Cherry on top
Cherry Glamping, a wonderful forest camp in the heart of Elgin, is a great base from which to enjoy the wine farms, markets and other adventures of this fruitful valley
I often wend my way down the N2 on trips to the whale coast or the Garden Route, but rarely do I stop in Elgin. I usually blaze right through apple country, perhaps briefly pausing at Houwhoek Farm Stall for a pie once in a while, but little else. So I decided Elgin deserves more than cursory drive-by glances, and I booked my stay in the heart of the valley at Cherry Glamping for a weekend crammed with all Elgin has to offer.
Cherry Glamping is set atop a forested hill with views of the Hottentots Holland mountains. Grabouw resident Richard Cherry liked this location so much that, in 2016, he bought the 35 ha plot (which used to form part of the Paul Cluver farm), and thought it a good idea to create a glamping experience here. It has since morphed into a sought-after venue for anything from weddings and team-buildings to relaxed group getaways.
We spent two nights at its permanent and intimate top camp, which boasts 12 beautiful bell tents (all furnished with comfortable beds, linen, duvets and solar-powered electricity), several bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, a large dining area with massive 24-seater dining table and fireplace, a big lawn, braai area and a huge open-air, tent-covered deck for parties or functions. Towards the bottom of the property another venue and a further 40 fully furnished tents are available for wedding parties or other big occasions.
The tents are well spaced, so that the camp doesn’t feel cramped, and individual braai stands can also be arranged for each tent, should small parties not want to share the communal boma. Strung up between the pines are several comfortable hammocks, perfect for a shady reading spot or an afternoon snooze. Sundowners are best enjoyed on the clearing a little way from the forested camp, where benches present the perfect point of view for not only breathtaking Elgin sunsets, but also a good look at the zebras and small herd of springbok that call Cherry Glamping home.
Well kept with wonderful wooden finishes perfectly complemented by the white canvas of the bell tents and surrounded by pines and other greenery, Cherry Glamping is an absolute gem.
The weather on our first night at Cherry was rather inclement and not suitable for braaiing, so we decided on the cosy but lively atmosphere of the Houw Hoek Hotel pub just a few kilometres down the road, where we also tucked into a delicious supper. Later, we snuggled up in our tent with two hot-water bottles, well insulated from the cold under puffy duvets.
The next morning greeted us with promising weather, and after a lovely breakfast of croissants (brought to our own tent’s little deck) we decided to stock up on some braai supplies in Grabouw, and then indulge in some wine tastings.
Having no real experience of the valley’s wine farms, we picked up a map of all the wineries in the area and decided on Almenkerk as our first stop. A small family-run winery, Almenkerk sits perched on a hill with sweeping views of the valley and surrounding mountains. We tasted three lovely wines from their Lace selection – a great first impression of Elgin’s cold-climate wines.
Next, we opted for Elgin Ridge, a young winery owned and run by Londoners Marion and Brian Smith. The valley’s only certified organic and biodynamic wine estate, Elgin Ridge is blessed with the talents of winemaker Kosie van der Merwe, and a delicious selection of wines. We tucked into their 282 range (the farm is 282 m above sea level), tasting a smooth Sauvignon Blanc and a beautifully earthy Pinot Noir.
For vines no more than a decade old, and planted on little more than 10 ha, Elgin Ridge has done exceptionally well in a short space of time, and can be found on menus of such leading lights as Luke Dale-Roberts’ award-winning The Test Kitchen in Cape Town.
Feeling peckish, we then made our way to the Elgin Railway Market, an Art Deco steampunk-themed food and artisanal market with great live music. We arrived just in time to see the old-school locomotive steam into the station alongside the market – one could even take a trip back in time by booking your spot on the train for a short ride. We had a scrummy burger from the Station Grill, and sat enjoying the band and gaping at the huge double-volume sky-lit ceilings and intricately engineered – and colossal – ceiling fans.
We ended the day sipping on three of Charles Fox’s best MCCs, which are up there with the best that Champagne has to offer. At camp, we braaiied a couple of succulent chops and sat under a canopy of stars until the wee hours before turning in.
The next morning we were up at dawn, as there was adventure on the cards. A few minutes’ drive later, we stopped at Cape Canopy Tours in Grabouw, excited and ready for a day of zip lining through the picturesque Hottentots Holland mountains. Briefed and harnessed, we took a bumpy 4×4 ride high up into the mountains to the first of 13 platforms.
‘Right, ladies and gents, we don’t want to see you become a rock painting, so brake with your strong hand when I signal,’ warned our guide, Charlton.
We had a bit of headwind on the first line, so no braking was necessary. But zipping hundreds of metres above ground through a fynbos-covered valley at the mercy of a cable and a harness is nothing if not exhilarating. By the fifth platform, I gained some confidence and started enjoying it all the more.
‘This is our longest slide, ladies and gents,’ Charlton informed us, ‘320 metres…’ We peered across the abyss and could barely see the next platform. As I set off across the kloof, zipping my way towards Charlton at the other end, I felt my speed increase substantially. He signalled me to brake, but even with one gloved hand on the cable, I came into the platform at a frantic pace. Fortunately Charlton had a braking mechanism on his end, and wasn’t nearly as worried as I had been. ‘Why so pale?’ he teased, grinning. After our last slide, we took a leisurely hike to a pick-up point, admiring the striking vistas of the Hottentots, before making our way down via 4×4 once more. What an adventure, and what a way to see these majestic mountains…
Two days aren’t nearly long enough to experience everything that Elgin has to offer, but what we did manage was to see this valley in a new light. Henceforth, not only will I be making frequent stops in this part of the world en route to other destinations, but I will be making Elgin the destination more often.
• 12 bell tents with beds, linen and duvets
• Self catering – wood, ice, grids, and all kitchenware provided.
• Solar-powered electricity
• Just an hour’s drive from Cape Town!
• Contact Richard Cherry on 082 788 9837, mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit cherryglamping.co.za
Cape Canopy Tours
• All necessary kit provided, including harnesses and helmets
• Takes between two and four hours to complete
• Be prepared for a short 1 km hike after zip lining
• Short video included in the package
• Contact 021 300 0501, mail email@example.com or visit canopytour.co.za