Hartford House

The Home of Good Conversation, Fine Wine and Classic Horses

Award-winning hotel and restaurant situated at Summerhill Stud on the picturesque KwaZulu-Natal Midlands Meander, South Africa.

DR. LOUIS LUYT : THE CAPTAIN, THE COACH...

Dr Louis Luyt in front of a Luyt Lager Billboard / Sport24 BidorBuy

Dr Louis Luyt in front of a Luyt Lager Billboard / Sport24 BidorBuy

...AND NOW THE CHAIRMAN.

We couldn't resist the alliteration. "Chairman" was not the post occupied by Dr. Louis Luyt at the time of South Africa's first Rugby World Cup victory in 1995; it was "President", but the fact is, all three have had Hartford House on their list of "must do's" during their lifetimes. In the wake of that epic victory over the All Blacks at Ellis Park, coach Kitch Christie used this haven as his "get-out clause," as he used to call it when he and wife Judy wanted an alternative to their game farm in Limpopo. "Captain Courageous", Francois Pienaar, the man who famously donated his No.6 jersey to Nelson Mandela for the trophy ceremony, and his smart lady, Nerine, have been regulars, and between the two Springboks, we raced a filly called Amabokoboko. At the time the Springboks were on a 17 win streak, and this filly taught them emphatically that there was another side to life which brings you back to earth with a bump: she ran five 2nds in a row!

And now, Dr. Luyt, founder of Triomf Fertilizers, Luyt Breweries and The Citizen newspaper (one of racing's best reads) made the pilgrimage earlier this week in the company of his wife Adri and Ricky Smit, who has championed the causes of the charities supported by the Nicholas Rey Foundation.

There's a reason why people come here. The charm of Hartford disarms you; you want to take your shoes off and slip into freewheel. The best description of the place came from a piece penned for Britain's Tattler magazine:

"Peering through one teakwood door at Hartford House, you face a Colonial world. Opening another, the distant sounds of an ancient people at work lilt across the silent landscape, a country of great space, spectacular mountains and big skies. This place commands a headland between the world of traditional cultures and the splendid style of our settler forebears."

"It is the resolution of all South African safaris. The journey's exclamation point, a retreat from the hubbub where you make sense of a fast life and its senseless details. This is where we learn to redress ourselves on a first name basis. There are too many luxury hotels in the world offering the same: a chocolate on the pillow, canned romance, and cuisine called "haut" because it's spelled in French. Hartford stands apart for its integrity, its architecture, views, dining, sounds, smells, its racehorses and its people are all exhilarating surprises, unique to this Zululand, this culture, to Africa. Yes, you come here to be pampered, but at Hartford luxury is the journey, not the destination."

"The truth is, Hartford just happened. A home, and a grand one at that, which grew into a hotel. The Zulus call it "Khululekha". Loosely translated, it means "a place which quietly but firmly kidnaps you." In so many ways, it's gained and regained inspiration from the cultures it celebrates. It is life's exception, a place at the same time comfortable beyond dreams, yet innocent of pretence."

These sporting celebrities are not the only ones who appreciate Hartford's treasures. Anyone who picks up the phone within a month of a chosen weekend will know its tough to find a reservation, and that's why the big names at East Coast Radio and Suncoast Casino have chosen Monday and Tuesday as their time to come out to the country. More on that next week, when these "celebs" turn up.