Ludus Magnus, A Jewel in the Heart of the Franschhoek Valley. Cape Winelands.

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There’s a special kind of magic at Ludus Magnus, a truly extraordinary 5-star estate in the heart of the Franschhoek Valley, where exceptional hospitality and service are matched with stylish decor, delicious food and commendable sustainable practices.

Gorgeous grounds, expansive pools and a fire pit to gather around and take the edge off cooler evenings add to the property’s offerings.

Surrounded by towering mountains, framed by vineyards and anchored in French heritage, on a recnet stay here I learnt more about the property’s ethos, the owner’s decision to be 100% off the grid and their focus on a balance of lifestyle, health, family values and well-being in the heart of the Cape Winelands.

Where Sustainability Meets Sophistication

The farm is owned by a French-Italian husband-and-wife team who bought the land a few years ago when they moved to Franschhoek from Europe with their family, and have turned discarded vineyards and fallow land into a magnificent paradise. The bit they’re most proud and passionate about is the hotel’s state-of-the-art sustainability initiatives that have been meticulously integrated from the very start. Investing more than half a million euros in solar panels, boreholes, water treatment and irrigation plants, the planting of 1000s of fruit trees, olive groves, a Shiraz vineyard and countless beehives. Most of the furniture and fittings are locally made to spec, with only the light fittings imported from Italy – when you see them you’ll understand why. The large chunky dining tables are carved from old trees felled on the neighbouring farm, and hold years of history in their polished wood.

As though that isn’t impressive enough, there are many rescue animals that call Ludus Magnus home; 9 dogs, 4 donkeys, 6 horses, 2 springboks, loads of chickens, a proud rooster, numerous tortoises, and 80 cows that recently found sanctuary here. On a drive around the property with co-owner Ilaria, I was introduced to Julius, who oversees the running of the 6 inverters and 266 solar panels that generate the property’s electricity. There’s a borehole that delivers potable water, while black and grey water is treated on sight. Wandering around the estate, we could see the beautiful renewable food sources that include 14 citrus tree varieties along the ‘Vitamin C running trail’. There are also plum, avocado, litchi, mango, banana, pear and macadamia trees – the produce of which makes its way to the breakfast table.

Named after a Roman gladiator school, Ludus Magnus is a meticulous innovative creation conceived of a vision to transform this land into a haven for all who seek the finer things in life. The name itself, which translates to ‘Great Game’ in Latin, hints at the estate’s transformation into a playground for the senses, where guests engage in a grand symphony of flavours, sights, and experiences.

Ludus Magnus in the Franschhoek Winelands has an eight-room manor house and three luxury villas that offer an unrivalled and exclusive getaway in the Cape Winelands, especially should you wish to soak up the area’s sublime tranquillity.

Accommodations: A Symphony of Comfort and Luxury

A true escape is defined by the quality of rest and reprieve that it offers, and Ludus Magnus takes this to heart. The estate offers a range of accommodations that blend modern luxury with international flair. From elegant suites in the Manor House that provide views across the estate towards the mountains, to private villas set amidst the gardens, each a sanctuary of comfort and tranquillity. The attention to detail, from plush furnishings to thoughtfully curated amenities, ensures that every moment spent here is a moment of indulgence.

The Manor House is idyllically positioned and is the heart of the estate. Centred around the main pool, which is a primary attraction and where most guests gather. Step through the enchanting door – an ancient antique piece – into a large contemporary space with lounges to unwind at after a day of touring and activities. The rooms face forward to maximise the views and feature wallpaper and excellent beds and linen, with balconies ideal for taking your morning coffee. A sumptuous breakfast is served daily with the option of a private chef to prepare additional gourmet meals on request.

A professional butler and friendly team are on standby to take care of any other special requests to ensure a memorable stay. For those wanting to stay in, Ludus Magnus serves dinner each evening, and the most delicious cold and cooked breakfast spread each morning. We were beautifully cared for from start to finish by Shandre with communication by WhatsApp Guest Connect to ensure we were always able to stay in touch.

Ludus Magnus also has three magnificent and innovative villas built in a Scandinavian-style wood finish with touches of black and an emphasis on warm luxury and design. Named after the owners’ three children, Charlotte, Vittoria and Stanislas, each villa is unique and offers three ensuite bedrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, a living room, a dining room, and an exclusive terrace with two private pools. Perfect for families or a group of friends travelling together – and once there, you honestly will want to settle in and make the most of the beautiful spaces.

Features and Attractions: Where Dreams Take Flight

In addition to 5-star accommodation, you’ll find an eclectic array of activities and delightfully unique spaces to explore within the estate including spa facilities. River tubing, the pump track and a one-of-a-kind treehouse with a zipline will guarantee adventure. The Olympic-length training pool immersed in the free-flowing freshwater dam, rugby field and 400m running track will ensure any fitness goals stay on track. A secluded river deck, a mini private island off the dam and a hideaway boma area are a few of the areas you’ll discover on your walkabout. The manicured gardens offer a glimpse into the past while bringing to life the estate’s journey and ever-promising future. Should you feel like some beach time, a white-sand island – complete with a pizza oven, deck chairs, a tree-shaded hammock and rowboat, plus the option of doing 50-metre laps in the dam, are to be found too.

An unrivalled experience in exclusive luxury and warm hospitality

Highlights for me are the following:

  • Ludus Magnus is 100% solar-powered
  • With 8 Manor House Rooms and 3 Luxury Villas, whichever suits you best
  • Each room offers an array of amenities and facilities to keep you comfortable
  • Situated in the culinary capital of South Africa, Franschhoek
  • Incredible pool for swimming, plus the dam marked off with training lanes
  • Lovely walks, with the donkeys who are always near and a family that has its heart in all the right places.

Ludus Magnus stands as a testament to the power of transformation, where history, luxury, and natural beauty converge to create a wonderful experience. From its humble beginnings as a farm to its current incarnation as a haven for the senses, the estate’s journey mirrors that of Franschhoek itself—a tale of evolution, preservation, and celebration of life’s finest offerings.

I loved my weekend there. Ludus Magnus speaks of soulful relaxation, long walks, and connecting with the very special family who have created this exceptional place. I can’t recommend what they are and what they do enough.

About the Cape Winelands

Within an hour of Cape Town, the Cape Winelands region is an enchanting destination that combines remarkable landscapes, world-renowned vineyards, and a rich culinary heritage. Synonymous with exceptional wines, rolling hills, charming historic towns, and a well-deserved reputation for award-winning wines, the Cape Winelands invites you to embark on a sensory journey through its vine-clad valleys. Sample a wide range of varietals, from renowned Sauvignon Blancs to robust Shiraz wines. Visit wine estates, many of which have been producing wines for centuries, and take guided cellar tours to learn about the winemaking process. Pair your wine tastings with delectable local cuisine at renowned restaurants and farm-to-table eateries. From gourmet picnics between the vineyards to fine dining experiences that showcase the region’s flavours, the Cape Winelands offers a feast for the senses.

Beyond the fine wines, the Cape Winelands has a collection of charming towns steeped in history and surrounded by stunning scenery. Stroll through the oak-lined streets of Stellenbosch, the second-oldest town in South Africa, and admire its Cape Dutch architecture and vibrant student culture. Explore the quaint town of Franschhoek steeped in French influence and known as the culinary capital of South Africa, with its delightful shops, galleries, and top-notch restaurants. Discover the town of Paarl, where you can visit the iconic Afrikaans Language Monument and soak up the views of the valley. Activities include hiking, cycling, and even horseback riding; chocolate, wine and cheese tours; a vintage car museum visit, or just a stroll through the renowned Dylan Lewis’s studio sculpture gardens. The Cape Winelands is known for its exceptional accommodations that provide an idyllic retreat amidst the vineyards and scenic landscapes. From luxurious wine estates and boutique hotels to country lodges with their unique charm. Enjoy warm hospitality, elegant rooms, and romantic escapes.

About Franschhoek

Established over 300 years ago by the Huguenot settlers, pristine natural and architectural brilliance is found at every corner in Franschhoek. The magnificent Franschhoek Valley offers world-class wine estates, tastings and cellar tours nestled between towering mountains and beautiful vineyards. The picturesque traditional French village hosts some of the best cuisines from internationally recognised gourmet chefs. Of South Africa’s top ten restaurants, three are in Franschhoek and there is a choice of more than thirty different places to wine and dine. Franschhoek is also celebrated for its unique boutique shopping experience. For eating out I recommend Chefs Warehouse at Maison, Ōku and Yama Asian Eatery for a casual lunch, as well as La Lude for their bubbly tasting.

The Essential Details

Ludus Magnus is outside Franschhoek on the Two Rivers Farm portion 9, R45, with your arrival announced at a big gate that opens to welcome you to this wonderful world. For more information, take a look at their website or connect at +27 78 137 9591 or info@ludusmagnus.co.za.

** Hosted by Ludus Magnus by invitation of Julie Gluck – Marketing Manager.

** Some pics are mine, many are supplied by the property.

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