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Famed for its romantic spirit and dramatic views of the northern Drakensberg Mountains, Kings Walden Garden forms part of a charming, century-old heritage guesthouse that offers elegant accommodation, champagne picnics and gourmet dinners.
The story goes that in the 1930s a beautiful young woman stood spellbound at these same mountain views and said to the man beside her, "I never want to leave". He was the owner of the land and the view. "Marry me", he replied, "and you will never have to." Elsie Tooley did just that – and went on to create the original Kings Walden Garden.
Many years later, on the night Elsie Tooley died, lightning struck the giant blue gum tree where she had first been seduced by the glorious view. It still stands today, bone white and dramatic, a symbol of Kings Walden’s magical romantic spirit and history. The lightning tree is much admired and photographed, and is featured in Thomas Packenham’s book Remarkable Trees of the World.
From the lightning tree, a series of quiet paths and walkways lead to different parts of the garden, past trickling fountains, ornamental ponds, secret gardens and various water features. You can explore white gardens filled with iceberg roses, azaleas, camellias and zebra grass. Or sit awhile in the cool sunken garden, which has a small pool surrounded by giant tree ferns and lilies.
There is a formal Italian-style rose garden, with trellises and columns, whitewashed statues and mirrors, where the resident monkeys like to preen themselves. At the heart of Kings Walden Garden is an ornamental lake, or 'place of spirits'. The lake is guarded by a pair of giant concrete sphinxes, whose nipples, it is said, should be rubbed for good luck.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Kings Walden Garden Manor
Tel: +27 (0)15 307 3262
How to get here
From Johannesburg take the N1 to Polokwane. Some 8km before Polokwane, turn left onto the R71. At the bottom of the Magoebaskloof Pass, turn right onto the R36 to Tzaneen and follow the signs to Kings Walden Garden Manor.
Best time to visit
Spring to early summer is a wonderful time to visit Kings Walden Garden, when the agapanthus bloom and the garden is filled with vivid colours and scents.
Around the area
Visit the Wolkberg Wilderness area; spend a morning in the village of Haenertsburg; take a day trip to the country's biggest baobab; or a drive to the nearby Kruger National Park.
What to pack