Driving up to the classic stoep of the Victorian farmhouse, avid fans of Netflix’s blockbuster series, The Crown, may respond with a sudden shiver of déjà vu. Seminal scenes of the first season were shot here at Bartholomeus Klip — and you can see why. This is where a prospective queen would come to get away from it all.
Bartholomeus Klip, affectionately known as BK, is historically fascinating with a dark twist, which harks back to the very earliest days of the Cape Colony and resulted in the first execution of a woman for murder. The story of forbidden love, and the price paid for it, is immortalised in a recent ceramic artwork by Michael Chandler of Chandler House. BK is one of the oldest working farms in South Africa, just 15 minutes from the quaint village of Riebeek-Kasteel, in the sublime Riebeek Valley, set on 10 000ha of the Elandsberg Private Nature Reserve.
An understated, old-school decorative hand is at play. This is farmhouse chic executed with finesse, charm, and comfort. The lovely team who work here under the able hand of Lesley Gillett — one of the Gillet twins who are the invigorating management force behind the magic of BK — would make even the grandest of folks feel at home and spoilt.
The other twin, resident chef Louise Gillett, is a dab hand in the kitchen, and even an avowed non-carb eater might just succumb to the ridiculously good baking on offer. The breakfast is robust and outrageously good — so much so that lunch is skipped for the fabulous high-tea offering, followed by a delicious multicourse dinner paired with wines from local vineyards. Heavenly.
I love to run in the reserve — the mountains loom large and the flora is magnificent. Game drives with a strong botanical bent are on offer twice a day, and provide a master class in the minutiae of one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world. They also run a Geometric Tortoise Headstart project, work on the Quagga revival project, and have a way with the buffalo. Mountain biking, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and hiking are all on offer for the energetic.
It’s brilliant for birdwatching, and there is a dam for rowing — or to indulge in dozing off or reading in the boathouse or on the lawn next to the pool. You may be tempted to partake in a game of croquet, as one does in these bucolic environs. Although, a nap on one of the discreetly placed deckchairs beneath the huge trees is a far more thrilling prospect for a weekend pundit like myself.