Belvidere the Vista Manor

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…

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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.

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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.

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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

Karoo Soul Searching – Diary of a roadtripper 

Somewhere between a “Groot” River and a tiny dorpie called Vanwyksdorp, placed on the foothold of the Rooiberg Mountain Range lies a little olive farm called Blue Sky Organics. It’s here that I go to when I need to find solace for my soul and rejuvenation of my being. Beside the edging of the olive trees is a lone cottage with your name on it, there if you need to escape the magnitude of mankind.


Be prepared to hear nothing but the chirping of birds,  the call of the baboon troops, the creaking of the roof in the changing heat and the whispering of the wind.

The scenic afternoon route I planned took me via Mosselbay then a sharp right at the Herbertsdale turn off, aiming for the mountains as you head past farmlands and all while the landscape changes from soft coastal views to hard rocky outcrops. It converts to a Karoo type topography with sheep farming the predominant source of income as you head deeper into the hills.

The road switches to gravel just after Herbertsdale so be prepared for a dusty drive, but nowhere in my Karoo travels have I come across a more picturesque drive than this one. The wide curves in the road seem to compliment the panoramic sight as you almost swoop past the mountain and then dip into a river bed, rattle over a cattle grid just to get ready for the next surprise. 
It’s along one of these dips and swoops at a nearing sunset that I noticed the moon, bearing her fullness over the peaks of the mountain tops in the soft pink glow of the sinking sun. Even if time was ticking and I worked against the clock to get to my destination before sunset, I just couldn’t help myself and I grabbed the minute to stop, appreciate and capture the moment on camera.

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It’s when I encounter these little bits of delights in my life, that it actually becomes more meaningful. It wasn’t planned or forced, it just happened and nature paints her own pictures without the help of man. 
So my arrival was at the deep onset of dusk and a cheerful wave greeting from owner Liz to hurry me up the rocky driveway to the cottage with no name. Pooped I stumbled out of the car and distributed my luggage all over the stoep and cottage before taking in the moons display as night softly fell on God’s land.

The rest of the evening consisted of nibbling on nothing healthy and with a cold beer in hand while trying to find the pages of the book I’ve been trying to read for several months now. Not minding the time it takes to find my lost place in the untouched book, a whilst sitting under the outside light and feeling the warm air on my skin, I was just happy to be here.

The next morning, after spending the night on top of my bed with a book on my chest, I was woken up by the sunlight pouring its rays into my bedroom. I lazily stretched myself out like a cat and got up to make coffee.

The great thing about travelling on your own is that you can literally do anything you want, and grabbing my morning substance of the dark brew and my book, newly discovered, I nuzzled my way into the chair on the outside stoep and started the reading process all over again. It’s was only during the late morning when the worms in my stomach were protesting the lack of food and threatening a strike action that I decided to make a hearty brunch and still the lot.

It was way after 2 pm when my conscious saw the light and started nagging me for a walk. I dressed in some comfy kit, grabbed my floppy hat, walking sticks, camera, water bottle and headed for the kloof.

The walk starts at the cottage and works its way past the pale olive trees and stony fields of the hillside before hitting the riverbed of boulders in the kloof. For most of the hike, you will stone hop and balance on rocks, clamber and climb the pale gibber until deep into the kloof. It’s a slight challenge so the best thing to do is to be tenacious and surefooted and why rush?  The rising cliff faces are a dramatic sight and standing and just staring up for long lingering minutes are part of the process. Liz’s dog Jed “i” accompanied me on my lone expedition and the hearty companion was a welcoming addition to my walk and kept me entertained for the +- 2 hours I spent in the kloof, not without compensation of course. Dogs are like that?  They love to share and share the love. So nibbles were an inevitable part of the walk.

It was the late afternoon that I eventually stumbled out of the kloof and headed back up the road, the wind has picked up and was shaking everything around me. The tall blue gum next to my accommodation was rustling up a storm and it sounded like he was orchestrating the whole lot while a small out building’s roof was sounding like a symbol in an out of tune street band.

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After a brisk shower and some clean clothing, I decided on an early braai and pottered around the kitchen to gather some eats that may be considered healthy. A  light salad, blanched broccoli, few minute steaks and a cheesy toasty to scourge on the fire. It seemed pointless to make a fire for one,  not to even mention that it was for a few measly minute steaks, but for the ambience, it was worth it.

As the fire worked its way through the wood pile I sat back and indulged in the rest of my book and an ice cold beer in hand. Life’s Good

It wasn’t until much later that evening that I dragged myself off to bed after enjoying the company of the fictional characters in my novel. It was in a bright moonlit bedroom that I dozed off to dream the world.

When I opened my eyes the next morning the cloud base was hanging low over the valley, the promise of rain was in the air! The rain spider above my bed confirmed it, and even if I don’t like the fury creepy crawlies they are never wrong. I normally engage in a tap dance with theses eight-legged creatures but today I just decided to let it be, I have been living in the area for long enough to be used to them by now…..um maybe. 
It was a lazy start to the day and the idea of actually packing up and heading home was not exactly appealing. Reluctantly I packed the few things I threw in a bag for the weekend tossed it in the car, stared back at the view,  took one more deep breath and headed out to back roads of these red mountains and its sweet curves. The long awaited rain softly started falling and I watched mother earth sigh with relief as it welcomed the moisture. 

One more escape, one more journey, one more place to be discovered and explored this is what road trips are made for. This is my simple passion and I live it and love it. #HowzitSouthAfrica