In my travels, I have been lucky to stay in some truly remarkable gardens and this is one of my all-time favourites: Babylonstoren is an absolute feast for the senses.
The property, which is farm, garden, hotel, spa, restaurant, cellar and function space, is situated about an hour east of Cape Town, South Africa, close to Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. The working farm is one of the oldest on the Cape, dating back to 1690 and comprises more than 200 hectares of productive land, growing everything from stone fruit to olives and vines. It even has its own rice paddie!
Magazine editor and South African design doyenne Karen Roos is responsible for transforming the farm into its current form and she has meticulously considered every little detail. This feels like a place built out of love – and the budget be damned!
At the farm’s heart is an 8-acre organic produce garden, which grows more than 300 varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs. The food supplies the popular Babel restaurant, housed in the old cow shed, and The Greenhouse, a more casual eatery. Karen was been impressed by the wonderful medieval cloistered garden at Prieure Notre Dame d’Orsan in France so asked its owner, architect Patrice Taravella to come up with a design for the garden at Babylonstoren.
Above: one of the cottages at night, a chef with produce from The Greenhouse, and the native cliveas blooming brilliantly in September under olives.
The daily garden tour with Gundula, a Mother Earth figure whose passion is delightful and infectious is a must-do. It’s a complete delight to just wander round and lose yourself in the abundance, footsteps crunching on the crushed peach pips underfoot.
You can stay on the farm in one of the traditional worker’s cottages, now stylishly transformed with thick whitewashed walls, elegant gables and huge fireplaces. The attention to detail continues with a daily fresh bunch of aromatic herbs from the garden to be dropped into your hot bath – bliss!
If you don’t stay, at least make time to eat in Babel, or The Greenhouse – you won’t be disappointed!