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.