Now what can be more off putting than getting off of a longhaul flight and then telling two tired, but excited children that they now have a 4 – 5 hour car journey ahead! Don’t do it, come up with an alternative plan first – which is what I did. So instead, when we arrive in Durban and collect our car, I cheerfully announce to Daisy and Hayden that within an hour we would be arriving at our first destination, just in time for a late lunch. Actually, I think my husband was just as relieved!
Telling Brits that The Midlands is reminiscent of the beautiful English countryside in my mind really is shooting yourself in the foot! No-one wants to travel 12+ hours to view scenery that they can see at home. To me The Midlands is stunning farming country backed by the Drakensberg Mountains in the distance (snow-capped in August). It is European inspired, like so many new world nations, but with that truly unique South African influence. This became very apparent in our drive to Fordoun, located in the heart of the Midlands Meander, in Nottingham Road.
Fordoun is set in the heart of a working farm. The perfect starting point to a self-drive holiday, particularly if travelling with children. We stayed in the newly developed self-catering farm village. Our own little homestead with a small garden and then views that went on uninterrupted for miles. I did feel a little like Laura from Little House on the Prairie! Not sure though that their home had a fully kitted out kitchen, 2 ensuite bathrooms and a TV and DVD player like ours did!
Now we were not planning on self-catering, which was fine as I had booked us in for most of our meals at the Skye Restaurant at Fordoun. So we dropped our luggage in our home and hopped back in the car for the 2 minute drive up to the main hotel for lunch. Now Fordoun is a family business and this is very apparent in how you are made to feel by all of the staff. There is a friendly, relaxed feel about the property throughout.
After lunch we explored the grounds. Daisy and Hayden raced ahead to get onto the hanging tree swing first whilst Steve and I wandered down to the lake to watch the cranes. Such a peaceful, serene setting.
After a long hot soak in the most enormous bath whilst Steve and the children had a little snooze, we set off to the Bierfassl Pub for a light dinner. Pickled Pig Porter Beer and hearty goulash – a recipe for a good nights sleep!
Waking up the next day we were full of excitement – today was tree top zip lining at Karkloof. Less than a 30 minute drive and we arrive into much more wooded terrain. We get kitted out, have our briefing and meet our guides then we are off in the back of a truck to the start of our adventure. 10 zip lines with the longest being 200 metres. We fly through the tops of the trees past waterfalls and above giant ferns. 2 exhilarating hours that none of us wanted to end.
After a light lunch we started to head back, via the Nelson Mandela Capture Site. This really is not to be missed. A museum charting Mandela’s life and how he eventually built a new South Africa from such a conflicted nation. Upon leaving the makeshift museum, we walked “the long walk to freedom” which took us closer and closer to the incredible monument that is the face of Mandela, made entirely from 50 steel vertical columns. A very moving history lesson for us all.
Back at Fordoun and we decided to hop on the mountain bikes for a bit of off-roading across the farm. This did not last too long for Daisy and myself as we found out that the indoor pool allowed children after 5pm, so we hotfooted it there instead! Hayden and Steve were not far behind. After soothing our aching limbs in the wonderful warm water, we got ready and wandered down for our hotly anticipated dinner at Skye Restaurant. This is very much a fine dining experience, but again, children will be catered for as long as you are comfortable that your children will behave! Ours did not let us down and so we had a wonderful evening of fine wine and beautifully cooked beef fillet – locally sourced of course. After dinner we retired to our little house for hot chocolates in front of a roaring log fire – and The Minions on DVD!
Waking up the next day to glorious sunshine – though a little fresh! Today we would start with Fordoun’s inaugural family tractor ride around the farm. We piled into the back of the tractor trailer and were off. Our amazing driver took us through the farm to see the dairy cows from the new born through to the breeding herds and the bulls. We collected hay bales and then travelled further into the farmland to set them up for feeding. A magical and very interactive experience.
We got back in the car to head 2 minutes up the hill (across the road from Fordoun) to The Blueberry Café for brunch. We sat in front of a roaring fire, drinking hot chocolate (again) and feasting on blueberry pancakes. The views took in Fordoun below and our next destination in the distance – The Drakensberg Mountains and somewhere in there – Cathedral Peak Hotel.
Fordoun Hotel & Spa was the ideal launch pad for our KZN family adventure. With mixed emotions – feeling both a little sad to say goodbye but equally excited for our next destination, we all piled in the car and back on the road, waving goodbye to Richard, our wonderful host.