Winding Down: Take a deep breath and slip into the idyll of Dullstroom
How good would a massage feel now? Add to this picture of bliss some fine wine and a view of trout dams stretched out in glassy tranquillity. It's not a reverie, it's Walkersons Hotel and Spa, a two-and-a-half hour's drive from Johannesburg, on the fringe of Dullstroom.The five-star hotel in the fly-fishing belt of Mpumalanga is located on 800ha of deep exhalation. You can actually feel yourself extend your gaze across the valley that much further.The five-star rating means the luxe treatment comes standard, but the best bit is the establishment is swanky without being snotty.General manager Kate Christie invites you to put your feet up to catch some Zs on the sofas on their sprawling enclosed veranda."The double day-bed is a favourite and most afternoons you'll probably see someone relaxing on it," says Christie.The layout and design of the hotel's communal areas are cleverly set up to separate but still interlink different dining and relaxing areas.The standard rooms, suites and self-catering options are generously spaced out across the estate. No one feels crowded - not even when someone drops in via helicopter or light aircraft."Some people fly in for lunch and on a few occasions even for a cup of coffee," says Christie.All the relaxing and recharging is to get your energy up to eat.Walkersons has a heritage of fine dining under the reins of Chaine chef Adri van Wieringin and Natasha Smit. Expect the likes of asparagus spears topped with tangy, creamy hollandaise and a deep-fried egg - it's oozy yolks and crispy albumen bits in one.Also try kingklip served with a side of Marmite consommé, potatoes, pickled baby marrow and shimeji mushrooms.The food is cheffy in its attention to detail and the bang it delivers for all your senses. But neither the food nor the chefs are pretentious. Chef Natasha sneaks out experimental home-made strawberry marshmallows, all fruity, sweet and fragrant to pop into an after-dinner coffee.Chef Adri speaks with equal enthusiasm about the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs chefs as he does about the outreach programme he helps run in Dullstroom."All those biscuits we serve with your tea and coffee are made by bakers in our project," he says, beaming with pride.It's a welcome approach in an era when businesses show you how much good they're doing instead of just doing it.There's little that's rammed down your throat at Walkersons. Fly fish, cycle, hike or just chill at the pool or sleep all day, it's all up to you to do - one slow breath at a time.www.walkersons.co.za, reservations: 013-253-7000, or email@example.comThe lowdown'First impressionsDescend into a quiet, verdant valley topped with wide, open sky. The main hotel building is more homely than blingy - just right for a country breakaway.ServiceExcellent service. Smiles, more smiles and a can-do attitude all round.Must have dishSorbets - lemon especially.Relaxation rating8/10 - It's a big exhale.Best activityTake a long walk, end it with a picnic lunchMust takeSports shoes for hiking/fishing/cycling. Sunscreen. Dongle if you insist. Only the main building has free Wi-Fi, the rooms don't.X Factor?All the luxury without a whiff of snottiness.