One of the Cape Wineland’s most charming features is the Cape Dutch architecture. It is still very much in evidence, especially in Stellenbosch and on the various wine estates.
Cape Dutch architecture is indigenous to South Africa. Dutch colonists took the Dutch architectural fashions of ornate gables and high roofs and adapted it to the Cape climate. For example the thick white washed walls and small-paned shuttered windows are designed to keep out the summer heat. The thatched roofs, with their elegant gables, kept the houses cool in summer and warm in the Cape winters.
Initially the front gables were also considered to be a slight fire break in case the thatch caught fire but later they were used mainly as a decorative feature to display the family’s crest.
Good examples of Cape Dutch architecture
The Cape Governor Simon van der Stel visited the Eerste river valley (site of Stellenbosch) in 1679 and decided the area was suitable for farming. The charming town of Stellenbosch was established in 1685 and still contains a number of well-preserved Cape Dutch streets from that era. A walk around Stellenbosch shows off the many styles of Cape Dutch architecture through the years. Dorp street is a classic example. I recommend a visit to the Village Museum which shows four ‘settler’ houses through the ages. This shows how they first lived when the Dutch colonists arrived in the late 17th century and then charts how the Cape Dutch architecture developed until the 19th century.
Many of the wine estates that you visit have beautiful old Cape Dutch homesteads. Some such as Boschendal and Vergelegen are open to visitors.
Vergelegen Wine Estate
Vergelegen Wine Estate is an elegant, tranquil wine estate in Somerset West. It has a dramatic history. It was the original home of Simon Van der Stel, the first Governor of the Cape. But he lost his home when he fell out of favour with the Dutch authorities. Nowadays it’s a wonderful place to spend a few hours. You can tour the Cape Dutch homestead, meander through the beautiful gardens, enjoy some wine tasting and take a cellar tour in its state-of-the-art modern cellar. Vegelegen is in Somerset West and you may like to combine a visit with the nearby wine and olive estates of Lourensford and Morgenster.
Boschendal Wine Estate
The manor house at Boschendal is not as old as Vergelegen but arguably it’s a more attractive example of Cape Dutch architecture. The current manor house was built in 1812. Here you can tour the manor house, furnished in period style, sample their wines, enjoy their traditional Cape restaurant or opt to take a gourmet picnic to eat in their edenesque grounds. Boschendal lies between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.its a
Hotels in Cape Dutch Homesteads
You can also opt to stay in some old Cape Dutch homesteads which have been converted into luxurious boutique hotels.
Prime examples are:
- Lanzerac Hotel & Spa, Stellenbosch
- Hawksmoor House, northern Winelands
- Babylonstoren Estate, between Paarl & Franschhoek
- Grande Roche Hotel & Spa, Paarl
- Alphen Hotel, Constantia
- Steenberg Hotel & Spa, Constantia