|Once upon a time Lynton Hall played host to royals, prime ministers,
men of letters and captains of industry. Nowadays its patrons may
be somewhat less titled but its environs are certainly no less majestic.
Now in its third century, Lynton Hall finds its leading role as
a restored boutique hotel and heritage site, its castle-like exterior
befitting that of a manor house profoundly steeped in history.
The tale of this castle begins in 1852 with the arrival of Thomas
and Lewis Reynolds, two sons of a Devonshire farmer, who established
themselves farming and milling sugar at Umhlali on the (then)
Natal North Coast. By 1873 Lewis Reynolds had bought the Umzinto
Companys Sugar Mill at Sezela on the South Coast for £5
000 and renamed it Reynolds & Sons. The mill thrived in the
hands of Lewiss two sons, Charles and Frank.
By 1884 success enabled Charles to commission the architects
Street-Wilson and Fyfe to design a house on the South Coast at
Pennington. The property was to be named, nostalgically, after
a village on the north coast of Devon, picturesquely seated on
a hill high above the little seaport, fishing station, and delightful
bathing spot of Lynmouth. And so the name was born before Lynton
Hall itself was built its site situated, like its namesake,
on a hilltop with spectacular views of the countryside and with
the benefit of cooling breezes from the Indian Ocean.
The design incorporated a tower from which cane fires could be
spotted and which would serve as a stronghold in the case of a
Zulu uprising (an event Charles constantly feared). In addition,
huge tanks were installed in the Tower Room for storing water
to withstand the threat of siege. These days the Tower Suite is
Lynton Halls luxury honeymoon suite, reached by a narrow
winding circular staircase and complete with turreted rooftop
The building of the manor house took time. The railway could
only bring supplies as far as Isipingo, from where they had to
be transported by ox-wagon. The process proved too lengthy and
(Left: Wide shaded verandas.)
laborious for the impatient Charles who arranged for a lighter
to sail from Durban Harbour with the necessary building materials.
It beached at Rocky Bay and workers from the mill were ordered
to haul the materials uphill. To this day, when the sand has been
washed away by severe storms, the skeleton of the vessel is visible
and hence this area of the coast became known as Lighter Bay.
The construction of Lynton Hall was finally completed in 1895,
but Charles lived there for only a decade before leaving South
Africa, and his brother Frank took up residence. Frank was a Natal
sugar baron and a founder of the sugar industry in South Africa.
He had fought with the Natal Mounted Rifles in the Anglo-Boer
War, served on the Natal Legislative Council and supported local
works which included a school for the Indian community at Esperenza.
Frank was eventually knighted in 1916. Two years later he bought
the land surrounding Lynton Hall from Richard Pennington, after
whom the Pennington area was named.
Sir Franks intentions for the land were ambitious. Amongst
them were plans to build a beach house on the estate for his friend
(Left: Stained glass doors lead to quiet corners.)
and first premier of the Union, Louis Botha. Sadly, Botha died
before this was completed but his wife, Annie, used it for the
rest of her life and it was left in trust for the use of future
prime ministers. All Bothas successors were regular guests
at Botha House, including Prime Minister BJ Vorster, General Jan
Smuts, Police Minister Louis le Grange, Plural Affairs Minister
Piet Koornhof, Welfare Minister Lapa Munnik, and more recently
President FW De Klerk, who last visited in 1992. Botha House is
now a guest house, open to the public.
Umdoni Park, named after the mdoni (water myrtle) tree, was established
as a sanctuary by Sir Frank to preserve the indigenous fauna and
flora. He presented it to the South African nation in 1920 and
the Umdoni Trust was formed. A golf course was constructed for
the use of the sugar mill staff, and it is one of the areas
most picturesque courses, meandering through pristine coastal
forest and tumbling down to the Indian Ocean. The trust also maintained
a cottage near the beach for the use of writers and artists, who
have included Roy Campbell, Laurens van der Post, Noel Langley,
Sir Percy Fitzpatrick and Edward Rowarth.
(Left: Chandeliers, candlesticks and gracious stairwells.)
Lynton Hall has undergone many alterations and additions over
the years but the most notable of these was commissioned when
King George VI of Britain was offered the use of this lovely secluded
homestead to convalesce in 1952 when his health was failing. The
building was extended to accommodate the king and queen, Princess
Margaret and 10 of their staff. The king was planning to visit
the estate again just before he died.
The estate continued to remain a private home until the death
of Sir Frank Reynolds, and was then left in turn to the oldest
family member of each generation. At one stage it stood empty
for seven years. Today, it is in the care of Sir Franks
great grandson, Ronald Munro Ferguson.
In 2002 Ronald and his wife Erica transformed the residence into
a boutique hotel with the help of Cheryl Goss, owner of the award-winning
Midlands country lodge, Hartford House. The interior is decorated
in an Indian Colonial Style with nine individually appointed rooms
and two luxury suites all offering sweeping views of the grounds.
Beautifully restored, the walls and
(Left: A four-poster bed dreams of yesteryear.)
staircases gleam with the patina of age and the hallways give
a considerable creak underfoot. The portraits of historic South
Africans ensure you never forget the significance of your surroundings.
The grounds comprise 200ha of magnificient indigenous forest
a hallmark of what the Lynton experience has to offer.
The estate has recorded some 185 bird varieties, 100 butterflies
and a wide variety of both indigenous and exotic trees. It has
one of the finest private collections of exotic specimens in Africa
many of which were imported from Londons Kew Gardens
and a unique coastal ecosystem. Its palms and New Caledonian
pines are of a size seldom seen in Southern Africa.
The five-star restaurant is home to the renowned Richard Carstens,
who serves some of the finest avant garde (in his
own words) cuisine in the country. It was recently awarded third
place for the second year running in the Business Day Restaurant
of the Year awards, as well as being voted one of the Top 100
Best Restaurants and Top 10 Special Occasions destinations by
(Left: Slipper baths and soft white towels.)
Magazine for 2005. In addition, Richard recently picked up the
coveted Eat Out Johnnie Walker Chef of the Year title. His cuisine
is trendsetting sometimes exceptional, sometimes strange,
And so the story of Lynton Hall continues. A visit to the estate
is well worth it for the wide choice of activities that include
walks, diving, whale and dolphin watching and a chance to sample
the luxurious accommodation and cuisine on offer. And with access
to 21 golf courses within a one-hour radius, and the Umdoni and
Selbourne courses as neighbouring properties, you could have the
rare luxury of a golfing vacation in a boutique hotel setting.
Very few places in the world offer such enticement so close to
the ocean and with such award-winning cuisine.
Located just 45 minutes south of Durban airport on KwaZulu-Natals
picturesque Hibiscus Coast, it is an accessible getaway for those
looking to experience hospitality in the grand old tradition.
Its a step back in time to a very memorable and indulgent
experience one that is truly fit for royalty.
For more info on Lynton Hall contact +27 39 975 3122 or visit
(Left: Old colonades embraced by what is reputed to be the
oldest bougainvillea in South Africa.)