Pets Need a Break too


Luxury travel writer, brian berkman, searches out the fabulous and often affordable options available to you and your pets. Julie, his rescued mixed-breed doggie-daughter, insists on joining them.

The Karoo Art Hotel provides the perfect pet holiday. This is one time when being in the Dog Box is a good thing. Just ask Julie after we spent a blissful weekend in Barrydale in the Klein Karoo.

Barrydale is a fertile stone-fruit growing area and lambs, beef and canola are farmed nearby. In 1956 its then owner, Mr Abramowitz called it the Bon Accord Hotel and lauded its flush sanitation and hot and cold running water, but records exist of it being operated as a hotel since 1888. The Karoo Art Hotel, as it is now known, had a wonderful boost in 2021 after it was purchased by Sue and Rick Melvill,

the folks behind the stunning Melvill & Moon retro luxury safari outfitter. There is a selection of Melvill & Moon items to purchase in a display area adjacent to the hotel’s breakfast room and coffee shop. Their range of Rookhee Campaign chairs, modelled on the original used by the British army, and made from timber and canvas, comfortably accommodates folks sitting on the black-and-white tiled front “stoep” porch looking towards the mountains, The Karoo Art Hotel is the perfect example of Cape Country Routes’ properties that are graded four-stars and up, owner-managed, and epitomise the warmth of country hospitality.

There are 16 spacious, individually themed en-suite bedrooms with King/Queen-sized beds, tea/filter coffee-making facilities and free WiFi, some rooms have flat-screen TVs and private balconies. The Garden Suite has a separate living area and a private courtyard. The Dog Box, where we stayed with our dog-daughter Julie, has direct access from the back parking area and an enclosed courtyard too.

With its ox-blood red walls, glamorous large timber four-poster bed with rattan lattice work at the head and foot, The Dog Box is a cocoon of comfort for humans and canines (and even felines). Recent improvements include updated plug points with two USB A connections within easy reach next to both sides of the bed. An electric blanket keeps the Karoo cold away while a large standing fan will maintain your comfort in the heat. The Dog Box floor is tiled in smart black and white and a quality Persian-style rug is the room’s centrepiece. There is a bench covered in the high quality Melvill & Moon canvas and a beautifully crafted luggage rack, also from their fine range.

Down two steps into a little kitchen area is where a fridge and coffee and tea station is available. A bowl for Julie and a copy of the Dog Menu. Another throwback to hospitality past (and missed in my view) is the offer of a morning coffee tray brought to the room with a wake-up call. The Dog Box bathroom is large with loo and shower.

In keeping with the Dog Box room’s theme, a handsome painting of a dog is behind the bed and all the books in the room are dedicated to our four-legged family. Julie slept at the foot of our bed in the bed she travels with.

The restaurant, where Julie is also welcome to take her meals, is helmed by chef Derek Lowe. It has a long history of award-winning cooking. Portions are hearty, food is tasty and sufficiently affordable to enjoy all your meals at the property. The inclusive breakfast is excellent too. Melvill & Moon’s motto, Laudator Temporis Acti, translated to mean “the romance of an age gone by” perfectly suits the guest experience of the Karoo Art Hotel. Everyone we encountered, from the wonderful and generous staff, to the other guests who also seemed as warm and friendly, added to the enjoyment of our time there. And, best yet, Julie was welcome everywhere and by everyone, even the chef’s two dogs were pleased to see her.

True to its name as an art hotel, walls are a feast for the eyes. A large painting of sheep behind the reception desk immediately locates one in the Karoo (as do the table mats during meals) while other original artworks, including one extremely large piece on the dining-room wall, add to the appeal.

The bar area which is also well supported by Barrydale residents has a large fireplace. If only the original wooden floors could talk. There is no shortage of interesting folk and stories in this area which is, perhaps, the reason why simply being here feels like a break from the ordinary.

The hotel presents an ongoing programme of “Arts of” Workshops on writing, cooking, yoga, meditation, music, film and others all hosted by experts and leading facilitators. It is a magnet for Harley owners too.

The Map Room is an excellent destination resource in which to plan your visit which might also include a glamorous mountain picnic with Melvill & Moon gear.
While in the area visit the Barrydale brandy cellar, close to the Tradouw Pass, Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve and the Warmwaterberg Hot Mineral Springs Spa which allows day visitors. And, while you are welcome to bring your pets, they may not enter the hot and cold pools enclosure, just 50km from the hotel. Barrydale is a town that welcomes dogs and there are many mountain walks the whole family can enjoy.

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