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.

Filtering by Tag: Drakensberg Mountains

We had our first snow this morning!

First snow on the Drakensberg mountains this morning / Leigh Willson (p)

First snow on the Drakensberg mountains this morning / Leigh Willson (p)

"The Rhythm of the Seasons"

When were you last in the KZN Midlands? Looking at occupancies at Hartford House, it's apparent that ever more, travellers are wanting a piece of this enchanted kingdom. There is a magic to this place, not only in its natural scenic splendour, but in the colours that herald the changes to the seasons. No time is better though than the autumn, when the mornings are crisp, the sky is blue, and you can see forever.

If you're "horsey", you'll know that its yearling prep time, and if you're familiar with Summerhill, you'd be expecting us to be busy with the weaning of foals and the beginnings of the old ritual of teaching our Ready To Run candidates the ropes.

Haydn Bam's agric unit is frantically baling up the last of the hay, and his tractor pilots have been grinding away in the dark before dawn through the twilight of the evening; discing, harrowing and planting. The welfare of the horses is paramount at Summerhill, as you know, and all this activity is part of the stocking up of the larder for winter, with more than 350 hectares of emerald rye grass, targa oats and a salad of fescue, cocksfoot, white and red clovers, and the lavender of the grazing vetch.

And by the way, we had our first snow this morning, not on the farm, but on the nearby Drakensberg mountains. I said at the beginning, autumn is famous for its blue skies and long views, but you'll forgive us our joy at the good rain and the full moon brought overnight. Without it, those paddocks beyond the irrigators, would not yield the bounty we would expect in this part of the world from our winter crops. Townspeople are often oblivious to it, but there's a reason you get spring tides at both ends of the moon's spectrum, and even in the dead of winter, you can expect a little moisture when the moon is either full or in its newest phase. That's why those who live by the stars, tell you to plant by the moon.

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Why Twenty Twelve won't be 2012

Entrance to the Hartford Estate / Nicholas Goss (p)

Entrance to the Hartford Estate / Nicholas Goss (p)

"Good Conversation, Fine Wine and Classic Horses"

Mick Goss Summerhill CEO

Mick Goss
Summerhill CEO

Mick GossThere've been all sorts of predictions on how 2012 would turn out, not the least of which is the foreboding suggestion that the world will come to an end on the 21st December. By our calculations, that leaves most of us with about a week to live, but if you believe the movie "2012", there is salvation for anyone living within reach of the Drakensberg mountains. In that context, it's comforting to know that we're just over half an hour from Giant's Castle, and if what they have in mind is a flood of proportions to which only Noah can relate, there'll be time enough for anyone booked into Hartford House to make it up there as well. The point of my note is that if you don't already have a reservation at Hartford, get one because, in the same instant, you can enjoy a "Last Supper" before the curtain call at what is now officially KZN's Number One restaurant!

From an operational perspective though, we'd have to say that the outcome of the Emperors Palace Ready To Run Sale last month, is the principal reason why twenty twelve won't be 2012. By any stretch, the sale was a miracle, a tribute to good horses, good people and great customers, a convergence of all the ingredients in serendipity, and an alignment of the stars. Unless the Mayans had something else in mind, it seems that what they were predicting was that 2012 would be not so much the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning. In that case, we have much to look forward to in 2013, particularly if the market's assessment of our young stallions is any kind of yardstick. When it came to the Admire Mains, A.P. Arrows and the Mullins Bays, Ready To Run buyers voted with both feet, and the gratifying thing is that they had the benefit of hindsight at the gallops before they did so. For now, we can at least approach the New Year with positive anticipation. Despite a fairly significant reduction in broodmare numbers around the country, we've had an excellent season in the stallion barn, with encouraging demand for the new boys Visionaire, Golden Sword and Traffic Guard, while the vibes on the first of the Brave Tin Soldiers augurs well for their market debuts in the New Year.

Besides the frentics of the Ready To Run, 'tiz the season for awards, and the number of occasions we've had to don our dinner jackets in the past few months has me wondering whether there is time still for a final investment in a new tuxedo. Last time out, I was astonished to discover in my inner pocket, an invitation from the former Administrator of the old Natal, Stoffel Botha, to a function at King's House in 1983, and while that may be a compliment to the jacket's longevity, it's probably more an indication that this Zulu farmer either wears these things as little as possible, or that we just haven't won enough awards in the interim!

We never take these things for granted though, and they always come as a wonderful surprise. Often enough, they are a tribute to two great teams: an eighth Breeders' Championship, an award from each of Highveld and KZN Racing, and a string of podium visits at the KZN Breeders night out; for Hartford House, another national Top Ten Restaurant award, a sixth American Express Fine Dining accolade, the number one spot on the Top 100 SA Wine Lists and a Diamond class certificate from Diners International. That means those of us with a foot in both camps, have attended a lot of dinners lately. None of it possible without the support and encouragement of great friends and wonderful customers.

'Tiz also the season of many visitors, and this is the time when we top up our reserves of good conversation, fine wine and classic horses. If you're passing this way, please join us: we're bound to have other good friends from the neighbourhood. If not, this note comes with the best and the most grateful wishes of two of the best teams in their businesses.

As always, warmest regards,



Table Mountain - New 7 Wonders of Nature / TerraNova (p)

Table Mountain - New 7 Wonders of Nature / TerraNova (p)

"It's a Wonderful World..."

It's a universal fact that you can't speak of the world's most beautiful places without accounting for South Africa. There are many who believe that our valleys and hills are the  most enchanting farmland on the planet; others point to the Drakensberg and the Golden Gate National Park, while we'd challenge anyone to reveal a more spectacular coastline anywhere in the world, than our neighbouring Wild Coast. And then we have our wild places, Northern Zululand and Mpumalanga, and a Karoo that makes the Outback look ordinary. The winelands of the Cape have no competition in the world of viticulture, and just this week the New Seven Wonders Foundation identified Table Mountain as one of only seven new wonders of nature. It's in good company; the Amazon, Halong Bay, Iguazu Falls, Jeju Island, Komodo and Puerto Princesa Underground River.

A tough contest when places like our district's Drakensberg Mountains, Kosi Bay, Victoria Falls and the Okavango Delta etc missed the cut. You can excuse the organisers for omitting the Wild Coast - it's so inaccessible, it's unlikely any of them has ever been near it. And that's the prime reason why it remains one of the last natural beauties of the world.

In an independent impact report conducted by Grant Thornton, a leading tourism, hospitality and leisure research company, it was predicted that a R1.4 billion annual tourism return can be expected for South Africa. Basing their projections on the New 7 Wonders of Nature, in which a 100 million votes were cast worldwide, Grant Thornton estimate that tourism could increase by as much as 20% as a result of this latest finding.

While Hartford House remains one of the nation's favourite destinations, if Grant Thornton are right, we have something to look forward to.


Drakensberg Mountains / Nigel Reid (p)

Drakensberg Mountains / Nigel Reid (p)


My wife and I spent 3 nights at this wonderful hotel on our recent visit to South Africa. While many tourists to South Africa head straight to the Game Parks, fewer tend to visit this region of South Africa which gets less publicity in the tourism literature.

Located in KwaZulu Natal, a 4 hour drive from Johannesburg or 90 minute drive from Durban on excellent roads,Hartford House is situated within a half-hour drive from the spectacular Drakensberg Mountains.

The accomodations are luxurious, the food is gourmet (voted South Africa's best restaurant in 2009) and nothing is too much when it comes to satisfying their guests. There is a Wellness Centre offering spa treatments and massage at reasonable rates.

There is lots to explore in the region including the Battle Fields from the Boer War, walks in the Drakensberg Mountains (from an easy stroll to serious hiking) and the Midlands Meander (a day trip spent exploring the local Arts and Crafts in the area). Fly Fishing is popular in this area. We were particularly impressed by the beauty of this region and the Drakensberg should not be missed.

The hotel is located on the famous Summerhill Stud Farm which is world renowned for its race horses. A tour of the farm is available.

In summary : A memorable stay in a beautiful part of South Africa. Highly recommended.