12 APOSTLES HOTEL & SPA
| HIDDEN GEMS
Journey of the senses
Text Kit Heathcock
Photography Patrick Heathcock and courtesy of 12 Apostles Hotel
Despite its impressive reputation and five star status , there’s nothing imposing or grandiose about the architecture of the 12 Apostles. Forget about Palladian pillars and triple volume lobbies, the luxury and elegance here is conceived on a more intimate scale. The glamour comes from the unique setting on wild mountain slopes above the coast road between Cape Town’s Camps Bay and Hout Bay, with panoramic sunset views over the unruly Atlantic Ocean and the dramatic peaks of the Twelve Apostles mountains as a backdrop. The white buildings spread out in a series of wings from the original historic farmhouse building, never exceeding two stories and creating a rambling and friendly atmosphere imbued with a subtle style of luxury that feels like home. The personal touch comes from owner Bea Tollman, with her finger on the pulse of all the Red Carnation hotels, lining the hotel walls with a varied and quirky art collection. We had a charming group of wood panels painted with fish outside our room, some gorgeous charcoal landscapes upstairs, and I enjoyed the fact that the colourful striped corridor carpet was especially commissioned from Paul Smith after Bea fell in love with the pattern in his fashion collection.
A relaxed atmosphere where luxury comes naturally
As soon as we’d settled in to our room and leant over the balcony to watch the ocean waves break on the rocks, drink in the views and made ourselves tea, the sunshine broke through winter clouds and the mountains behind the hotel beckoned. We set out to explore, starting from a sheltered courtyard next to the Café Grill, where the friendly hotel cat was taking a siesta. Steps lead up beside the rock pool waterfall, to a natural swimming pool surrounded by rocks with plenty of lounging areas. In summer we’d have stopped right there and lazed the afternoon away, or set up next to the main swimming pool overlooking the ocean, but in winter a gentle mountain hike is the ideal way to work up an appetite for dinner. Gravel paths wound through beautifully planted fynbos gardens and indigenous trees until we emerged on the wild mountain itself, complete with huge boulders, fynbos regenerating after a bush fire and sweeping views of the jagged peaks of the 12 Apostle range, of the ocean and Signal Hill. Climbing some steep steps between boulders a powerful waft of honey fynbos scent engulfed the senses and there were plenty more subtle fynbos fragrances as we explored further winding paths, passing enticing nooks with hammocks swaying, the two outdoor spa gazebos with amazing panoramas and the sound of rushing water from a mountain stream hidden in a tree-lined gully.
There’s an art to choosing your ideal room at the 12 Apostles. Among the 70 different rooms and suites are so many different options that it’s wise to chat through your preferences with the hotel when booking. The stunning sea view rooms and suites are the obvious choice, all with balconies to sit and watch the sunset. They do however have a downside in that the coast road linking Camps Bay with Hout Bay runs below the hotel. It’s not hectically busy, and the traffic noise blends in to the sound of the surf and is dulled by double glazing, but the noise-sensitive might prefer a room at the back with a mountain view, or looking on to the greenery of the fynbos garden, taking high tea and sundowners at the Leopard Bar to enjoy the ocean views from there. Of course the crème de la crème is the Presidential suite, which has the most incredible bathroom, imagine soaking in a carved marble bathtub looking out at the mountain and ocean view. The main bedroom is gorgeous with rich embroidered draperies, not huge but perfectly proportioned, then there’s a small study and second bathroom and a spacious lounge with wide balcony and private bar. Additional bedrooms can be added as necessary.
A rambling, friendly ambience in the middle of amazing natural beauty
Needless to say all the rooms and suites in the hotel are very comfortable, with eclectic decor that combines light and airy beach colours with smokey antique mirrors and a touch of gilt. What impressed me most as I explored all the cupboards and corners was the attention to detail: two sorts of bathrobes, warm towelling lined and light summer cotton, individual temperature controls for the central heating, towel hooks in exactly the right place beside the shower, and what a shower, steaming hot and copious from the wide rain shower fixture on the ceiling. I particularly loved the bespoke B Africa collection of toiletries created especially for Bea Tollman using natural fynbos oils and scents – they are the same products used in the spa, so you can create a relaxing mini-spa experience in your own bathroom.
After the foodie indulgence of our wine pairing dinner at Azure with Drift wines (read about it here) the icing on the cake the next morning was a visit to the renowned spa for their signature B Harmonised treatment. I could have spent a whole morning in the spa, moving through the series of pools from cold to hot to Dead Sea salt flotation, relaxing in the spa lounge with a healthy snack and a good book. The treatment itself was a wonderful combination of sensory stimulation using a series of fynbos scents, and relaxation and stress release from skilful massage, untangling knots I never knew I had. It starts with a foot bath, massage and exfoliation, progresses through focussed back massage with a series of hot stone applications and finishes with a scalp massage using the signature range of B Africa products. Relaxed, refreshed and re-energised it was time to head back to reality after what felt like a whole journey of the senses.
The overall impression left by the 12 Apostles is one of friendly smiling staff who greet you by name, of a relaxed atmosphere where luxury comes naturally, and where you are right in the middle of amazing natural beauty.
TWELVE APOSTLES HOTEL & SPA, CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA
Style Eclectic elegance
Setting Unspoilt mountain slopes of Table Mountain nature reserve overlooking the rocky Atlantic coastline with its own fynbos gardens.
Why you'll love it Unapologetic luxury on an intimate scale, excellent food and friendly, warm hospitality. The amazing variety at breakfast includes a table crowned with oysters on ice and MCC if you really want to breakfast like a king.
Good to know Book your spa treatments ahead of time as the spa is popular with Capetonians as well as guests. The monthly food and wine pairing evenings almost always sell out quickly so book those in good time too. Kids are welcome and there are two pet-friendly rooms with dog-menus so that your well-behaved dog can accompany you.
Wow factor The stunning views over the ocean from the Leopard Bar and from Azure restaurant can’t be beaten. In summer a spa treatment in one of the mountain gazebos among the fynbos is an exceptional experience.
Room for improvement It’s hard to find anything to quibble about apart from the unavoidable traffic noise. If I were being extra picky I’d ask for home-made jams at breakfast to go with the lovely breads and croissants. They currently provide Hillcrest jams, which are local and good quality but lack the wow factor of really luscious home-made preserves.
Address Victoria Road, Camps Bay, Cape Town, South Africa
How to Get There From Camps Bay follow signs towards Hout Bay. The hotel is on the left just above the road about 2 km from Camps Bay