Warm Hospitality at Walkersons Hotel & Spa
Drawing local guests for a breakaway close to Joburg and Nelspruit, or international guests stopping over en route to the Kruger, Walkersons Hotel and Spa is a wonderful sum of its many parts. With a stunning location just outside of Dullstroom (a green, grassy valley that feels far too peaceful to be so conveniently close to the road), an atmospheric building made of solid stone, and interiors draped in tapestries, with a fire always on the go in the fireplace, there is a lot to appreciate about the property.
One of the notable elements of Walkersons is its hospitality, with warm, pitch-perfect service delivered by an excellent team. With 55 employees in the hotel and spa, a lot of the team have worked there for many years – “I always say I’m still the newbie, and I’ve been here for 4½ years already!” says Kate Christie, Walkersons Hotel & Spa General Manager. She says that the team’s friendly and warm engagement with guests comes down to Walkersons culture of developing staff, a culture which was instilled by the original owners and continues to be encouraged by the current owners, and which fosters a feeling of family and loyalty.
“As much as possible, we try to promote from within and then source team members locally to fill more junior positions. Some training is outsourced, but the majority is learnt on the job,” says Kate. “There is also very much an open-door policy, and it is encouraged to sort out minor issues before they develop into bigger problems. Although we all have our job descriptions, there is also an unwritten agreement that everybody helps where we can; team members know that if they are in a pickle, they can always ask for help.”
Around a property like the Walkersons, there’s always a lot to do, from big to small, at the many facilities on-site. Guest rooms are free standing and dotted around the main building to take advantage of the setting, with many that have stoeps overlooking the dam. The main building houses a TV lounge, bar, and the cosy Flying Scotsman restaurant, where chefs aim to impress with four-course dinners and decadent breakfasts. The outside stone terrace which overlooks a tranquil lily-padded pond offers guests à la carte bistro-style cuisine during the day, with chilled lounge areas to sip a cappuccino, read a book and enjoy the view. There’s also a separate event space for weddings and conferences, a pool, and a paddock full of horses.
It’s not just the hotel that needs looking after – Walkersons has fully utilised its picture-perfect setting, offering self-catering accommodation throughout the valley. “Having different types of accommodation under our portfolio does come with challenges, however, it is great that our guests have choices,” says Kate. “Housekeeping, laundry, maintenance and reservations are all managed from the hotel but the biggest logistical challenge is getting linen and the housekeepers back and forth… our bakkie and golf carts work hard!”
- Outdoor showers
- Charlotte Rhys products
- Umbrellas at every door in case of rain
- Turndown service with Darling Toffees
- Fires lit in room and restaurant fireplaces
- Nespresso machines in rooms
- Wonderful wine selection at the hotel’s cellar
While the property isn’t too far from Dullstroom itself, there’s very little reason to leave – in fact, there’s something for everybody on-site. Walk and bike paths criss-cross the grasslands, weaving around the fully-stocked trout dams available for those who want to spend their time fly fishing. There’s an on-site spa with a wide-range of treatments – from full-immersion massages to quick-sticks manis and pedis – and a pool for lounging around with a good book.
Should you want to explore Dullstroom, though, you’ll find many places to while away the day (our personal choice would be Wild about Whisky, with a fantastic selection of whiskies to choose from as well as themed tasting lists that really allow you to get stuck in) – or, if you want to try something completely different and get off the beaten track, why not take a battlefield tour of Dullstroom? Gerhard Delport of Battlefields of the Escarpment Tours recently began offering visitors half and full-day trips to explore the Boer War history of the area. “There are a number of activities in and around Dullstroom, but for golfers there is nothing like experiencing the Ernie Els signature Golf Course that is Highland Gate,” says Kate. “ Seasoned golfers who come back after a round are time and again blown away by this course and often rate it as one of their top 3”
With such beautiful, natural surroundings, it’s a good thing that Walkersons is trying to be as green as possible – all cleaning products are eco-friendly, and they’ve introduced bio straws and bio-degradable containers. In an effort to reduce single-use plastic on the property, guests are offered sprint water in glass bottles that are recycled and returned. They’ve also added a new bio sewage treatment plant. “Being away from municipal facilities, we have to manage our water supply and sewerage ourselves,” says Kate. “Utilising water from springs and dams for our consumption highlights the importance of ensuring there is no ground water contamination. Also, as we have a very high ground water level, the eco system is sensitive and we want to keep our impact on our surrounds to a minimum. In summer, the chorus of frog song tells us that our wetlands are in tip top condition!”
Last year, the property upgraded to a system that uses an accelerated oxygenation technology and bio-filters to treat the water that would usually end up in a soakaway (a hole filled with coarse stone that allows surface water to filter back into the earth). The water is now pumped up to the central plant and treated through various tanks. “For the plant to work effectively, we need to utilise eco-friendly products as much as possible,” says Kate. “As we don’t have full control over the products that our guests bring with them, we also have additional enzymes which we add to the plant to keep the ‘good bacteria’ alive and doing their job.”
The last step in the water’s journey before it flows into a natural wetland, is to pass through a reed bed system – the reeds act as a natural cleanser and remove any traces of waste that remain.
Restaurants: The Flying Scotsman, The Terrace and family dining room, The Misty Trout, cover all your food and beverage bases – breakfast, casual lunches and finer fare in the evening.
Bar and lounge area: read on the terrace lounge area or enjoy a pre-dinner aperitivo at the bar
Spa: wide range of treatments, from massages to manicures, expertly delivered by specialists
Venue: a multi-purpose venue that can be used for weddings, events and conferences
Pool: astounding view down the valley from the Walkersons hotel pool
Helipad and airstrip: should a car not be your style
Dams: trout-stocked dams in picturesque settings – fly-fishing gear can be hired.
Mountain Bikes: hire a mountain bike and explore the land on two wheels.
Self-catering accommodation: big and small groups can be accommodated in self-catering cottages around Walkersons