as fit as I should be when I hiked from McGregor to Greyton return a few years back. The scenery is magnificent.

– For a touch of culture, McGregor’s Wahnfried is a home purchased by residents Michael and Freddie with the altruistic intention of offering it to the village for cultural events, live music, recorded music, films and other similar activities. The have a schedule that you can check every about this place invites interest.

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– We visited the Old Post Office turned pub for a whisky tasting, it just seemed right to take a wee tipple in honour of the warmth we’d felt.

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I read somewhere that ’McGregor is not a place, but a state of mind’ and I think that’s true. There are lots of pretty little places in the Western Cape. Winelands towns, coastal hamlets, established centres. We appreciate them all. This is just one that deserves a long stay and exploration.

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Outside one of the homes on Voortrekker Street. An angel blows kisses. How perfectly apt.

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The ‘Moeder Kerk’ in the centre of the village.

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The wonderful Mira with a bunch of flowers she bought at the market.

Mira is doing much to single-handedly promote McGregor. She’s inviting interest, offering up the many attractions, spreading the good word, involving the community and instilling a sense of pride in this place she’s called home for nearly two decades. You’ll want to book her accommodation, you’ll also want to make it to as many of the above as possible.

Connect with her here: McGregor Country Getaways. Tel: +27 76 4119477 and +27 23 6251519. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter too. For a bit more of the village look to McGregor Tourism too.

Thank you Mira and McGregor for the insightful, fun and heartwarming weekend. I look forward to returning for more.

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Great group too! Here we are at Lord’s Winery, bubbly in hand.

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Dawn Jorgensen is The Incidental Tourist

The Incidental Tourist is a Personal Travel Blog of a conscious traveller with a deep love for Africa, its people and the environment.

Here I bring you narratives, stories, video and photographs from my travels around the globe, including accounts of gorilla trekking in Uganda, tree planting in Zambia and turtle rescue in Kenya, accommodation and restaurant reviews, as well as details of the conservation efforts that I support.

A self proclaimed earth advocate and beauty seeker, I invite you to join me here and share in my love of sustainable travel.

Dawn Jorgensen
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