Porcupine Hills Weekend Getaway
During one of my previous accommodation searches I came across Porcupine Hills, outside of Botrivier, unfortunetly it was a little over my normal budget so I didn't end up booking a stay with them. Some months later I saw an advert that they were running a winter 20% off special, so I grabbed it, as that made it exactly my max per night spend - they do charge a doggie fee of R100 per dog per stay. The drive from Cape Town is between 1.5 and 2 hours, depending on traffic through Somerset West. It is a working olive farm in a secluded valley along the Van der Stel Pass. There are a various types and sizes of accommodation on the farm, including a couple of large houses, small 2 people chalets and even yurts. I'm not sure if they are all pet friendly, you would need to check on booking. They are not enclosed, so dogs can run free, safe and happy! We stayed in Caracal cottage, which has one large bedroom, with a huge bed (2 three quarters pushed together), bathroom with shower, kitchen with inside braai/fireplace and a lounge. The bed was very comfy and there was more than enough space to unpack clothes, so you don't need to live out of a suitcase. The bathroom was nice, with a friendly rain spider living behind one of the pictures. The shower was dreadful though, just a little trickle. I have told them about it and been assured it is fixed, if not I would not reccommend a stay there. We stay in a variety of types of accommodation and don't care how the bathroom looks, as long as the shower has reasonable pressure and is and hot, so this was very dissappointing - actually the worst we have experienced. The kitchen is well equipped, with a full size fridge, gas stove and the ever important coffee bodum. On our first night we used the inside braai, because it was quite cold, and it is a winner, not smokey at all. The lounge is spacious and comfy and there is a file with info about the farm and maps of the hikes. Outside is a large patio/braai area and a little pool with deck chairs. We did enjoy the outside area for breakfasts and a braai on our second night, which was warmer. Andrew did a quick jump in the pool, but I only managed to put my feet in, as it was freezing. I imagine in summer this would be a perfect spot, with the house being well shaded to keep cool, while the pool area is nice and sunny and great for cooling off on hot days.
The farm is a great place if you love hiking, trial running or just being outdoors. There are a few trails of different length and diffuculty on the farm and they are easily linked together for a longer route. The routes are well maintained and clearly marked, so you shouldn't get lost. The map in the info book has good discriptions of the trails. These trails are for the more fit walker, even though they are quite easy and not exposed, there are steep sections and some where you are walking at an angle where the path has washed away a bit. The effort is well worth it as the views are lovely. Make sure to keep an eye out for the Black Eagles, which we were lucky enough to see close up both days. If you are only going to manage one hike, then the Verreaux Trail would be the best to do, as it is the most varied and has the best views. If you are less fit there is a shorter, easier walk you can do through the secret forest.
If you want to do hiking, trail running or mountian biking somewhere other than the farm, there is a spot on the other side of Botrivier called Honingklip, which has trails. I think dogs need to be on leads, as there are also horse rides through there, but just check if you plan to go. There is also a craft Brewery on the farm, with a restaurant where dogs are allowed. It has an nice outside area and enclosed lawn. There are 2 very friendly resident dogs who love to play with doggy visitors. They have quite a selection of beers and you are able to do tastings, and yummy pizzas.
We also found a very dog friendly wine farm, Gabrielskloof. They have a large selection of wines of varying price ranges, we did the reds only tasting with the farm owner, which was great. It is quite a fancy looking place, but they were very chilled about having our boys there. A family at the restaurant brought a little puppy too, and they were quite sweet together on the lawn.
The Peregrine farmstall is also nearby, which is dog friendly and has a variety of little shops. We had hoped to go to the Elgin market on our way home, but sadly they don't allow dogs. But there is more than enough to keep you busy, if you want to be. And definelty enough fresh air to keep you chilled out!