Historic home brought back to life as Plett's newest boutique hotel

The Old Rectory is pure pleasure, writes Emma Jordan

04 October 2017 - 10:42 By EMMA JORDAN
The pool  and deck at The Old Rectory have been built around the centuries-old milkwood trees.
The pool and deck at The Old Rectory have been built around the centuries-old milkwood trees.
Image: Rare Earth

Behind the kettle is the Walter Battiss print Flying Angels. In true Battiss spirit it's a cacophony of colours and imagination. I do a double take and look to the opposite wall where bright swirls of green and blue complement the colour scheme. This is an original by Donne Rundle, a local Plettenberg Bay artist.

Curated by Michele Bestbier, the collection of local works on display at The Old Rectory includes works by Plett locals Helen Mudge and Rundle, alongside Knysna artist Guy Thesen, Cape Town ceramicist Theo Kleynhans and Joburg-based photographer Charles Johnstone.

"When I heard Merryll Legh was working on the interiors I approached her to help with the hotel's art collection," says Bestbier. "We then worked together to assemble a beautiful collection that not only pays homage to many local artists but also complements the beautiful décor and essence of the hotel."

The Old Rectory is the latest luxury hotel to open in Plett. Only 18 rooms surround the main building which itself is the original Old Rectory, one of the oldest buildings along the coast, and certainly the oldest building in Plettenberg Bay.

Built in 1777 as a barracks for the Dutch East India Company, it evolved to be lodgings for the Anglican church before falling into neglect. Four years ago it was bought by the Rare Earth group, a small luxury hospitality company that focuses on personal service. The Old Rectory complements their Bush (The Outpost and Pel's Post) and Country (Country House) offerings. They also own the award-winning Kay & Monty vineyard in the Crags outside Plett.

Dael Fairbarn of Erasmus Fairbarn architects came on board to refurbish the main house and add on the rooms. She incorporated the original stone wall and retained the ancient yellowwood floor.

Sunshine and sea just minutes away - what more could anyone want?
Sunshine and sea just minutes away - what more could anyone want?
Image: Rare Earth

"We took it back to its oldest time," says Fairbarn. "When it was first built it was two thatched buildings off a concrete courtyard. Then the English put a corrugated roof over all of it, including the courtyard. We incorporated the courtyard, making it into the reception, but kept the roof thatch. Now there are wonderful double-volume ceilings with the original beams."

There are other nods to the building's heritage - the VOC emblem on the back of the dinning room chairs, the wall of historic photographs and the centuries-old milkwood that's been lovingly retained in the garden, with the pool and deck built around it.

The rooms have an easy-beach feel, albeit with beautiful art on the walls and luxury amenities. The main block has a decidedly sumptuous feel about it. There's the bar with it's deep Chesterfield, copper piping and copper front; the centuries-old fireplace with linen-covered armchairs and the dining room with ancient walls and yellowwood floors. Throughout plantation fans turn languidly.

For all it's casualness The Old Rectory is five-star all the way. The spa is a Sanctuary Spa with decadent Moyo treatments, QMS facials and a starlit hammam. The food is expertly prepared by Kristine Moodie.

In-room amenities include Nespresso machines, underfloor heating and heavenly beds. All rooms have either sea or garden views and a selection of the 18 can be turned into family rooms, via interleading balconies.

But all this would be nothing without the staff. Like a luxury lodge where time is inconsequential and whims continually taken care of, The Old Rectory is run by professional personnel organising day trips around Plett, ensuring beach towels are at the ready, or simply taking pride in their lovely new home.

They're always ready to serve. No wonder the summer season is already almost fully booked.

• See rareearth.co.za for more info or to book.

• This article was originally published in The Times.

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