The story begins way back, I mean really way back! When Knysna was still a farm area, with hunting opportunities, forestry was thriving and bush pigs, leopards and elephants roamed and ruled the area. On one visit a young man by the name of Captain Thomas Henry Duthie who originated from Scotland changed the face and the future of the piece of land called Belvidere…
It is during the early morning that I arrived at Belvidere, I stopped in the small parking lot under a huge oak tree and strolled down to the water’s edge. The calm waters of the estuary was covered in a soft blanket of mist and out of the corner of my eye I spotted a Heron doing his balancing act on a lonely skiff, his reflection as still as him. It is in this stillness that I took a deep breath and slowly let the calmness of this tranquil place soak into my soul. It’s truly beautiful.
My destination this morning is Belvidere Manor, the original home of Captain Thomas Henry Duthie, described by many as an intellectual and a gentle individual. In the little that I know about him, I have discovered that this young Scottish soldier was eagerly invited by Mr George Rex to visit his farm in Knysna on one of his excursions along the coastline to the Eastern Frontier. This eligible bachelor eventually came to Melkhout Kraal much to George Rex’s delight and the young Duthie adventured, hunted and fell in love, not only with the area but with George Rex’s daughter, Caroline.
It’s not hard to see why the area was so appealing, it was a wild piece of utopia back then, but the beauty has not dissipated. The name Belvidere derived from the Italian word “Bella” which means beauty and “Videre” which translates “to see” and it makes perfect sense.
The golden morning light fell softly on the huge Manor porch as I walked up the stairs, it was set for breakfast and the warm sunlight filtered its way charmingly into each corner of the place, as I step onto the wooden floors of this age old building I can almost feel the history in it, my eyes rest on the yellow wood inserts everywhere and the creak under my step assures me it has been there for a while. these were spaces that were created over time.
I peer into every room and take in the moments, wondering what it was like to live here almost 200 years ago. It is with a great inquisitiveness that I stare at the historical faces on the wall, each from within its picture frame, from young to old, with edged character lines that only time can shape.
I met up with Mike and Sue for an early coffee, the owners of the Belvidere Manor business which they bought over 20 years ago, it is an interesting story of growth and potential here on the edge of the estuary, and as Sue and I walked, chatted and explored the property together it was inevitable why it was such a popular place to visit. All the cottages on the property are designed in such a manner that you can enjoy the environment to its fullest and appreciate the historical facets of the area all while you can still enjoy the flair of modern in each cottage. They are designed for self-catering so if you truly feel like escaping the normal B&B aspect, but still have the luxury of being lazy and prefer to a enjoy a breakfast on the sun filled porch overlooking the water, you can.
Not only does Belvidere boast with a great breakfast but it has a little pub called “The Bell” This little eating spot has built up a reputation of its own in the area and is normally filled with locals and visitors alike, it has a variety of mouth-watering dishes with an added English Pub flair. The original building was thought to be a hunting lodge in the 1800’s and later became the home of Thomas, Caroline and their growing little family before the Manor was built and completed in 1849. It is here you can sit in the fresh air while enjoying a cool bottle of wine and feasting on a light meal or where you huddle up inside on a cool evening for a cosy pub meal of hot-pot pie and a tall Ale. You choose…
Knysna is not without its legends and the Manor has a few of its own mysteries. Sue was casually sharing her story of the pipe smoking Vicar that would appear every now in then in the upstairs room of the Manor, it seems to be that the Duthie’s had a love for the calling of the cloth and it might be one of them still looking out over the vista of Belvidere and not wanting to leave, just yet.
Belvidere definitely has a soulful environment with a certain serenity. Visit, sit back, breathe in the fresh air and just enjoy this tranquil place with its immense bird life, gardens and views
For more information visit their website www.belvidere.co.za