Lairds Lodge: Our full report
Lairds Lodge is a restored Cape Dutch manor house situated in the heart of South Africa’s beautiful Garden ...... Route, between the popular towns of Knysna and Plettenberg Bay. It’s a stylish owner-run guesthouse, set within nearly 10 hectares (24 acres) of lush gardens and woodland rich with flora and fauna. None of the Expert Africa team has stayed here but we have visited a few times over the years, most recently in July 2018.
The beautifully restored lodge has been owned by sisters Alison and Murray Brebner (who live on site) and run by Lesley Rankin since 1999. To their original four rooms in the main house they have added more over the years, and now offer 17 en-suite rooms, all tastefully decorated in an African, contemporary style. While some of the rooms are still located in the main house, the rest are in a separate annexe, but each has a private terrace that leads out onto the garden, some overlooking the forest and others a pond.
There are two 'standard', nine 'luxury' and six 'deluxe' rooms – the only difference being the size of the rooms, and the bathrooms: standard rooms have a shower, but no bath. All have modern artwork on the walls, animal skins on the floors and new white wooden floors throughout. The bed linen is soft percale in neutral creams and greys, but the owners are passionate about fabric and are constantly changing the soft furnishings to keep the rooms looking fresh and new. Air conditioning, room safes, direct-dial phones and tea- and coffee-making facilities are provided in each room, with, complimentary toiletries, fluffy white towels and dressing gowns in the bathrooms.
The main manor house at Lairds Lodge has several verandas and sheltered courtyards where iced tea as well as afternoon tea or coffee with freshly baked cake can be enjoyed. Tucked away in the vast and beautifully maintained gardens, which guests are free to explore, is a swimming pool surrounded by sunloungers and with a gazebo,
Inside is a large lounge, beautifully decorated with sumptuous sofas and antique furniture, and a small library with a wood-burning fire and satellite TV. When we visited in 2018 they told us of their imminent plans to convert the lounge into a low-key, quiet cocktail bar. The current brandy lounge, where guests usually gather for pre- or post-dinner drinks, will then become their small and cosy library.
Meals at Lairds Lodge are a huge focus here, with the owners thinking of themselves as a ‘gourmet retreat’. Their chefs are renowned along the Garden Route and their top chef has been with them for 30 years. Their restaurant isn’t normally open to the public, but they have a long waiting list and will accept non-residents if they have space. For dinner, every course is paired with local Cape wines and their wine and whisky ambassador is on hand most evenings to share his knowledge and advise on selection. He also does a fascinating ‘whisky smoking’ and riedel wine tasting in the evenings. Meals can be enjoyed either outside on the patio – candlelit at night – or in the reed-ceilinged dining room, where you'll find both a large communal dining table and a few individual tables.
Lairds Lodge is perfectly situated on the Garden Route with lots of sightseeing and activities in the vicinity. Twenty kilometres to the west, Knysna is well-known for its oysters, craft markets, boat trips on the lagoon and walks in the Featherbed Nature Reserve. Plettenberg Bay, just 8km away, offers relaxing coffee shops and markets, and three beautiful beaches. A boat trip to see dolphins or whales up close can often be a highlight, and the Robberg Nature Reserve offers lovely walking trails around the peninsula or along the beach to see the seal colonies. Nearby are local vineyards with wine estates offering lunches and wine tasting.
A few minutes’ drive from Lairds Lodge is the Knysna Elephant Park, while closer to Plettenberg Bay are Birds of Eden and Monkeyland; great for children and adults alike.
Lairds Lodge is a very comfortable guesthouse with the most welcoming and friendly staff. We may not have stayed here, but we have always liked what we’ve seen! Although it’s a four-star graded property, they have been offered a fifth star, but this they have declined as they would rather have their guests enjoy an excellent four-star lodge with five-star service.
South Africa expert
- Plettenberg Bay | Garden Route, South Africa
- Ideal length of stay
- Three to four nights is the ideal length of time to explore this part of the Garden Route and enjoy some R&R at this beautiful guesthouse.
- Lairds Lodge is 8km from Plettenberg Bay and 20km from Knysna. It is signposted off the N2 national road.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Bed & Breakfast
- Food quality
- Meals at Lairds Lodge are an important part of what they offer, with everything locally sourced. Although we did not eat here on our last visit in July 2018, we had a tasty cappuccino (one of the best we had along this stretch of the Garden Route) and some delicious coconut meringues and butter cookies. It was explained what guests might expect for meals, and it left our mouths watering!
The chef can cater for just about all dietary requirements, with alternative options always available to the main menu.
For breakfast – when they never have the same buffet two days in a row – guests are served freshly baked bread, croissants and muffins along with homemade jams and preserves, fresh fruit and fruit juices. A traditional cooked breakfast is also available to order.
A light snack menu is available throughout the day, although most guests eat out at lunchtime as they’re exploring during the day.
Dinner is a gourmet four-course meal. They specialise in seafood and game dishes and pride themselves on making all sauces from scratch. Starters might include smoked salmon trout, or baby marrow and goat’s cheese soufflé, or grilled garlic and lemon prawns, followed by a soup such as pear and leek soup. Main-course options could take in a vegetable roulade, line fish of the day or marinated fillet of kudu. Dessert could be an exotic fruit millefeuille, or rooibos and vanilla pannacotta, followed by coffee or tea.
- Attitude towards children
- Children of all ages are welcome at Lairds Lodge.
- Property’s age restrictions
- There is no age restriction on children staying here.
- Special activities & services
- Lairds Lodge have assured us that their staff are very good with children, and we did witness a bit of this on our most recent visit in 2018, just from their warm and friendly hospitality. The staff are like family, they’re passionate about what they do and it’s not just a job.
There is a children’s menu, and mealtimes are very flexible: children may dine with their parents or eat alone.
The lodge has a swimming pool, which will help to keep children entertained, and there are many child-friendly attractions in the area such as Knysna Elephant Park, Adventureland, Monkeyland and Birds of Eden.
- Children aged two to ten years are given a teddy bear to look after for the duration of their stay, along with a personalised welcome note and a small packet of freshly baked cookies. Highchairs and cots are available, and an extra bed can be added to each room.
- Generally recommended for children
- We consider Lairds Lodge to be suitable for children of all ages.
- Parents are advised to supervise children around the pool and there is also an unfenced pond in the garden.
- There are direct-dial phones in the rooms. There is complimentary WiFi throughout the lodge and a computer for guests to use.
- TV & radio
- There are TVs in the rooms as well as in the main lounge and the brandy lounge, offering local and satellite channels.
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- The water from the taps is safe to drink, but bottled water is available at additional cost.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- There are doctors and hospitals in Plettenberg Bay and Knysna.
Quadbike warning: quadbiking is sometimes available as an external activity from Lairds Lodge. As with any potentially dangerous activity, it's vital that you take responsibility for ensuring that you have adequate travel insurance prior to getting involved. Be aware that some insurances cover quad-bike activities only for bikes with lower engine ratings: check such clauses particularly carefully before you get on a bike.
- Dangerous animals
- Security measures
- The lodge is surrounded by an electric fence (although this is mostly to keep baboons out), and there is a security gate as well as a security guard on duty. There are also security cameras on the property.
- Fire safety
- There are fire extinguishers around the property which are professionally checked every six months.
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- Available at extra charge.
- There are electronic safes in the rooms.
There is no currency exchange, but there are many banks and cashpoint machines in the area.
- Accepted payment on location
- Visa, Mastercard and Amex are accepted at no extra charge, as are travellers’ cheques. Cash payments must be made in South African rand.
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