By Suzette Leal

Offering a chance to breathe…

There’s something about the simple life that beckons city dwellers from behind every laptop, traffic jam, hooting taxi and hostile meeting room. The allure of weeping willow trees over soothing streams sometimes wins the arm wrestle between career opportunities and soulful living. And even if you don’t want to give up the daily grind for a more modest and pure way of living forever, there’s no reason not to indulge in some farm splendour for a weekend or so.

Here’s are 5 South African escapes to explore:

Highgrove House — Hazyview, Mpumalanga

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When we think of a country retreat, we imagine waking up to the aroma of fried bacon, simmering eggs and steaming scones. Then we picture ourselves going for a leisurely stroll through long green grass as the dew evaporates into the morning. We see ourselves lying by the pool, enjoying a full-body massage, and sipping pre-dinner sherry by the fireplace.

That’s why Highgrove House, 20 minutes from the Kruger, tops our list of boutique, colonial country hotels. It brings the peace, the quiet and a history of character and luxury along with it.

Summerfields Rose Retreat and Spa — Hazyview, Mpumalanga

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Sticking to the Hazyview area, Summerfields Rose Retreat is situated on a working macadamia, granadilla and litchi farm. The accommodation is the particularly thrilling part: You get to sleep in a luxury tent, each complete with a bathtub, outdoor shower, air conditioning and fluffy gowns, on the banks of the Sabie River, close to the birds and hippos sharing your holiday space.

Their River Café is an idyllic spot for mimosas and Eggs Benedict and the “barefoot luxury” mantra is music to any city worker’s ear. The strict no-children-under-the-age-of-12 policy is also a rather appealing drawcard for those who seriously need to get away from it all.

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Hartford House — Mooi River, KwaZulu-Natal

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On an impressive stud farm near Mooi River you’ll find a country manor with a restaurant that the Washington Post nominated as one of the top three country restaurants in the world.

It’s the kind of place where you need a thousand corny adjectives to describe the chandeliers that light up the patio at night, the mist that rises over the lake in the morning, the horses that gallop through the fields and the fireplaces that crackle in the bedroom suites. It’s where you never run out of photo opportunities, literary inspiration or postcard moments.

Cleopatra Mountain Farmhouse — Drakensberg Mountains, KwaZulu-Natal

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Another gourmet getaway legend in the KwaZulu-Natal province is Cleopatra. At this mountain farmhouse, dinner is a theatrical affair that starts with a poetic description and explanation, around a log fireplace in the lounge, of the seven courses that will be served. Breakfast, refusing to be outdone, boasts crumpets, fruit crumble and triumphant omelettes.

The rooms and cottages are cosy and exactly what you’d imagine sleeping on a farm bed should feel like, while the natural surroundings will try their best to lure you outdoors. Enjoy your time here by going for walks, picnics and horseback rides against a mountain range that will never be anything short of spectacular.

De Hoek Country Hotel — Magaliesburg, Gauteng

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Only an hour’s drive from Johannesburg, you’ll find the De Hoek estate, which brings with it such a change in pace and atmosphere that you’ll feel as if you drove to another planet for this kind of serenity.

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Candle lanterns; red-brown leather chamberlains; long, dark wooden tables and low-light chandeliers create a soft country ambience where you can spend time reading classics in the library or playing croquet on the lawn: all the activities you wish you made time for at home. For a swift yet effective mini-break, you don’t have to look, or drive, very far.

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