Launch of the Old Rectory Hotel in Plettenberg Bay

The Old Rectory, the location (and name) of Rare Earth’s newest boutique hotel, dates back to 1777 and is the oldest building in Plettenberg Bay. In a town renowned for its natural beauty and rich historical legacy, a hotel that breathes new life into a space two and a half centuries old promises to become a desirable destination for both its unique hospitality offering and its preservation of the town’s valuable heritage.

Because of its standing as a national monument, sensitivity was needed when transforming it into a hotel. Rare Earth, with its collection of beach, bush and country locations, prizes uniqueness and chooses key sites to set its hotels apart. As such it selected architects and designers who would understand the subtlety needed for the project. Unusual for a building so old, it has had very few alterations over the years, despite its varied past – it’s been a school, a blacksmith, and a rectory for the Anglican church over its 240 years. 

Gabriel Fagan Architects, the firm tasked with the restoration, had to decide which period to focus on (due to its age it has existed across various architectural eras) and chose as a reference point the earliest photo they could find, settling finally on a Cape Dutch silhouette. Existing features – such as yellowwood floors and trusses – were retained, and give the original building an inimitable charm.

As well as retaining its character and heritage, Dael Fairbairn of EF Architects who was in charge of the expansion of the property into a working hotel, used the existing features of the site to create an established feel befitting its age – down to the deck that was built around an old milkwood tree and walls created using stone from the site. ‘If historical context is of value, as is the case here, it should be celebrated,’ explains Dael. The original building houses the reception area, the hotel’s exclusive-use restaurant and the bar, all of which benefit from the beautiful original architecture. 

Interior designers Merylle Legh from Align Designs drew on the location of the hotel, and its history, to dress the interiors, but also kept modern comforts top of mind. ‘We wanted to capture the essence of the building and its history, but give it a contemporary twist,’ To give it this balance, they chose traditional furniture, but used updated fabrics in luxurious textures to complement the renovated spaces and bring it up to the level of a five-star hotel.

Part of that was ensuring the level of comfort and quality of amenities met luxury hotel standards.  Which meant the service and the facilities, but most importantly the accommodation. The 18 rooms, built separately from the original building, are grouped into three blocks (of eight, six and four suites). The hotel welcomes all ages – and so the design was configured to be versatile – 14 rooms have a connecting foyer that can transform the two rooms on each floor into a single unit, great for families with small children or groups of friends travelling together. 

‘For the new structures, the idea was to design contemporary buildings that would be sympathetic to the historical landmark, but also different enough not to detract from it,’ adds Dael.

As a result the new blocks have been styled along contemporary Cape vernacular lines. Align Designs then gave the suites a flora-and-fauna inspired theme – prompted by the hotel’s location and the beautiful natural Garden Route vegetation. While each room has been designed slightly differently, they’re all rich in colour and texture, and comfortable with a fresh contemporary feel.

The Old Rectory will provide a much-needed refuge for visitors to Plett, and one that offers a unique and personal experience of this part of the country.

Its idyllic location – just metres from the Wedge beach and in a secluded cul-de-sac – makes it the perfect combination of quiet and connected. You can choose to hide out on the pool deck, stroll to the beach, or take a break from it all with a relaxing treatment at the hotel spa, or head into town and enjoy all Plett has to offer – whether that’s wine tasting along the Plett Wine Route (stop in at Kay & Monty Vineyards) or exploring the town centre.

This straddling of the past and present in this prime location, combined with privacy and personal service offers a unique luxury hotel experience that’s grounded in history.

For more information, and reservations, please call +27 11 327 3910; reservations@rareearth.co.za