Back in February, we knew about the Coronavirus. And, we knew it would hit South Africa at some point. But I had no inkling that my life would change so dramatically.
I’d love to say I had some sort of premonition that prompted us to book a farm stay just outside Dullstroom for a weekend. But, it didn’t happen like that; I just wanted to head to one of my favourite haunts – and this is where we landed.
Eland’s Valley, a working farm near Dullstroom caught my eye on AirBNB one night. And, after my usual (somewhat ridiculous) vetting process, we booked this sweet stone cottage bearing the name Strawberry Fields.
Why is this Eland's Valley Cottage called Strawberry Fields?
The first thing you’ll notice is that Eland’s Valley isn’t packed full of strawberry bushes.
But, it’s not difficult to see how this cottage got its name.
Every room is layered in shades of red and pink. And though the lounge and extra bedroom seem overpowering in the photos, they’re not. The colours are vibrant and lovely, not manic.
Still, there’s no escaping them. Indeed, you’ll find accents everywhere
Why we chose Eland's Valley
Eland’s Valley caught my eye on AirBNB, but it wasn’t a random find. I was actively searching for:
- Dullstroom accommodation that wasn’t necessarily “in town”.
- A nature-filled property. A large yard with some views may have done it, but Eland’s Valley farm was way closer to the ideal.
- Decent self-catering options and a braai. It’s not just a vegan thing (though that’s part of it); I don’t think travelling should break the bank. That means I’ll sacrifice a certain amount of meal-planning and preparation for other experiences.
Obviously, Strawberry Fields cottage offered what I was looking for.
No, I wasn’t cooking on this coal stove, though I think I would have enjoyed the challenge.
Plus, the property offers scope for country walks, fishing if you’re into that, and a few gardens, orchards and vineyards to amble around.
All together that makes Eland’s Valley a destination as much as accommodation near Dullstroom.
But it was the front stoep that sold us. We wanted to be here, to listen to the sounds of the birds while pulling on these wellies before returning to a lovely lunch at this table.
And this farmstay Dullstroom accommodation didn't disappoint
On arrival, we were greeted at reception and given directions to drive over to Strawberry Fields. A small army of hospitality met us at our parking spot, unloaded our car and quickly brought additional firewood to counteract the cold weather that had surprisingly settled over us.
And then we were left to explore our cottage and the farm.
The Strawberry Fields cottage is the smallest guest accommodation on the property. It’s a little oddly laid-out, probably because it’s a converted cow shed.
The main doors open into the main bedroom. There’s a small bathroom to the back right and another one (with a bath) to the front right. This one leads to a small second bedroom or study.
To the left, there’s a door to the kitchen, and from there you can access the lounge. The lounge features a fireplace and DSTV. Both of which were running as we sipped beers and played Rummikub.
The front stoep runs almost the length of the cottage and offers plenty of seating, a braai and tools, wellies for guests to wear and, of course, that kitchen table.
Inside, you’ll find the accommodation guide, a few books, as well as slippers and robes. The kitchen is well-stocked with cooking and serving crockery and tools. It’s just a small bar fridge, but it was more than enough for us. Don’t forget to add scraps to the pig bucket – what can go inside is very clearly marked.
In short, we couldn’t have asked for more.
Wandering around Eland's Valley
As we walked around Eland’s Valley, the stunning views with the clouds and the mist wrapped the experience in mystic. We could have been in Ireland or New Zealand, and we were just hours from home. It should surprise no one that my wanderlustful heart loves the possibilities that provides.
As we passed the dining barn, meant for entertaining groups and hosting celebratory dinners, I imagined bringing a troupe of friends for a country weekend. (This was all pre-corona, when it was much easier for my mind to wander through such dreams.)
Though we didn’t make any use of them, Eland’s Valley also has a tennis court, outdoor game equipment, a pool, hot tub and even a sauna for cold winter nights.
What they don’t have is network connectivity. By traversing the property you can find spots that allow your phone to send and receive messages, but it’s essentially impossible to send lengthy emails or upload work to clients. Somehow, this didn’t bother me (much).
From the fields, we moved up to the farming areas.
Before I went vegan, I’m not sure I ever considered farms and farming. They’re just part of life, right?
That changes the more you adapt to ethical eating. I don’t know about others, but my journey is probably slower than most. My initial transformation can be attributed almost completely to the desire to avoid environmental and economic devastation. The immediate health effects appeared long before I turned any attention to animal welfare. It’s not that I didn’t care; it just wasn’t a core motivator and, therefore, it wasn’t top of mind.
Still, I’ve always been an animal-person; bring out your pets for cuddles, take me on game drives, let me see the animals.
In that sense going to a farm now, isn’t really any different from going to a farm in pre-vegan days. I want to see the pigs and cows. I just want to know they’re not living in murder mills at the same time.
Eland’s Valley, it seems, was the perfect farm stay for me. They’ve got a pig (which I believe was rescued), who devours her food (and demands more).
Chooks roam wherever they please, except at bedtime, when they nest in a room behind the Strawberry Fields cottage.
Miniature horses were spotted, roaming free. (We believe they were making the noises the frightened us slightly during the evening storm.)
Things to do in Dullstroom (that have nothing to do with fishing)The goats were far too friendly to think they were anything other than well-treated and loved.
I don’t know much about the trout in the ponds, but there weren’t any fisherman about either.
There are also herb and vegetable gardens which lend themselves to the idea of subsistence farming, which is a lifestyle I can get on board with pretty easily.
Apart from check-in, and a few casual waves as we walked between the buildings, dams and gardens, however, we didn’t have much interaction with the farm and hospitality folks. So, I didn’t really have a chance to ask. Truthfully, I wasn’t hanging onto any burning questions.
And, after ambling through Eland’s Valley, watching a night storm from the stoep, morning chats with Suzie and a lunch in Dullstroom, we returned to find the incredibly hospitable team at the farm had left us a loaf of freshly-baked bread. What a truly heart-warming touch.
Needless to say, I’d happily return. And when we’re allowed to travel again, I’ve already got my eye on another cottage on the property – one that’ll fit a family… or two. Who’s game?
How to book Eland's Valley accommodation
I booked Eland’s Valley via AirBNB, but there are a few ways you can contact and book your near-Dullstroom accommodation at this gorgeous farm stay. I’ve listed a few avenues here, so you can choose the platform that you’re most comfortable with.