This quaint little village offers a laidback country lifestyle, pleasant climate and access to some of the country’s best schools.
Ten minutes up the infamous Town Hill lies Hilton, a cooler, quaint little village with hedgerows and roses, and where almost everybody knows your name. The area is part countryside, part village, and garden clubs, fresh produce and fabulous cookery lessons are the order of the day.
Unlike the coastal areas of KwaZulu-Natal, Hilton has real “light-your-fire” winters and beautiful summers, and has exquisite topography and landscapes ideal for mountain biking, hiking, birdwatching and other outdoor activities. It’s also one of the gateways to the well-known KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and its Meander routes with arts, crafts, eateries and accommodation.
Back in the day, Hilton was chosen by those who needed to escape the heat trapped in the hollows of Pietermaritzburg, and they certainly achieved that – the difference in temperature is dramatic.
Hilton’s primary claim to fame nowadays is its excellent schools, such as Michaelhouse, Hilton College and St Anne’s Diocesan College, which are among the most prestigious in the province, if not the country. These esteemed boarding schools have created a demand for accommodation from predominantly affluent parents who largely come from Durban or Gauteng to watch sports fixtures or a host of other cultural activities in the area. Some parents have bought units or grand homes in some of the nearby developments in neighbouring suburbs like Balgowan. Others have permanent rentals of cottages on farms or self-catering units on the grounds of smallholdings or homes, creating supplementary income for farmers or residents. This way parents get accommodation that they can furnish themselves and make their own, and which can be looked after by the owner in their absence.
Like in most country towns in the Midlands, owners of farms and smallholdings create markets such as the Produce Exchange, where healthy living, crafts and country pursuits are celebrated.
The Hilton Arts Festival is a well-attended event in the area that draws devotees from far and wide. This annual three-day event, held in the exquisite Hilton College grounds and buildings, is a popular attraction for people who enjoy superb theatre, music, arts and crafts. It’s an immensely sociable event and creates high demand for accommodation.
With two teenagers being schooled in the Hilton area, we travel down from Gauteng at least once a month. Our lock-up-and-go holiday duplex is ideal for these high school years.
-Ann Clayton, owner and part-time resident.
Where to eat in Hilton, KZN
- Artisan: for delicious pizza
- La Popote Restaurant: for tasty cakes in a pretty country setting
- The Cherry Tree: for great coffee
- Taste of Thai: for authentic Thai Cuisine
Things to do in Hilton, KZN:
- Enjoy theatre, music and art at the Hilton Arts Festival.
- Visit the Midlands Meander for good food and fascinating local events.
- Take to the mountain bike trails to explore the natural surroundings.
- Go fly-fishing in surrounding dams.
Where to stay in Hilton, KZN
- The Hilton Bush Lodge
- Hilton View B&B
- Bancroft B&B
- Glengarth Cottages
- Inchcape Villa
Why we love The Quarry Centre:
As its name suggests, The Quarry Centre is named after the old Hilton quarry, but unlike the usual shopping centre focus on bricks and mortar, the centre is surrounded by landscaped gardens, walkways and green vistas. This country centre was bought around six years ago by shareholders who decided to redesign it to capitalise on the town’s reputation as a gateway to the Midlands. Today, the centre looks superb. There are more than 45 retail stores, including Woolworths, Clicks, boutique clothing and gift stores, small cafes and easy-does-it restaurants where visitors can enjoy a coffee or decadent slice of cake with friends and glorious views over the gardens. With ample parking, strong security and easy access, The Quarry Centre is Hilton’s go-to shopping centre.
Find out more at www.hiltonquarry.co.za.
This article originally appeared in Neighbourhood, Sunday Times.