Loader
 

Highlands at Heart

 
09 January 2017 by Katy Louise Johnson

To find the heart of the Highlands Meander you first need to find the tiny hamlet of Tonteldoos. Dwarfed by its well-known neighbour Dullstroom with only 40 permanent residents you wouldn’t be blamed for wondering ‘what could this town possibly offer?’ The answer is loads as Tonteldoos is one of those places that are full of surprises and once you’ve found it you are unlikely to forget it.

Image credit: Michele Meacher

Image credit: Ludwig Sevenster

 

Situated on a dirt road 20km outside Dullstroom, Tonteldoos doesn’t appear like much on a map. Look more closely on Google Maps and intriguingly named destinations like ‘The Woolly Bugger’ and ‘Thirsty Walrus’ and so with curiosity engaged it is time for a scenic and adventure filled drive to explore the backroads of Mpumalanga.

DCS_7831

Image credit: Ludwig Sevenster

 

Those who dare will be rewarded, because Tonteldoos offers a suite of activities, attractions and adventures found nowhere else along the Highlands Meander. Gourmet picnics amidst scenic pastures, adventure biking routes that will leave you exhilarated and wanting for more, cross-bow shooting, cheese tastings amidst a blanket of summer flowers, or simply an ice-cold beer with a Thirsty Walrus!

DCS_7989

Image credit: Ludwig Sevenster

 

It is however during the Easter Weekend when Tonteldoos really makes it mark with its annual Highlands festival, which next year will be on the 15th of April 2017.  Be warned however, if you are expecting Koeksister competitions and Easter bonnets you will be disappointed. The Tonteldoos festival was set up to stick out, a festival like no other in Mpumalanga or Limpopo. One that celebrates Tonteldoos’ roots but more importantly it’s setting, because this is a festival that salutes the Highlands by bringing a bit of Scotland to Mpumalanga’s Highland Meander.

DSC_0125DSC_2066

Image credits: Woolly Bugger

 

We used to have a peach festival earlier in the year. This however, was frequently rained out so we decided to move the festival to the Easter Weekend, which lost the relevance with peaches. So we decided to celebrate the area, rather than a single product” - Estine Steenkamp, owner of the Thirsty Walrus

When you visit the Highland Meander region of Mpumalanga you cannot help to draw comparisons with the Scottish Highlands, the craggy escarpment, cold misty mornings and long waving grasslands that stretch on uninterrupted for as far as the eye can see. So a festival that brings everything synonymous with the Scottish Highlands to this South African Highland hamlet seems rather fitting.

Tonteldoos Festival (2)DSC_0173

Image credit: Michele Meacher

Tonteldoos Highland festival has everything, from pipe band competitions and the kilted-mile run, to tossing the caber and other classic highland game. There is traditional Highland dancing, (although this is from the Irish Highlands), full armoured fighting, strongman competitions, dressage performances, kiddies games and sword fighting.

This is before you get to the 140 stalls making everything from artisan jewellery to homemade pickles and jams, the awesome beer tent serving an array of craft beers that would put any true Scottish pub to shame and a number of live bands.

This year the festival saw 6000 people descend on Tonteldoos, overflowing Tonteldoos’ surprising large accommodation offerings and spilling into Dullstroom and other neighbouring destinations. Next year they are expecting 8000 people and have had to partner up with Ticketpro to make sure ticket sales run smoothly. So if you are enticed by this vibrant Celtic offering, be sure to book your tickets and accommodation quickly!

DSC_0150

Image credits: Woolly Bugger

 

If the vast array of attractions at the festival were not enough, there is another more specialised event attached to the festival that will also be drawing in the crowds. The Cullinan to Tonteldoos Mountain Bike Event is a single stage ultra-event will see competitors making their way the 260km from Cullinan in Gauteng to Tonteldoos, in time to catch the last part of the festival.

The event started in 2015 as a social ride and due to the huge success of the trip the organisers have turned it into an official event. With some of the Country’s top mountain bikers featuring, this is no race for the fainted hearted or novice mountain biker. Elevation of over 3000m along the 260km route will test the most experienced and well-honed legs, while the challenge of a night ride will mean cyclists need all their experience and dedication to see this through.

The race will start on April the 14th at 18.00h medal cut off time is 24 hours later at the Festival on the 15th, with the race officially finishing an hour after that. With the mountain bike village set up alongside the festival grounds, it is sure to bring another flavour to the whole event.

For more information, or to register, check out their website: www.c2tmtb.co.za We have a feeling that this new addition to the mountain biking calendar is going to become one of the highlights of the mountain bike calendar!

The Highland Festival and Mountain Bike Race are two amazing offerings from a hamlet of merely 40 permanent residents, but it goes to show what can be achieved if you are truly passionate about the place where you live. This is what all 40 of Tonteldoos residence are, converting their small number into one large voice that simple screams – ‘Welcome to Tonteldoos’.

DCS_7846

Image credit: Ludwig Sevenster

 

If you can’t make the festival, never fear, there are so many other reasons why you should make Tonteldoos the final destination for your next weekend away. Here are our top seven, but believe us the list really could go on and on and on!

Seven places you have to visit in Tonteldoos:

1.       The Woolly Bugger Farm - Apart from the beautiful and secluded stone cottage accommodation, reason enough to spend at least one night on this tranquil 270 hectare farm.  Woolly Bugger Farm is also a haven for fly-fisherman, with 1kg plus trout often being pulled from its two well stocked large trout dams. For the more adventurous, why not try your hand at a spot of crossbow shooting! This novel offering will keep kids and adults happy for hours and you might find it difficult to draw yourself away and explore your surrounds. With an entertainment lapa, equipped with a covered braai area, boma and splash pool this is somewhere the whole family can relax while enjoying everything Tonteldoos has to offer!

HIGHLANDS AT HEART - Woolly Bugger OneHIGHLANDS AT HEART - Woolly Bugger Four

Image credits: Woolly Bugger

 

2.       The Thirsty Walrus - As well as having the coolest name in town, the Thirsty Walrus is also what the locals like to call, “Tonteldoos’ Mall”. Before you start saving your pennies for a shopping experience which would compete with Dubai, it was only dubbed the mall because it has the town’s only ATM! What it does have is ice cool beers and weekend essentials, making it a one stop shop for anyone keen on exploring the area and packing light. A fascinating building, with owners who simply love their newly adopted town. You haven’t visited Tonteldoos without a trip to the Thirsty Walrus.

HIGHLANDS AT HEART - Ludwig Sevenster 6

Image credits: Ludwig Sevenster

3.       The Highside Tavern - Calling all adventure bikers, if you haven’t been to the Highside Pub, this definitely something to add to your biking bucket list! Owned by passionate biker, Peter McBride, while many peoples dream might be to run a pub, Peter’s dreams all involve bikes. This can be seen in the pub’s motorbike museum, where Peter’s collection of vintage bikes has pride of place. Yet it is the adventure motor biking tours he puts on that really draw the crowds. Tonteldoos is a mecca for motor bikers, especially those who enjoy a spot of adventure motor biking and will an informed and enthusiastic guide willing to show you all the best spots. This has to be a must for any serious biker.

HIGHLANDS AT HEART - Ludwig Sevenster 13

 Image credits: Ludwig Sevenster

4.       A Picnic at Riverman Cabin This place is exquisite and don’t just take our word for it, voted the Best Establishment and Best Value for Money in Dullstroom for 2015 it stood out against stiff competition. Not surprising however, as it was also a 2016 finalist for the Sanlam Top Destination Awards. So what is it that’s drawing all the accolades? Apart from the gorgeous surrounds, picture perfect stone and wood cabins and phenomenal views. The amazing gourmet picnics are to die for and make the perfect addition to any weekend accommodation package or can be ordered by day visitors unable to stay the night. Then there are the driving range and trout dams, making this the perfect get away to keep the husbands happy while you take in the views and read a book!

DCS_7906

 Image credits: Ludwig Sevenster

5.       Tonteldoos’ Cheese Shop They may no longer make their own cheeses, but this doesn’t stop them having the best collection for MILES around! So if you are partial to a bit of Gorgonzola or fancy a slice of Smoked Cheddar let your taste buds be tantalised in Tonteldoos and make sure you add this to your ‘must-see’ list! You can take your purchases home, but we suggest staying for their fabulous cheese platter served with ‘Totally Tonteldoos’ preserves, jams and pickles. This will give you time to peruse their great selection of yarn and felt products on sale too. Set in the old general store built in 1899 and still boasting the original shelving, it takes you back to a bygone era and looks out over the spectacular floral wonderland Tonteldoos is transformed into during the summer months.

DCS_7937DCS_7923

 Image credits: Ludwig Sevenster

6.       Courses at Flintlock Grange - Whether you’re passionate about chocolate, a budding botanist or interesting in the art of apiary – or beekeeping to you and I, Flintlock Grange has the course for you. Stay in the beautiful Old Transvaal Farmhouse accommodation and spend a weekend rubbing shoulders with likeminded people under the watchful guidance of an expert. With time to explore all Tonteldoos has to offer, this is the perfect weekend escape for those wanting a bit of mental stimulation alongside some well-deserved rest and relaxation.

 

HIGHLANDS AT HEART - Flintlock Grange One

 Image credits: Flintlock Grange

 

7.       Tonteldoos Adventures Coming soon will be the first ‘Tonteldoos Adventure’, where 60 plus adventure motor bikers come together for a weekend of exploration, excitement and endeavour. Tackling the roads around Tonteldoos, considered by those in the know as the perfect playground for adventure motor bikers. This Tonteldoos Adventure is scheduled for the 3rd to the 5th of March 2017 and there are still places, so check out the details below and get your name on the list! Not a biker? Never fear Tonteldoos Adventures is all about showing the many faces of this intriguing hamlet. Every three months there will be a new adventure - from Gourmet hiking trails, where you can work up an appetite before rewarding your taste buds with some gourmet-grub, to Craft-beer festivals for those less partial to the great outdoors and more in favour of a well-stocked beer tent!

CONTACT INFORMATION:

For more information about Tonteldoos or the incredible Highlands Festival contact: Esteni Smith | esteni@outlook.com | 0823882320 or book your tickets directly on Ticketpros: www.ticketpros.co.za   

Woolly Bugger Farminfo@woollybuggerfarm.co.za | 079 103 0949 or 076 876 9610 | GPS Coordinates: -25.265196, 29.9789339 – Just 7km outside Tonteldoos| Please note while low-clearance vehicles will make it, our roads are, well… adventurous… so high clearance vehicles are preferable!

The Thirsty Walrus – Main Road Tonteldoos | 082 388 2320 | chris@thethirstywalrus.co.za | GPS Coordinates: -25.324333, 29.992654

Highside Tavern –Main Road Tonteldoos| 082 867 4347 | highsidetavern@outlook.com | GPS Coordinates: -25.318011, 29.990229

Riverman Cabin –| 083 277 9143 | annjvr@lantic.net | for picnic bookings riverman@ctecg.co.za | www.rivermancabin.co.za | GPS Coordinates: -25.2672849, 29.975508

Tonteldoos Cheese Shop and Yarn Barn Main Road Tonteldoos | 013 254 0073 | tonteldooscheesandyarn@gmail.com |

Flintlock Grange – Helen Malherbe | Tonteldoos | 082 259 3496 | malher@absamail.co.za|

Tonteldoos Adventures – Esteni Smith | 082 388 2320 | tdoosadv@gmail.com

 

Please note: While Tonteldoos is now on the map marked as being in Limpopo it is still very much considered part of the Highlands Meander, which is why we thought it only right to feature it here.