The meandering path that hugs the cliffs along Hermanus coastline has to be the most beautiful stroll in the Western Cape, and in a province spilling over with beauty, that’s a bold claim. Perched along that path, homes old and new gaze across Walker Bay as the swell pulses in and the mist hovers between the shore and the folding hills of the Overberg.
With this in mind, the hero of our story would rightfully be the sea view, the coves and the breathtaking scenery. But in this instance, they remarkably play second fiddle.
The Blue Anchor is one of those homes – a premium location a few hundred meters from the centre of town, on a quiet tree-lined road and close enough to the sea that it’s a stone’s throw. Literally.
With its roots entrenched over three generations, the owners, Charles and Claire Russon, have enjoyed more than fifty Christmas seasons in the house. Layer upon layer over five decades, you can feel the experiences have been baked in over time, a house for all seasons, that has been intelligently designed to handle a hot summers day on the deck, a cold day in the north-facing garden courtyard, or a winter weekend by the many fires, baking perhaps, or cosying up on an L-shape sofa with a blanket.
A rich history is felt by the love for the house that just sits in its bones. What struck me most were the strata of momentos, artworks, furniture pieces, blending antique with contemporary, mahogany meets modern art, and collectables complimenting comfort. In the kitchen, every need is met, an abundance where every shape of platter or bowl can be found a house for any occasion – to bake in, feast in, or braai in. You feel at home here immediately. It’s a big house, but it feels homely; everyone can have space – the kids having an entire annexe consisting of playroom, tv room and sleeping quarters, or alternatively, you can all just hang together. That’s a stroke of genius in spatial design.
The owners honour the property’s history, with the famous blue anchor originally bought by Claire’s grandmother taking pride of place in the kitchen, or a truly magnificent refectory table from the Cape’s historic wine farms in the hallway, pursued on auction. They have entrusted many of their own precious momentos to welcome anyone – the family photos are a gentle reminder to take care when you’re here. A lifetime of pumpkin shells brim to the top of a glass vase on a courtyard table illustrating real heritage – to collect these, one-by-one, takes years of beach walks or swims in the chilly azure water of the tidal pool.
When it comes to generosity, the weekend would not be the same without the great anchor that is their host, Loya. A wonderful story, he originally met the Russon family in Malawi when he worked in a resort as a sous chef. Making a connection, Claire offered Loya to visit them in South Africa, thinking it may happen one day far in the future, if at all. Receiving a call from him some months later, he explained he had arrived in Cape Town and was ready to work. Claire, however, lives in Johannesburg. She bussed him up to join the family and placed him in housekeeping training while working for them in their home before he took up the helm at The Blue Anchor. Possessing the warm grace typical of Malawians, nothing is a trouble for Loya, eager to help but very sensitive to guest privacy, offering to light fires, closing up in the evening, and handling meal preparation. His pride is felt through the house, the neat trim of the lawns, carefully packed cushions and towels, and a table laid beautifully in the evenings. Arguably Loya may just be the greatest treasure of the home.
For those considering a stay, it’s perfect for families and groups of friends. Six bedrooms, many with views, a games room, loft room, sea-facing deck, garden courtyard, swimming pool, braai area and lounge, replete with prep bowl, abundant wood stacked to capacity, and even a wall heater. No stone is left unturned to optimise the space.
Upstairs the main bedroom is breathtaking, easily one of the finest moving canvasses painted by a gargantuan rolling swell that crumbles and breaks into white water as it nears the shore and an eternity of ocean life in the deep unknown. The house is nestled atop a small V-shaped cove that brings the house close to the crumbling white water energy as it breaks, a pod of dolphins in the distance. In whale season around September, this has to be the best seat in the house.
Tickets to the inner circle of this panoramic would have to be handed to the main bedroom, which allows the space and sea view to own the experience. The main en-suite with its matt black Victorian tub, Moroccan tiles, and walk-in shower with its own sea view is a real treat.
For those of you who love technology, any guest can hop onto the Wi-Fi, download the Sonos app and then in their playlist, there is an intercom which connects to Loya at the touch of a button, and there are security shutters which close up the house at night to feel completely secure. The kitchen has its own mod cons too – ice machine, Nespresso, microwave, sandwich machines.
In this story, there is little space to focus on Hermanus. This is a house you likely will not want to leave, but even if you do, luckily, you could walk along the cliff path to get there! In my opinion, two days would leave you wanting more. Of the many Perfect Hideaway properties we have visited, this sits in the Hall of Fame. My wife admitted that, “If it was mine, I would struggle to let this glorious secret out.” Luckily for you, it’s my job to share the story because Loya‘a House just adores its visitors.
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