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.

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Monis Fortified Wines


Think again! Join us for a complimentary tasting of Monis fortified wines paired with a selection of fabulous foods and experience an incredible taste selection.

Date : 11 May 2011
Time : 18:00
Venue : Hartford House

Canapes will be served after tasting.

Limited numbers so make sure we have your name on the list!

RSVP to Emma on 033 2632713 or by sending an email to emma@hartford.co.za.

hartford house logo

For more information please visit :


open gardens 2009


The garden of Rose and Revell Sivright “Glengarry Park.”
Self catering chalets.
Phone: 033 267 7225 Cell 082 7833445.
OPEN 10/11, 17/18  and 24/25 October and during the week by request

This large English country garden features stunning young beeches, birches, maples, nyssas and dogwoods. Thatch cottages are surrounded by borders of viburnums, azaleas, rhododendrons, pieris, kalmia and many russell lupins, astilbes, hostas , hellebores with a sprinkling of annual poppies and pansies. Donations to a charity of the gardener’s choice. Glengarry often opens during the year by appointment , please call in advance if you plan visiting outside of Open Gardens.

Directions: Turn off the N3 at Nottingham Road and continue onto Rosetta along R103 (old main road) At Rosetta turn left onto Kamberg Road and continue for 31 kms, turning left at Glengarry/Highmoor Road. “Glengarry Park” is 500 metres along this road - tar to the gate.

The garden of Veronica Ratsey “Uskia Garden”, Defence Farm.
Phone: 033 267 7442 OPEN 3/4, 10/11 and 17/18 OCTOBER

This garden features many varieties of well established English trees, rhododendrons and pink and white dogwoods. Other plants to look out for are the gunnerer, acers, holly, clematis, irises and beech trees. Some indigenous plants have been added over the past years and spectacular views over the whole Drakensberg mountain range make this an exceptionally scenic spot. Plants are on sale and donations to the SPCA are most welcome.

Directions: From Rosetta proceed 14 kms up the Kamberg Road, turn right when you see the signboard stating Defence Farm, continue till the blue and white sign stating house/nursery to the left, and shed to the right - proceed left and continue up the driveway - it will be signposted.


The garden of Priscilla and Peter Francis “Milestone Forest.”Phone: 033 234 4190. OPEN SPRING & SUMMER ENJOY A DAY IN THE COUNTRY!

This portion of indigenous KwaZulu-Natal mist forest is a National Heritage site. The Balgowan Conservancy and the Wildlands Trust have over the years developed a tree walk which has been enjoyed by numerous visitors and organized groups – the trees are named and it is well worth the visit. The forest also attracts numerous birds so be sure to take your binoculars and wear good walking shoes. Spectacular Cape chestnuts flower in late spring - the garden is a woodland and informal with many hydrangeas, azaleas and rhododendrons. Highlight: Picnic baskets welcome – have a picnic at the dam and spend a day in the country enjoying the tree walk and have an informal stroll through the garden.

Directions: From N3 take Balgowan turn off left. At the T junction turn left at Caversham sign turning left again into D533 - Milestone is just over 1 km on the left.



"Could this be the best Boys Choir in the world?"

We’re fortunate at Hartford House in the many visitors that travel thousands of miles to visit us, and the tapestry of cultures they represent. People come from across the world to stay at the “jewelled buckle” of the KZN midlands, some of them connoisseurs of the arts and music, others with uninitiated curiosities of what this spectacular part of the world has to offer.

However, the one thing they all have in common, once they’ve made their first pilgrimage to the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir (an enchanting 45 minute drive into the Champagne Valley), is that this is an irresistible option for all comers. Even the Viennese, who have a proprietary interest in protecting the status of the Vienna Boys’ Choir, concede that the diversity and the talent on display, at times, eclipses the lofty standards set by their own, and for those who are with us on a Wednesday during school term time, this is a must.

To most of our guests, we recommend an early breakfast and a drive over the Drakensberg through the gloriously coloured cliffs of the Golden Gate National Park, and then to Clarens, a village not much bigger than Mooi River, but unmistakably the art capital of South Africa. Clarens is home to more than thirty art galleries, and is the starting place for most of South Africa’s young artistic talent. It’s in the bottommost most corner of the south eastern Free State, and apart from being one of the great journeys of South Africa, it’s a convenient distance back to the Boys Choir, whose shows start at 3:30pm. These exhibitions are generally over by 5pm, and it’s a comfortable meander back to Hartford, in time for a shower or a lazy bath, before dinner. Some dinner too, in a national Top Ten restaurant.

And then, if you’re with us through Saturday evening, we have another surprise for you.



Hansa Powerade Dusi Canoe Marathon / dusi.co.za (p)

Hansa Powerade Dusi Canoe Marathon / dusi.co.za (p)

Excitement is building in the Kingdom of the Zulu as final preparations are underway for the staging of the 2009 Hansa Powerade Dusi Canoe Marathon come 15th, 16th and 17th January. 

This world-class canoe marathan between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, on South Africa's East Coast, attracts around 2000 paddlers and another 2000 - 3000 seconders, helpers or supporters.

Add this to over 120 accredited media, nearly 1000 volunteers, thousands of litres of Powerade energy drink, thousands of Hansa smiles, millions of litres of water, tens of thousands of spectators and you have the "Worlds Greatest Canoe Marathon - the Hansa Powerade Dusi."

But things didn't always happen on such a grand scale.

The origins of this unique event go back some 57 years to the 22nd December 1951, when eight men set off from Pietermaritzburg's Alexandra Park on the first Canoe Marathon to Durban. They were pioneers: Ian Player, Miles Brokensha, Ernie Pearce, John Naude, Basil Halford, Willie Potgieter, Fred Schmidt and Denis Vorster.

These eight explorers did not know it at the time, but their adventure would in the future evolve into what has become the world famous, Dusi Canoe Marathon.

Deep in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, where the Umgeni River meets the Umsundusi River, the raging waters are compressed into a churning mass of whirlpools and boils... and this was not the only challenge these intrepid adventurers would face.

One of them, Ian Player, would become the only finisher that year despite having being bitten by a Night Adder!

In his canoe made from wood and canvas and carrying all his own supplies, weighing in at 70lb laden, it took the famous conservationist six days to complete the 140 kilometer journey between Pietermaritzburg and Durban.

The following three Dusi Marathons were all held on a non-stop basis and the winning time was reduced to 1 day, 3 hours and 28 minutes. In 1956 it was decided that due to the grave dangers in navigating the torid waters at night, the race would be held over three stages. This has been the procedure ever since.

The credit for having pioneered this great canoe race must go to Ian Player, who also went on to claim victory in 1953 and 1954, but it is not generally known that the first trip down these two rivers was made as long ago as 1893 by two Pietermaritzburg men, William Foley and Paul Marianny, who covered the distance in a mammoth seven days.

To all guests and friends of Hartford House participating in this year's Dusi, we wish you great strength and enjoyment of a truely African experience.

The truth is incontrovertible: The Best Value in the World.


The Hartford Zulu Dance Troupe
(Hartford House)


One thing you’ll always notice about the change of seasons in the Drakensberg area, is that each season has a distinct character, and this year Spring has been as spectacular as ever.

It’s not only the birds that are singing: undoubtedly the best boy’s choir in the world, the Drakensberg Boys' Choir, is situated just up the road from us and they’re preparing for their Summer and Christmas seasons. If you’re in the vicinity of Hartford House, be sure to let us arrange a visit for you to one of life’s most outstanding choral experiences. We can even pack you a delicious picnic lunch and direct you via South Africa’s art capital, Clarens, all in the same morning.

Besides a burst of greenery and the profusion of young buds, they’re foaling “royalty” at South Africa’s champion racehorse breeding establishment, Summerhill Stud. This weekend also witnessed the departure of more than 100 bouncing two-year-olds to the Emperors Palace Ready To Run Sale in Johannesburg, on their way to racing glory no doubt.

Most of these youngsters have never set foot on a moving vehicle in their lives, and it’s a joy to watch the skills of our young Zulu horsemen coaxing them aboard to the encouraging serenades of school children, wives and "gogos" (or grandmothers) at the loading ramps.

You don’t have to be Ernest Hemingway to get among the trophy trout on this property. Just a few weekends back, two of our young guests availed themselves of our "master-class fly casting lessons", and each came away with prize trout of between six and seven pounds.

Another couple, whilst enjoying a “bomb-proof” horse ride in the direction of the Boathouse and Magic Mirror lake, were thrilled by a sudden stampede of startled Reedbuck and the sighting of the endangered Oribi.

We continue to be surprised, (but oh so pleasantly) at the pilgrimage of foreigners who travel from so far to visit with us at Hartford.

While we’ve always enjoyed a healthy sprinkling of Brits and Europeans, and a throng from the horse-loving countries to the west and east of us, we appear to have new devotees from the United States and Australia. People are supposedly rediscovering their roots, and it seems this area (Hartford House and Summerhill in particular) offers one of the warmest, most hospitable and genuinely authentic experiences on the planet.

There are others who delight in the entertainment of our Zulu dance troupe, and it’s a source of considerable pride to tell you that in a couple of weeks, they'll be winging their way to their third World Traditional Dance Championships to be held in the United States. The troupe have already achieved 2nd and 3rd in Tokyo and Hong Kong respectively and believe they now know how it’s done, and we’re confident they’ll return home the best Traditional Dance troupe in the world.

We know we don’t have to ask you to join us in wishing them well on their way. It’s the visits of our Guests that have encouraged and uplifted our people to such a degree, and we’re forever grateful for the contributions you make.

We sincerely hope this note finds you in the “pink”. If you aren’t already on your way to us, please visit us on our website at www.hartford.co.za for the latest in what’s up at Hartford. There’s just a tiny chance we might be able to lure you back before too long!

With the Rand at unprecedented levels against the major currencies, South Africans will be staying at home more than ever, and our foreign friends will find us the best value in the world, by a country mile.

Warmest regards,


SPRING SOLSTICE : Photos of the Spring Snows at Hartford House

Spring Snows
(Annet Becker)

This past weekend was Spring Solstice but you would never have guessed it here in Mooi River with Mother Nature bringing us Spring Snows.

SUMMERHILL STALLION DAY : A True Midlands Festival

The Guard of Honour / Summerhill Stud (p)

The Guard of Honour / Summerhill Stud (p)

The Summerhill Stallion Day was a rousing success, with visitors from across the whole racing world. Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Korea, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, France, Turkey, Germany, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and the length and breadth of South Africa. In the end, we fed more than 700 people, and we’re almost frightened to look at the booze bill this morning!

The new horses, Mullins Bay, Stronghold and Ravishing were at their brilliant best, and the business undertaken by our stallions booking department through the afternoon was a testament to their class. We know the times are supposedly tough across the economic spectra of the world, but you’d be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss was about if you’d attended the auction. South Africans have long been known for their generosity, but yesterday the world was here, and they opened their hearts and emptied their pockets in no uncertain manner. This has long been one of the best parties in racing, but Sunday was a spectacle for everyone, and those who won the bidding duels will have their names carved forever upon the bricks at the Al Maktoum School Of Excellence, which will be a work in progress by the time of next year’s Stallion Day. We have some ambitious plans for this school.

In the event, with just one exception, the stallions all made at least their service fees and in some instances, considerably more, a tribute to their quality and a statement on the atmosphere that marked the occasion. By some stretch, this was the biggest price ever for a mangnum of Waterford Cab.

For the record, Stallion Day’s equivalent of Man of the Match, or Underbidder of the Day, went to Highlands Farm's Mike Sharkey who had a crack at both the Muhtafal, the Kahal services, and then underbid on the Waterford Cabernet. He, Marsh Shirtliff and Jet Master’s Devines were all here to celebrate their big day at the Vodacom Durban July where Pocket Power and Dancer’s Daughter chalked up the first deadheat in 41 years.