I’m a huge fan of short breaks. Getting away for just a couple of days recharges the batteries and does wonders for the soul, and if you throw in a little road trip I’m in heaven.
The beauty of the Cape West Coast is that it offers so many wonderful destinations. In fact, my most recent trip I followed the Culture Route and ended up in Darling, an hour from departure to check in.
I took to the road early one morning all on my lonesome to spend two days exploring the quaint town of Darling and discover what there is to do in a place that was originally best known for its creamy butter.
Yes, it still has a thriving dairy industry, but it’s now also an established culinary destination, with top class wine estates, olive farms, wonderful restaurants and cafes, as well as its very own craft beer brewery. Add to that an innovative theatre experience, quaint museum interesting little shops and there’s actually rather a lot to do in this small town.
After checking into a charming guesthouse called Disa Lodge – Book online www.disalodge.co.za. I set off for my very first olive tasting at Alexanderfontein Olives on the outskirts of the town. It was certainly an education as I never would have imagined that one could do so much with the humble olive. From oils, marinated olives and pastes to marmalade, jams and salt blends, I tasted an wide array of delectable products and learnt an awful lot.
Insider’s Tip: if Disa Lodge is full, then an alternative place to stay is Darling Lodge – A charming guest house in the middle of Darling housed in a restored Victorian country home. Facilities include a swimming pool, cosy TV lounge (DSTV) relaxing library, beautiful garden and individual concierge services. The main house offers three individually decorated country style rooms – all with bathrooms en-suite. The more modern garden annex consists of three generously appointed rooms with a grape-vine covered patio. Book online www.darlinglodge.co.za
As it was now almost lunch time – and a reasonable time to drink alcohol in most civilised places – my next stop was Ormonde, a wine farm right in the centre of town where I spent a lovely half hour sampling really fine wines, before buying two bottles and heading off to find some lunch.
And it was on this excursion that I discovered Flying Pig. Situated in the Mantis Mall, just off Darling Main Road, The Flying Pig caters to lovers of bacon and meaty treats made with passion, care and above all else, time. Time, along with the choicest parts of a few free-range pigs from a neighbouring farm, is the main ingredient in owner Gil Ferreira’s recipe book. Also not to be missed is the Bookshop, a veritable Aladdin’s cave which smells wonderfully of the libraries of my childhood and is chock-a-block with all kinds of books and stationery. They also stock guides and maps of the area as well as great things to occupy the kids in the car like activity books and games.
Food simply doesn’t get fresher than at Chicory Cheese – what isn’t grown in their veggie garden is sourced daily from local farms and they only use what is in season. All juices are freshly squeezed and vegans, vegetarians and those who are gluten and dairy intolerant are also well catered. I chose a seat outside under the trees and placed my order before taking a stroll to see what else was on offer inside. After browsing the deli section of Chicory Cheese, I stepped through a doorway into a little slice of heaven.
I had just discovered Darling Sweet, where they produce and sell the most delicious old fashioned toffee made from only locally sourced ingredients. The entire process is done by hand and visitors are welcome to watch as the toffee is made, cut and packaged. And the best bit is that you are invited to sample the different flavours on offer before you buy so there is no chance of disappointment. Find them also in Long Street, next to Chicory Cheese.
Starting to feel a little weary after lunch, I headed back to Disa Lodge to relax for a while and catch up on emails. I then spent a wonderful evening with owners Pat and Bobby, chatting about the area and interesting guests who had visited the Lodge.
Rising early, I explored Darling’s main street and, although a little early in the day to be sampling wares, I popped in at Darling Brew’s Tasteroom and Brewery to have a look and a chat.
Darling Brew’s Tasteroom & Brewery, on 48 Caledon Street offer a fascinating beer tasting experience in the tasting room and bar which overlooks the working brewery, a restaurant that serves delicious meals made from fresh, organic, seasonal and locally sourced ingredients, and beautiful gardens with a play area for the kids – perfect for young families. There is also plenty of parking available. Bookings are essential: +27 (0)22 492 3798 | [email protected] | www.darlingbrew.co.za
I’m embarrassed to admit that I have never visited Evita se Peron, the unique dinner and theatre venue owned by iconic Pieter Dirk Uys so I popped in before heading back to Cape Town. Well, I meant to pop in, but it’s such a fascinating place that I spent the best part of an hour exploring the venue. Truly fascinating and well worth a visit, even if you just pop in to take a look and enjoy a coffee on the stoep in Boerassic Park.
There are loads of other things to do, like the Darling Mystery Trail which starts from Darling Museum. A great way to experience Darling is with the West Coast Way Wine & Beer Way – which is an air-conditioned trip from Cape Town to Darling showcasing the best interactive experiences of the culture, tastes and people of this little town. So many excellent reasons to return to Darling very soon – with friends in tow!
Darling Tourism Bureau & Museum
The Museum recreates life in a bygone era with fascinating displays of Victorian clothing, china and household furniture, rooms partitioned depicting daily life such as a shop, a laundry room, school and buttery. From the museum you can take a self guided historic walking tour – maps can be purchased for a mere R2 at the museum. Should you want a little more excitement than on your walk, then ask for the Darling Mystery Trail instead and challenge your mind on this innovative treasure hunt.
• Child Friendly • Info • Walking Tours • Wildflower Society
Open 7 Days a week | Booking Not Essential to enter Museum
Where: Pastorie Street, Darling
Contact: +27 (0)22 492 3361 | [email protected] | www.darlingtourism.co.za
For more information on accommodation in the Cape West Coast click here
Call us for a FREE West Coast Way Tour Plan on +27 (0)861 321 777 | [email protected]