The Farmhouse

Life before the hotel
The family packing for their fishing holiday in the berg

Fred Poynton (Richard’s grandfather) bought Cleopatra in the 1940s. He was a pioneer sugar farmer in Empangeni in the heart of Zululand – clearing the virgin tropical bush with the help of a few farm labourers in the early 1900s.

Fred’s need for a break from the intense heat of the Zululand summers drove him to look for a cool mountain retreat which offered well deserved recreation in the form of trout fishing.

The original tiny mountain cottage was built around the turn of the century. Carved out of the local stone, hewn by the local African stonemasons, it originally had only two rooms – a lounge and a kitchen with a verandah where everyone slept. Later a bedroom was added which doubled up as a dining room. There was no running water and no inside loo.

Life at Cleopatra became a little easier as the cottage was extended by Ralph and Marj (Fred’s son and Richard’s parents) who spent many happy holidays fishing and relaxing on the large verandah with many of their Zululand friends.

The original stone building now forms rooms 7, 8 & 9

Even in the 1970s when we spent time here the lamps had to be lit, the wood-fired geyser next to the bath had to be stoked before you could have a warm bath and the loo was reached by going through a gate in the fence. The dam was later put in by Ralph and Marj in the 1980’s.

Following Fred’s example we used this as our getaway while running Granny Mouse’s Country House in Balgowan. Once we had sold that, we moved up here permanently in 1993 and the happy memories continue to this day.

We began work on building Cleopatra in 1997, and we opened our doors in September 1998.

Richard & Mouse Poynton

We would like to welcome you to Cleopatra Mountain Farmhouse

Having been one of the originators of the Country House movement in the 1980’s, we travelled overseas after our Granny Mouse’s Country House days, working and absorbing the international “foodie” world. We came back enthused and decided to use the family farm to start what we think of as our dream hotel – an intimate gourmet getaway.

Our family has been coming up to the farm since the 1940’s and we’ve always known this was something special with its breath-taking mountain views, crystal clear streams and ultimate peaceful solitude of the KwaZulu-Natal, Drakensberg mountains.

We believe it is ideal for its intended purpose as a restful refuge and along with our professional yet understated service we hope this is most of all a gourmet experience to remember.

About the Drakensberg

  • We are situated in the KwaZulu-Natal section of the Drakensberg, a range of mountains that run down the east side of South Africa. We are about 2 hours drive from Durban and 5 hours drive from Johannesburg.
  • Summer temperatures may range from 20°C during the day, often with dramatic afternoon thunderstorms. Winter daytime temperatures range from 10°C to 25°C and the night temperatures can drop to below 0°C.
  • Our menu changes every evening according to the seasons in our gardens and the availability of our  local produce.
  • We have a bountifully stocked underground cellar and we focus on local South African wines which we love to drink and know go well with food. (Although a few French champagnes have been known to sneak themselves in from time to time!)
  • We are a proud member of the Best of KZN – a group of luxury owner-run hotels based throughout KwaZulu-Natal, with great emphasis on the guest’s complete comfort. Please visit the site to see more on all the exceptional properties.



A closer look at Cleopatra Mountain Farmhouse