While the charms of Stanford are no longer a well-kept secret, this historic town on the edge of the Kleinrivier has managed to retain its rural atmosphere and village character. The residents all know one another and in true entrepreneurial spirit, this close-knit community supports one another’s business ventures and charitable causes, be it a restaurant, specialty shop, market, fundraiser or festive concert.

Encapsulating a lively community spirit and the pleasures of country living at its laid-back best, the Stanford area is well-known for its flourishing wine farms and culinary destinations. Unsurprisingly, the two often go hand-in-hand, as is the case with Sir Robert Stanford Estate and Stanford Hills, both located just before the turn-off to the village, and the Springfontein Estate situated on the other side of the village closer to the Kleinrivier Estuary. Here visitors can enjoy both wine tasting and delicious meals in idyllic country settings.

Only 25 km from Hermanus, the peace and quiet of Stanford seems much further removed from the hustle and bustle of Hermanus. “People come here to get away and unwind,” says Jami Kastner of Stanford Hills Estate, a boutique wine and flower farm that envelops one with a deep sense of relaxation as soon as you turn off from the R43 onto the dirt road leading up to the farm. “Here people can forget about their problems and just be happy and enjoy themselves.”

The hub of the farm is the restaurant, The Tasting Room, housed in an old renovated farm building with a large covered veranda surrounded by extensive rolling lawns, a dam, vineyards and fynbos, all against the picturesque backdrop of the Klein River Mountains. It is a paradise for children and the perfect spot for an inter-generational get-together. Under the care of Jami, husband Peter, who is also the winemaker, and their staff, visiting The Tasting Room is like joining a jovial family gathering.

The chalkboard menu changes daily according to what is seasonal and locally available, including produce from their own vegetable garden. Offering down-to-earth decadence, the emphasis is on fresh and inventive food, and the children are not neglected – they have their own menu of wholesome and freshly prepared food. The full range of award-winning estate wines (and a gorgeous grappa) can be enjoyed with your meal at cellar door prices.

With their unique brand of country hospitality, Stanford Hills is a popular venue for private parties, functions and weddings, and has become well-known for hosting music concerts that bring some of South Africa’s greatest musical talent to the Overberg. Among their upcoming events is the ever-popular Stanford Stumble on 30 November, while the line-up for their Summer Sunset Sessions include a performance by Arno Carstens and Zolani Mahola from Freshlyground on 15 December, Matthew Mole on 19 December, Jeremy Loops on 22 December, the Blues Rock ‘n Roots Festival on 27 December, and Louise Carver and Ross Learmonth from Prime Circle on 3 January.

Visitors to Stanford Hills tend to linger as it’s not easy to leave – and the good news is that you don’t have to. The farm still boasts the immaculately preserved Manor House that along with two refurbished labourers’ cottages serve as self-catering accommodation. In addition there are five luxury “glamping” tents that form part of the AfriCamps collection of boutique camping accommodation.

Another picture-perfect venue near Stanford is White Water Farm, where the owners also live permanently on the farm, keeping horses, chickens and ducks, raising their own Nguni cattle and growing herbs and vegetables for their on-site restaurant, the Garden Grill. They offer long-table Sunday lunches and Saturday dinners in season to the public, as well as breakfast daily and a dinner option on weeknights for their guests.

This rural haven set among magnificent scenery also offers accommodation, conference and wedding facilities which have all been renovated to a high standard of comfort and hospitality. It is the ideal place to escape – whether it’s for a much needed rest, an adventure, a business conference, a wedding or a private retreat.

Stanford Valley Guest Farm and Conference Centre nestles in the picturesque Kleinrivier Valley, just off the R326, about 10 km from Stanford. The property is covered in a wide variety of fynbos, and 250 ha of the 440 ha farm is part of a Nature Conservancy. In this safe and peaceful haven you can experience a real working farm, while enjoying luxury accommodation in one of the self-catering cottages (of which two are family cottages).

This enchanting venue is perfect for family holidays, birthday celebrations, year-end functions, conferences, weddings, retreats, workshops and team-building groups requiring a tranquil and secluded setting. While the guest farm was voted as Getaway’s top group gathering venue for this year, the Manor House Restaurant on Stanford Valley Guest Farm was among the Gourmet Guide’s top 75 restaurants in South Africa for 2019. The eclectic interior features interesting artworks and the large glass windows afford guests breathtaking views of the Akkedisberg Mountains while tucking in to wholesome, contemporary country cuisine prepared by the talented Manor House kitchen team.

In the heart of the Stanford village, another award-winning restaurant called Mariana’s, which has been standing empty for a while since Mariana Esterhuizen sold it, recently reopened under the new ownership of Madré Malan, who says she is delighted to be back. “This is where I feel most at home,” she says. Having previously run Madré’s Kitchen on the Sir Robert Stanford Estate and then headed up the kitchen at the Manor House Restaurant, she relocated to Hermanus when she took over the Eatery, and has now come full circle.

This treasured country restaurant has been brought back to life by Madré, with enthusiastic support from the locals. I reckon it won’t be long before diners from far and wide start flocking to this very special eatery which embodies everything we love about Stanford – unpretentious country hospitality, wholesome food, unique wines and a great sense of place and community.

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