Heritage charm at The Old Rectory

A meander along the eastern edge of South Africa’s celebrated Garden Route uncovers the old-world charm of the grande dame that is The Old Rectory hotel.

Place a grand old lady in the hands of the best contemporary interior decorators and architects, and you will end up with a hotel that is the perfect fusion of historic grace and modern living. The Old Rectory is a beautifully restored National Heritage building situated in a quiet cul-de-sac in one of the most iconic destinations along the Garden Route – Plettenberg Bay.

Dating back to 1777, it is the oldest building in this popular coastal town. Originally the barracks for the Dutch East India Company, it was later bought by the first Anglican bishop in Cape Town, Bishop Robert Gray. Four years ago Rare Earth, a small luxury hospitality company bought the fairly rundown property. The Old Rectory now has pride of place in Rare Earth’s portfolio, which includes luxury game lodges The Outpost and Pel’s Post, as well as the Country House at the award-winning Kay and Monty Vineyards.

‘For every one of the eight properties in the bush, beach or countryside,’ says Lauren Richie of Rare Earth, ‘we have incorporated design and construction that have had the least impact on the environment. The renovation of The Old Rectory is unique in that it is a national monument and had to comply with certain regulations.’ The architectural and interior design teams saw this as an exciting challenge. Dael Fairbairn of Erasmus Fairbairn Architects and Merylle Legh and Helen Wood of Align Design came on board to refurbish the main house and add on the rooms.

‘For the new structures,’ says Dael, ‘the idea was to design contemporary buildings that would be sympathetic to the historical landmark but not detract from it.’ The combined vision was spot on. The pool and deck are built around a centuries-old milkwood and one of Marieke Prinsloo-Rowe’s Swimmer Girl sculptures is at the edge of the pool. They’ve chosen their artwork carefully and it really adds something to that outdoor space.

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The 18 luxury suites built in the lush garden are unique in their design. They incorporate the flora-fauna-inspired theme of the spectacular Garden Route vegetation and have a rich texture and colour. For those who quite understandably want to enjoy The Old Rectory as a destination, it’s a two-minute walk from your room to Central Beach and an easy stroll into the town of Plettenberg Bay.

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If you don’t want to leave the sanctuary of this grande dame for dinner, enjoy a drink at the bar with its deep Chesterfield copper piping and centuries-old fireplace, before dining at The Old Rectory’s exclusive restaurant. No hotel villa or guesthouse, however, can excel only through décor, location, amenities or fine dining. The staff is pivotal.

At the Old Rectory, every guest’s whim is taken care of by a team providing service that is anticipatory, not reactionary. They are friendly, hardworking and clearly passionate about this hotel’s growth and reputation.

The Old Rectory is a Greenwich meridian between the unhurried living of yesteryear and everything a luxurious contemporary boutique hotel can offer. It’s a tough goodbye…

This article by Kathy Malherbe originally appeared in Issue 40 of Private Edition.