The impression we hold of the Karoo has romance at its heart: dirt roads, windmills, sunsets that look as though someone has thrown claret on a canvas, big sky and mountain passes.
The semi-desert region known as the Karoo is inspiring. Despite its droughts and extreme climate, it is a space in which to unwind, slow and retreat from the world.
We share 8 of the best Karoo farmstays with you…
1. ABBOTSBURY, GRAAFF-REINET
Abbotsbury is a 4300 acre sheep farm just 27 km outside of the historical Karoo town of Graaff-Reinet. This beautifully restored homestead lies just 3 km off the N9 set in the midst of the rolling green lawns and roses (think English country garden).
Really tastefully and quaintly furnished (Sheffield cutlery, bone china, cotton linen and mohair blankets) with restored Cape cottage furniture, you can choose between a two-bedroom cottage, or two private suites. Meals include an Abbotsbury’s breakfast or a local speciality meal. Hike up the valley, or visit the nearby Valley of Desolation. Find out more – Abbotsbury
Photograph: Abbotsbury Guest Farm in Graaff-Reinet
2. CLOUD COTTAGE, VOOGSEKRAAL FARM, UNIONDALE
What strikes you about Cloud Cottage in Uniondale is its remoteness – set right up against the Outeniqua Mountains, a lone cottage in the midst of arid, scrubby Karoo fynbos with views to match. Family-run Voogsekraal biodynamic farm is 35 hectares of ploughed grazing amidst 800 hectares of mountain, fynbos, ravines, streams, waterfalls and rock pools (they also have a bunch of goats and herd of cows that supply them with the milk for Cloud Cottage Cheese).
You can look forward to guided walks, bottle feeding baby goats, or trying your hand at herding cows. The cottage, is a simple, yet beautiful, stone and adobe cottage with comfortable and cosy décor, oil lamps for light, hot water and fires to keep warm in winter (you’ve worked out by now that there is no electricity – best way to experience the Karoo!). Did we mention that artist Theo Magaw lives and works on the farm? Find out more – Cloud Cottage
Photograph: Cloud Cottage in Uniondale
3. GROENFONTEIN GUEST FARM, CALITZDORP
Eighth generation Groenfontein in Calitzdorp farms cattle, tobacco, and ostriches on the banks of the ever flowing Nels River, with water quality so high that it qualifies for bottling. The beautiful valley in which the farm lies is an area of outstanding natural beauty.
Two cottages are available. Oupa Piet sleeps 6 people in 3 typical farmstyle bedrooms, whilst Oom Kleinbaas sleep four in two bedrooms. The farm generates its own power from a water wheel in the river and offers long walks into the mountain, cycling through the valley, farm tours and an incredible bird life. A break from it, in other words. Find out more – Groenfontein Guest Farm
Photograph: Groenfontein Guest Farm in Calitzdorp
4. HILLSTON FARM, MIDDELBURG
The little ironstone three-bedroom cottage in Middelburg, built in the late 1800s, or Hillston Country House (4 bedrooms) are the highlight of a stay on this Karoo farm, that also happens to host Karoo cooking classes and demonstrations (so, if you are here to experience typical Karoo food, then you’ve come to the right place).
Enjoy a braai in the Boer War blockhouse lapa (the farm’s 100+ year old Boer War barracks are now used for shearing sheep). The farm offers rock pools, over 100 bird species, cycling routes, hiking, and a telescope with which to star gaze. Milk a cow, feed a chicken or ride a horse; experience a typical Karoo farm. Find out more – Hillston Farm
Photograph: Hillston Farm in Middelburg
5. MATJIESVLEI GUEST FARM, CALITZDORP
Set in the foothills of the Swartberg Mountains, Matjiesvlei farm is one beautiful view upon another. Best is their offering of four historic, quaint self-catering cottages, each at a different location on the farm. Thiart Huis, built in 1936, is a quaint little farmhouse that sleeps 6 in 3 bedrooms, complete with stoep, freestanding clawfoot bathtub, and pretty ornamental plates.
Douglas Huis sleeps 6 in 3 bedrooms and dates back to 1860, Cloete Huis is an ideal honeymoon cottage (cancles and oil lamps for after dark) with one bedroom and an essential view of the valley. Huis Oppie Rant is another 3 bedroom cottage with wooden floors and ceilings, and incredible views, whilst Oupad se Kloof is a more modern cottage that sleeps 4. Fishing is a highlight, as is the Bôjaankop 4×4 route. Find out more – Matjiesvlei Guest Farm
Photograph: Matjiesvlei Guest Farm in Calitzdorp
6. MYMERING, DWARSRIVIER, LADISMITH
You’ll find this farm in the Dwars River valley in amongst wine and fruit farms with Towerkop Mountain as its backdrop. The working farm produces grapes, olives, figs amongst other crops and offers a cottage and a couple of ‘suites’ for guests to escape city life. Each is designed on a theme, their interior rather more upscale than you might expect from a farm, but for those who value air-conditioning (Ladismith can get hellishly hot) and luxury, this is a treat.
Mymering is the home of Hillock Wines where farmer Andy Hillock, who turned to grape growing later in his life, bottles and labels his Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Blanc de Noir, Shiraz and Chenin Blanc on the farm. Find out more – Mymering
Photograph: Mymeiring in Ladismith
7. OVER THE MOUNTAIN GUEST FARM, HEROLD
Few of you will have heard of Herold, so for your edification this little hamlet lies at the top of the Montagu Pass 35 km outside George. This ‘farmstay’ is rather unusual as five historic buildings have been incorporated in Over the Mountain farm (who would want to lose these gems?). And mountain scenery does not come much better than this.
You can choose between the ‘Police Station’, ‘Post Office’, ‘School’, ‘House of Sin’ or ‘Welsch House’, all of which date back to 1860 when this ‘town’ would probably have served as a watering hole on the cumbersome route over the mountain. Breakfasts and dinners are served, by arrangement, in the Police Station. Find out more – Over The Mountain Guest Farm
Photograph: Over The Mountain Guest Farm in Herold
8. WITKRANS LODGE GUEST FARM, MIDDELBURG
This sheep farm, just 12 km outside of Middelburg, is surrounded by mountains in an area known for its generous herbal plant life. The two-bedroom cottage, that sleeps 8, is decorated with restraint – wooden floors and doors, simple furnishing and nothing to intrude upon your time there. Enjoy the space of aKaroo farm. Tariffs are reasonable. Find out more – Witkrans Lodge Guest Farm