The recent articles about Vergelegen on the Heritage Portal brought back happy recent memories of our holiday stay in Somerset West over Christmas 2014. As we were there for two weeks we visited Vergelegen three times to enjoy the splendour of the estate, learn a little history, taste wine, develop a discerning palette, get lost in the maze, take a walk in the enchanted oak forest, sniff the varieties of herbs in the herb garden, marvel at the ancient camphor trees, go on a tour of the cellars and let the grandkids scramble about on the children's play equipment. The walled gardens delight with the vistas of lavender, hydrangeas, agapanthus and roses. The views of the panoramic setting in the valley below the Hottentots Holland mountain in the distance are spectacular.
Marvel at the ancient camphor trees (Kathy Munro)
The walled gardens are a delight (Kathy Munro)
The tour of the wine cellars through the vineyards and to a hillside site with an underground circular cellar was extraordinary. We were offered a personal lesson in wine making and marvelled at the size of the vast oak casks.
Visiting Vergelegen is a unique Cape experience and to do it justice one needs to chill out, relax and allow oneself to be beguiled by the ambience of this magnificent wine estate. Visit once and you will want to return.
Vergelegen 2014 (Kathy Munro)
The House is a museum of South African fine antique furniture, copper ware, carpets, ceramics and paintings. The exhibition on the history of the house (viewed in some side corridors of the newer wings), its owners, its distinguished visitors, its significance and its use as the right discreet setting for political negotiations in the 1990s all adds up to a prism through which one views South African history of the last 300 years.
For me the bibliophile, best of all was spending time in the Library (wall to wall leather bound books) the ultimate in comfort and style of the early 20th century. The library dates from the era of Sir Lionel and Lady Florence Phillips, when a T shaped old wine cellar that had become a cow byre was converted, restored and turned into the perfect space for the great collection Phillips had assembled. The negative was that one could not drop into an armchair and open a precious book.
If one wants to enjoy a forest picnic one has to book well in advance, but the alternative is a wander through. Below is a picture of the tourist map (issued to all when you arrive at the main entrance to the estate) and a few more pictures of the immaculate estate.
Tourist Map (2014)
Vergelegen 2014 (Kathy Munro)
Kathy Munro is an Honorary Associate Professor in the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand. She enjoyed a long career as an academic and in management at Wits University. She trained as an economic historian. She is an enthusiastic book person and has built her own somewhat eclectic book collection over 40 years. Her interests cover Africana, Johannesburg history, history, art history, travel, business and banking histories. She researches and writes on historical architecture and heritage matters and is well known for her magnificent book reviews. She is a member of the Board of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation and is a docent at the Wits Arts Museum. She is currently working on a couple of projects on Johannesburg architects and is researching South African architects, war cemeteries and memorials.