Jan Harmsgat: a Picturesque Countryside Escape
A two-hour drive from Cape Town on the R60 highway, Jan Harmsgat is a working pomegranate and wine farm featuring five-star accommodation.
As the weather starts to turn and the days grow shorter, a soft, autumnal glow descends upon the Cape Winelands. Insights about a place can come from anywhere: the internet, word of mouth and social media. Discovering Jan Harmsgat Country House in the Overberg felt like just the right amount of research, yet somehow serendipitous too.
A two-hour drive from Cape Town on the R60 highway, Jan Harmsgat is a working pomegranate and wine farm that doesn't just produce South Africa's largest supply of pomegranate juice, but also a range of naturally made, single-block wines under the JHG label. We visited the farm over the Hands-On Harvest weekend, a collaborative effort from neighbouring wine farms in the Robertson Wine Valley. As a result, we were able to assist in the harvest of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes ('working for your breakfast', as they termed it) and enjoy beautiful dinners under the stars at the on-site fine dining restaurant.
The Country House offers five-star accommodation, featuring nine exclusive rooms and a romantic honeymoon suite. And we were instantly charmed by the warm, gracious service.
Situated along the slopes of the Langeberg Mountains, between the mountain and the Breede River, the 680 hectare farm straddles the lush mountainous belt with its orchards of fruit, nut and olive trees – the sources of its highly acclaimed preserves and produce.
Since the farm was founded in 1674, it has undergone a series of restorations. Its purpose now is perhaps its best yet: a working farm combined with a comfortable retreat in the pristine countryside. Changing with each new season, Jan Harmsgat is anchored by the collective thread that is its history. While still reflecting its rich past, it lives very much in the present; old and beautiful colonnades have been reworked, a lush pergola gives entry to a swimming pool and rose garden, tree-lined pathways greet you as you wind down the driveway, and sun-baked whitewashed walls house comfortable rooms sporting country-chic decor and modern conveniences. The brilliant staff and noted events infuse new life into the place without sacrificing nostalgia.
A short drive from Swellendam, South Africa's third-oldest city, Jan Harmsgat is the ideal location from which to explore the unique cultural-historic features of the area. Choose to visit one (or a few) of the many wine farms in Ashton, Robertson and Bonnievale, a 20-minute drive from the venue, or spend the day hiking in the Marloth Nature Reserve (a trip to the waterfall is a must). Swellendam's own church, shops and museum come highly recommended too.
Coinciding with the return of autumn and the changing tone of a new season, it's time to review our calendars and start planning for weekend escapes for a chance to renew tired minds and hit 'refresh' on our inner batteries. An autumnal weekend in the Overberg, sipping wine in the evening after a day spent exploring, is an excellent recipe for a rejuvenated sense of self.