View of the valley from the Mount Grace Spa.

Is life getting you down? Need a pampering break? Then you’re unlikely to find a better place to spoil yourself than the Mount Grace Country House and Spa in the Magaliesburg Mountains.

My partner and I headed for the country to do just, astonished that within half an hour of breaking through the Friday afternoon traffic we were almost in another world, passing a taxidermist, chicken farms and the Cradle of Mankind.

This luxurious retreat has a long history of providing Gautengers with a break away from the hardships of daily city life and has been undergoing a recent multi-million rand refurbishment. The kitsch county feel of the past has been replaced with a much more contemporary luxury styling.

Located about an hour from Joburg and Pretoria the Mount Grace presents one with a variety of accommodation options, with over 100 rooms with varying facilities and sizes. On our visit my partner and I were given a top of the range Luxury Villa, one of twelve.

The private deck and splash pool.

These stylish stand alone units, surrounding a small dam, include a luxurious and modern bathroom with bath, large glass enclosed shower and even under floor heating. You can also expect a lounge with flat screen television and DSTV and a spacious plush bedroom. Best of all these rooms open out onto a private wooden deck, featuring your very own heated splash pool.

It’s quite an experience to sit out in the warm water with champagne in hand looking out onto the Magaliesburg on a chilly autumn night. There’s, of course, full room service and rides-on-demand on a fleet of golf carts to zip you around the 10 acres of gardens. It’s a large estate but thanks to its clever winding layout Mount Grace still feels intimate and exclusive.

The main complex is where you’ll find spaces to socialise and eat. It includes a busy bar and three lounges with comfy couches and one with a large welcoming fireplace. The Rambling Vine restaurant offers superb ala carte cuisine and an impressive wine list as good as any superior city eatery – the lush, sophisticated decor and ambience perfect for a romantic dinner. While my partner is not usually a fan of fussy dining, he was still thoroughly delighted with his meal.

The Twist restaurant boasts an impressive and vast buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner. (I can assure you that going hungry will not be one of your concerns while at the Mount Grace, especially at The Twist.) For those not lucky enough to have a private splash pool, there are various large communal pools around the complex.

Then, of course, there’s the glorious spa… It’s situated away from the main building in a natural stone building and is surrounded by a lush garden that includes a heated jacuzzi pool, a waterfall and a sound flotation pool among other watery spots.

The Rambling Vine restaurant.

You can lie on the wood recliners in your robe – provided by the spa – order lunch or a light meal and relax to the sound of moving water.

Indoors, you’ll be offered various treatments from massages to facials. Our idyllic full body massage in a couples-room was marred only by an irritating pan pipe version of My Heart Will Go On. A facial the next day, using the Babor product range available at the spa, was one of the best I’ve had.

Afterwards, my partner and I enjoyed the heated sound flotation pool which is a remarkably relaxing experience; your body supported by mineral salts while music or whale song is heard only when your ears are underwater. Needless to say, we didn’t want to leave.

We stayed at the Mount Grace from Friday afternoon until Sunday afternoon, which I’d recommend as a minimum stay to really relax. In fact we were so pampered and rejuvenated by the time we left, it felt like we’d been there a week.

Apart from the stylish facilities, what made the Mount Grace really stand out were the attention to detail and the remarkable level of service. The pools are always stocked with rolled towel for guests, the staff members are friendly, informed and efficient and nothing is too much trouble; even if it’s asking for someone to drive up a board game to our suite in the middle of the night.

View from the bedroom.

What impressed me further was that as a gay couple we never once felt awkward and uncomfortable. I’ve come across this in smaller gay-owned or gay-friendly establishments, but at a larger retreat such as the Mount Grace this is somewhat unusual. Never once did a staff member hesitate in the slightest or seem uncomfortable when it became clear that we were a couple.

In these times of recession the Mount Grace could appear to be something of a decadent overindulgence, but should you be willing to treat yourself, this will be money very well spent. In fact, the Mount Grace could just be the absolutely perfect tonic if you’re in need of a respite from the doom and gloom of 2009.

Our stay was courtesy of The Mount Grace House and Spa which is located off Rustenburg Road in Magaliesburg. In addition to being a superb venue for a weekend break, the Mount Grace also offers exceptional conferencing facilities with over 14 possible venues. For more information, rates and special offers, visit the website here or call 014 577 5600.

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