It’s been weeks since my stay at Kings Walden — in Agatha, Limpopo, above the town of Tzaneen — and I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to write about it. Perhaps it’s because this magical place is difficult to describe in words.
Kings Walden is a hotel, in the simplest of terms. But “hotel” or “lodge” or “guesthouse” are not sufficient descriptors. Kings Walden is three generations of a family’s history — a family’s joyous, acutely painful, sacred legend, which embodies the story of South Africa in so many ways — perched precariously at the top of a steep, misty mountain in Limpopo.
Bridget Hilton-Barber, a writer friend of mine who grew up here and now runs the hotel, wrote a book about Kings Walden called Garden of My Ancestors. The book starts with the story of Ess Tooley, Bridget’s grandmother and the late grand-dame and garden architect of Kings Walden, snaking down the matriarchal family tree to Ess’ daughter Tana and eventually to Bridget herself, who returns to Kings Walden as an adult coping with multiple losses and traumas.
Bridget gave me a copy of Garden of My Ancestors during my stay (there are a few copies available on Amazon but the best way to get one is by visiting Kings Walden yourself) and I read it front-to-back in the ensuing weeks. I relate so strongly to Bridget’s story: I see a lot of my own family story, and a lot of my own losses and triumphs, in hers. I guess that’s why we made such easy friends.
Bridget tells the tale of Kings Walden much better than I ever could — I’d love to print the whole book here in place of a blog post. But since I can’t do that I’ll just show you my photos and hope they get the message across.
Kings Walden: A Photo Essay
Kings Walden is very special and I can’t recommend it enough as a place to escape the madness of the city for a weekend (or at the very least for a meal and a stroll around the garden). It certainly soothed my own weary soul. Kings Walden is a short drive from Tzaneen and Magoebaskloof, which offer so many fun things to do. Read more about my experiences in this area here and here.
A room at Kings Walden costs R1400 (about $100) per night for one person or R2510 (about $170) per night for two people sharing, including breakfast. Check availability here — the rooms tend to book up fast.
Don’t forget to buy the book.
My stay at Kings Walden was complimentary. (Thanks Bridget!) Opinions expressed are mine.