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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The only world class hotel on a world class stud farm in the world!

A place at the same time comfortable beyond dreams, yet innocent of pretence.
— Hartford House

We are lucky to live where we do, in a boundless, unconquered world, where the plains roll away to the great skies beyond. There are those who will tell you there is no other place quite like it.

But we are equally fortunate in the people who came before us. Their footprints are everywhere at Hartford. The old manor house built by the family of the colony’s last Prime Minister, stands alone among the best homes of a splendid era. Built at a time when great wars were being waged by great nations for the spoils of our region, anybody who was anyone, knew the portals of this grand old dame.

Yet long before the intrusion of these well scripted events, an ancient people lived here in quiet serenity among the plants and animals of our kingdom, and they built their abodes with the materials of the neighbourhood.

These are the people that gave birth to Ezulweni, a reversion to the methods of old, and a sensual interpretation of the way things were. The juxtaposing of Hartford House with Ezulweni provides our travellers with an insight into our colonial past, and a glimpse of the imaginations of our Zulu craftsmen, whose creative hands are embedded in the finishes.

In so many ways, Hartford stands apart for its originality. Its architecture, views, dining, sounds, scents, its racehorses and its people, are all exhilarating surprises, unique to this Zululand, to this property, and to Africa.

Hartford has gained and regained from the cultures it celebrates. It is life’s exception.

What sets us apart

Cheryl and I on Yasawa Island, Fiji

Cheryl and I on Yasawa Island, Fiji

"Increasingly, travellers seek destinations that accommodate lifestyle and weather, bespoken to their surroundings and community."

Mick Goss  Summerhill Group CEO

Mick Goss
Summerhill Group CEO

Cheryl and I have been travelling a lot of late. The Wild Coast (there is only one) Cape Town, Jo'burg, Thanda Game Reserve, Phinda of the same, Melbourne and Yasawa Island in Fiji. Quite a mixture. It's premature to talk about Fiji, because we've only just arrived, but it's fair to say that it measures up to everything Captains Hook and Bligh said about it in the good old days ( in Bligh's case, before the Bounty Crew made him walk the plank!)

Being racehorse breeders and hoteliers, you can't avoid the comparisons between the way we do things and how others go about their businesses. Survival in the modern world depends upon how you distinguish your product from others, and I suspect that whatever Summerhill and Hartford are, it's because they were built without money. When you have the funds, you simply pay and you get. When you don't, you have to be creative, you have to be intuitive about what gets a pulse racing. It's about authenticity, atmosphere and adventure, sounds, scents and scenery, tastes and taboos. Good hotels and good horses always reflect a sense of "place", their environment, their histories, their traditions and importantly, their people. In the world of travel, a high level of discernment is creeping into every arena. Today, the customer's interest in artisanal beer and food, for example, is echoed in an interest in artisanal hospitality. Hartford House is dedicated to sating people's interest in the world's distinctive places: you quickly lose any sense of being in a unique environment when staying in a typical high-end hotel in London, Paris or Shanghai, Cape Town, Sydney or Dubai.

Increasingly, travellers seek destinations that accommodate lifestyle and weather, bespoken to their surroundings and community. Hotels should reflect their past, and the architecture of their neighbourhood; discerning guests understand the difference between décor and design, and seldom mistake decoration for good design.

Travel these days takes more than money. It takes the most precious commodity of the lot: time. Most people can buy a car, a handbag or a smart pair of shoes, but travel calls for energy, curiosity, a degree of adventure, even bravery. Not long from now, the greatest indulgence will not be a Ferrari; it will be a fortnight in Zululand, or even a living being; let's not forget, the greatest creature the good Lord ever created, is the racehorse. And you can come by yours with a week at Hartford. An Argentinean polo player on a recent visit to us, tells it like this: "I was waiting for that combination of bliss and despair which makes African journeys so memorable - a melodramatic pose, a "Hendricks" and tonic coursing through my veins, a three day scruff of beard, a whiff of revolution in the air!".

Our places thrive because of their originality, they survive on account of their old fashioned values. The more technologically focused the world becomes, the less people want to check-in via iPad and have their pillow preferences stored in a computer. Instead, our guests like to arrive and be greeted by their surnames; they soon get to know themselves again by their first names. And if you'll give us the time to unpack for you, you'll find your clothes pressed and hanging in the closet. Simple, old-style service is the most pleasant luxury.

Hartford and Summerhill have become beacons of their trades. In a world in which it's no longer so "cool" to be a waiter or a groom, we remember, every day, what an honour it is to serve.

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Jackie Cameron, Zandile Mchunu, Deli Nene, Zinthle Majola and the Hartford House Kitchen Team / Cooked in Africa (p)

Jackie Cameron, Zandile Mchunu, Deli Nene, Zinthle Majola and the Hartford House Kitchen Team / Cooked in Africa (p)

"At Hartford, the kitchen team has already created their own history."

The spirit of cuisine doesn't emerge out of nowhere. It is formed and defined with time and especially by the people who pass through its kitchen. At Hartford House, it is the life's work so far of a Pietermaritzburg girl, Jackie Cameron, who is at the foundation of its legacy. She has taken the spirit of Hartford's cuisine, combined it with her appro

ach to life, personalised it and created a character of its own. What makes up that spirit? Ethics, passion, creativity, freedom, and the willingness to take risks.

At Hartford, the kitchen team has already created their own history. They've placed the environs of Mooi River and the broader church of Zululand on the international map of gastronomy. Today they are at the apex of the local culinary world. "Foodies" often talk about the best chef in the world, when in reality, cuisine, unlike other activities, cannot be measured, quantified or calculated. There is no such thing as the best chef. But there's something of greater importance: the chef, and the team, which is the most influential, the one which establishes a new dynamic for the future. The Hartford kitchen already occupies one of these summits. They're already influencing chefs around the country, not just with their cooking, but with their philosophy. That is why Hartford's influence will endure.

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