A charming retreat

If you’ve a thing for swapping city life for all the charm of an historical getaway in the countryside, put Backworth House, with its generations of tasteful additions, into your Google browser.

We took a road trip to Mid Illovo recently, where this character-filled guesthouse – that once housed three generations under its roof – is nestled. Basking in all its glory and rustic rural charm, this tranquil homestead of comfort and tasteful delights is open to rest-seekers and curious travellers to enjoy its historic architecture, old-world style and beautifully established gardens. Fortunate enough to spend a little time there, we got to learn about all that it once was and soak in all that it is today.

Rich in history

One of the oldest farms in Eston, dating back to 1902, Backworth House and Farm was first established by internationally renowned portrait painter Peter Leftwich and his family, who named the farm after their family home in Northumberland, England. It remained with them for three generations. Originally planted with wattle, the property was once a significant sugar cane farm. In the late 1990s, it was used as a weekend retreat before being put under pasture and stables and developed into a boutique Thoroughbred Horse Breeding establishment by owners John and Janette Bescoby and Keith Russon and Ian Todd. More recently it was converted into the gorgeous Boutique Guesthouse that we got to explore.

A picturesque place

With breath-taking views, the house stands proudly protected in a large manicured fountained garden of abundant hydrangeas and azaleas. The long, but welcoming driveway onto the property is lined with magnificent trees – some generations old and sewn from the seeds of the Leftwich’s travels. There are yellow wood, liquid amber, plane and deodar trees, and Italian oaks and cedars of Lebanon that stand majestic year round as they withstand the changes of the seasons. On a clear day – thanks to some stunning 360-degree views – you can look out to the sea from Backworth House, across to Sani Pass and the Drakensberg mountains, or over the Umkomaas Valley.


The main house is built of part wattle and daub, part stone and brick, and charmingly rambles under thatch, with views – from all sides – of the soft gardens and courtyard. Through generations of tasteful additions, the home tells a story. The oldest part of the current house is large and stately. It has a beamed ceiling with red tiled floor, and is warmed by an enormous open fireplace at one end. Swirls in the old iron banister (initials and parts of a family crest) are small, but significant signs of the family who once lived there before. With its old-English Inn feel, this cosy space does well as a bar and games rooms nowadays.

Living spaces

Each of the generous living spaces in the house is connected by a charming walkway, most notably a glassed-in walkway with a conservatory feel, and a mural painted by Peter – one of many showcased around the house that depict scenes from the garden and wildlife you can see around the farming area. It’s the perfect place to take in the sunshine, or curl up with a good book on a rainy day.

There are five en-suite bedrooms, each individually appointed with fine art, sitting spaces and comfortable king size beds – what bliss for those of us longer-legged individuals!

In the main dining room, it feels like every day is a special occasion, with its black lacquered tables and Perspex chairs that are beautifully exaggerated by family silverware and crystal. The Guest House has a dedicated chef who cooks breakfast, lunches and dinners for guests … all of it artfully presented and truly delicious. It’s no wonder lunches and dinners at Backworth were known to have been famously long!


The house’s impressive collection of antiques and art is mirrored by a garden full of surprises, private spaces and colour all year round. If you love to journal outdoors under the shade of a tree, you’ll fall in love with the peace and tranquillity of it all, and of course the sound of falling water thanks to a host of lily ponds, fountains and water features. There are opportunities for tennis, swimming and walking, and for those who prefer to explore beyond the gates of Backworth, there are loads of attractions nearby like GwaHumbe Game Reserve and Spa, Isingizi Game Reserve and Spa, country walks, cycling trails and even Clay Pigeon Shooting.

So, whether you’re a day visitor or you’re staying for days, you’ll have the option to let time slip away while you choose to be wonderfully bored, never bored or to enjoy a bit of both.

Important info

Backworth is open to couples or larger parties of up to 10 people – no children under 13 unless they are part of a larger party who occupy the entire guest house. Day visitors are welcomed for breakfast and lunch, or tailor-made functions, but booking is essential for these.

A night’s stay ranges from R1675 to R1925 a person and this includes dinner, bed and breakfast.

Details: 066 257 7877 or visit www.backworth.co.za