His­tory Rein­vig­o­rated

SLOW Magazine - - Contents - Text: Julie Graham Im­ages © The Old Rec­tory

The Old Rec­tory – Plet­ten­berg Bay’s old­est sur­viv­ing build­ing – is a fairy-tale grounded in rich his­tory. Thought­fully and im­mac­u­lately re­stored, this na­tional mon­u­ment now stands proud as one of the town’s most exclusive bou­tique ho­tels.

The sea­side town of Plet­ten­berg Bay (or Plett, as it’s fondly known), lo­cated on the scenic Gar­den Route in South Africa’s Western Cape, is not only famed for its beaches and be­ing a na­ture lover’s paradise. Plett also has a fas­ci­nat­ing his­tory, dat­ing as far back as the 15th cen­tury when Por­tuguese ex­plor­ers first started vis­it­ing the coastal haven, long be­fore Jan van Riebeeck even landed at the Cape. Arte­facts and ship­wrecks, such as the fa­mous San Gon­za­les wreck, are ev­i­dence of th­ese first ex­plor­ers who were said to have traded with the lo­cal Khoisan peo­ple at the time.

Many years later, in the late 1700s, the first Euro­pean set­tlers ar­rived in the bay as stock farm­ers, hunters, and fron­tiers­men from the Western Cape, and left be­hind many cap­ti­vat­ing relics – the rec­tory in Plett be­ing among them. Orig­i­nally built as a bar­racks for the Dutch East India Com­pany in 1777, the build­ing was bought by St Peters Church in 1869 and used as a rec­tory by the Angli­can Church for the next 70 years. In 1939, it was re­built to com­bine the bar­racks, cook­house, and yard in a sin­gle T-shaped struc­ture. Af­ter the re­con­struc­tion, sadly, the build­ing even­tu­ally fell to ne­glect and over the years be­came a ruin.

All this changed when in 2015 Rare Earth – the renowned ac­com­mo­da­tion port­fo­lio of lux­ury game lodges, coun­try houses, and bou­tique ho­tels – bought the space and de­cided to lov­ingly re­store it to its for­mer glory as a Plett show­piece. Sen­si­tive to the fact that it re­mains a na­tional mon­u­ment, much re­search went into the restora­tion, which was tasked to Gabriël Fa­gan Ar­chi­tects, who set­tled on a Cape Dutch sil­hou­ette in cel­e­bra­tion of the his­tor­i­cal con­text.

Orig­i­nal fea­tures such as the stone walls, an­cient yel­low­wood floors, trusses, and ma­jes­tic milk­wood trees were all pre­served and in­cor­po­rated to main­tain the rec­tory’s charm. Dael Fair­bairn, of Eras­mus Fair­bairn Ar­chi­tects, came on board to head the ex­pan­sion of the main house and add on rooms, trans­form­ing it into a work­ing bou­tique ho­tel.

In­te­rior de­sign­ers Merylle Legh and He­len Wood from Align De­signs were called on to dress the in­te­ri­ors. For this they drew on the ho­tel’s lo­ca­tion and his­tory, while main­tain­ing a sense of mod­ern lux­ury. Both teams worked lov­ingly and thought­fully to cre­ate an es­tab­lished feel, show­cas­ing the stun­ning ex­ist­ing fea­tures in or­der to be­fit the age of the orig­i­nal build­ing, which now houses the re­cep­tion area, exclusive-use restau­rant, and bar (the orig­i­nal rec­tor’s of­fice).

The re­sult is out­stand­ing. The Old Rec­tory opened its doors to guests in Au­gust 2017 with just 18 stylish rooms – the ho­tel can ac­com­mo­date up to 36 guests at a time. The rooms were built sep­a­rate from the orig­i­nal build­ing, sep­a­rated by beau­ti­ful gar­dens and man­i­cured lawns, and are grouped into three blocks. Each room has a unique beach am­bi­ence with cool colours, am­ple light, and lux­ury ameni­ties, as well as beau­ti­fully cu­rated art­work adorn­ing the walls.

In­side the main build­ing, walls full of his­toric pho­to­graphs pay homage to the orig­i­nal rec­tory’s jour­ney over the years. The cen­turies-old fire­place warms the liv­ing area and the din­ing room, with its an­cient stone walls and yel­low­wood floors jux­ta­pos­ing beau­ti­fully with mod­ern twists in the art­work and fur­ni­ture. The bar’s cop­per pip­ing and front ooze his­tor­i­cal charm, and through­out the build­ing, gor­geous plan­ta­tion fans ro­tate dream­ily. The beau­ti­ful, ex­pan­sive out­door wooden deck and sparkling pool have been built care­fully around the an­cient milk­wood trees and of­fer the ideal space to laze, G&T in hand, or dine al fresco on gor­geous sunny days. And if this isn’t re­lax­ing enough, the on-site, top-class spa of­fers guests dreamy treat­ments by trained pro­fes­sion­als in a tran­quil en­vi­ron­ment.

Din­ing is a five-star ex­pe­ri­ence. Ex­pect re­mark­able, fresh, or­ganic, sea­sonal dishes, care­fully cu­rated by tal­ented Group Ex­ec­u­tive Chef David Schubach, who has worked at Sin­gita Le­bombo, sev­eral lodges for And­be­yond, and Spier Wine Es­tate. Each and ev­ery meal pro­vides an un­for­get­table din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for guests, and Chef David en­sures that each dish com­ing out of The Old Rec­tory kitchen main­tains the high­est stan­dard of gourmet ex­cel­lence.

Then there is the lo­ca­tion. As well as of­fer­ing the per­fect refuge for guests, the ho­tel, which is sit­u­ated in a quiet cul-de-sac, is lo­cated just me­tres from one of Plett’s many stun­ning beaches. Wake up early and take a stroll to the beach and you may even get a glimpse of a whale or two or a pod of dol­phins play­ing in the bay. The flour­ish­ing wine route in the area is con­stantly evolv­ing, and for na­ture lovers, the fa­mous Rob­berg Penin­sula is a stone’s throw away and of­fers gor­geous hikes with views to die for.

The new­est ad­di­tion to Plett’s ho­tel mar­ket, The Old Rec­tory is in a league of its own. Mar­ry­ing his­tory and con­tem­po­rary lux­ury, this bou­tique haven is an ex­pe­ri­ence not to be missed.

For more info, visit www.ra­reearth.co.za.

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