The weekend is here, and you’ve nothing planned. Sound familiar? You don’t have to go far to get that countryside experience.
Less than 45 minutes from central Nairobi is Limuru, a hilly area replete with sprawling tea plantations, quirky lunch spots and diverse walking and cycling trails.
WalkingThe tea plantations around Tigoni make for scenic and enjoyable walks. Undulating trails wind through the tea, small settlements, and past dams and reservoirs. If tea pickers are out, it’s even more picturesque. It’s possible to park up on a verge and start walking, but for those who prefer a bit more structure (or a secure place to leave their car), park at Brackenhurst Conference Centre, and either take their marked 1km-2.5km woodland trails, or head to the right of the retreat into the tea for a longer and more taxing hike. Parking is also available for customers at the Kentmere Club, a one-time farmers’ club that makes a good spot for lunch.
It’s horsey country around here, and that’s no surprise, given the seemingly endless trails. At Kawamwaki Farm, there’s a small and slightly dilapidated cross-country course for fearless eventers – and a pretty waterfall if you come on foot.
For the less intrepid, head out for a leisurely hack into the surrounding tea and forested trails. Ksh1,500 per hour, riders with some experience preferred. For bookings and directions, call Gabriel on 0725 968 215 or visit www.kawamwaki.com
CyclingBring your own, or hire bicycles from Brackenhurst, and ride through the nearby tea estates. If you’re not sure where to go, you can join a guided cycling tour every Tuesday from Brackenhurst. Otherwise, just set off from the same, and see where the trail leads you. Give yourself a pat on the back when you crest the top of one of Tigoni’s many hills. Some of the tea estates restrict access, but may respond to a polite request to pass through.
Kiambethu Tea Farm
Set on a hill overlooking stunning tea plantations, Fiona Vernon’s house is the relaxed setting for this unique tea tour. Fiona, whose grandfather was the first to grow tea commercially in Kenya, invites guests into her sitting room to give a fascinating lecture on how the tea bud ends up in your cup.
Guests are then taken on a short walk through the small farmyard and indigenous woods nearby before finishing up with a sherry and a leisurely buffet lunch in the garden. Tours begin at 11am. Ksh3,300 per adult, bookings essential. www.kiambethufarm.com
Brown’s Cheese Farm
Brown’s cheese farm, started by David and Sue Brown, has been churning out cheese of all varieties for nearly four decades. Delia, a second-generation Brown, opens up her family home to cheese tours from Thursday to Saturday every week. The experience begins with a short tour of the factory, and is followed by a tasting of their wide-ranging selection of specialty cheeses paired with seasonal chutneys.
Be sure to keep some room for the three-course lunch that follows. From noon. Ksh3,000 per adult without wine; Ksh4,000 with wine. This place is popular, so book ahead. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0727 103350.
It takes a bit of getting to, but the journey down a rutted village track is half the fun. This small but busy farm, run by Els, a Dutch native, and her husband, Kamande, makes for a rewarding day out.
Get up close to guinea fowl, pot-bellied pigs, donkeys, ponies and rabbits before taking a tour of the terraces to understand how the array of fresh produce – from chard to pak choi to fennel – arrives on your plate. The tour finishes with lunch made from food grown on the farm.
Groups of eight or more preferred, but smaller groups possible. For those wishing to linger, the couple hosts guests in their house, crammed with African artwork, during quieter periods. Ksh2,000 per person. www.mlango.org
Banana Farmhouse, situated on the edge of the tea, is the perfect spot to recharge after a busy week in Nairobi. The garden – a gorgeous expanse of lawn, colourful flowerbeds and mature trees leading down to an old English ha-ha – is the real selling point.
It lends itself to lazy afternoons, whether it’s lounging on a swing under a tree with a book, playing Frisbee with friends, or feasting your eyes on one of the clearest views of the Ngong Hills for miles around. Swimming pool. B&B costs Ksh 6,500- 7,500 per double room. Dinner on request. www.bananafarmhouse.com
Brackenhurst Conference Centre
This Baptist-owned hotel is a popular spot for religious retreats, but this historic hotel is well worth a visit even if not part of a group. Its Muna Tree Cafe serves up tasty food and the centre offers attractive cottages for overnight stays. Spread over 100 acres, the hotel has plentiful walking, and pleasant gardens in which to relax.
It’s a favoured starting point for bike tours, and the hotel offers bird watching tours, too. Alcohol and smoking are both prohibited on the grounds. B&B starts at Ksh6,100, and self-catering cottages from Ksh4,400. www.brackenhurst.com
New on the scene is The Lakehouse, a lovely four-bedroom property bordering the Tigoni dam. Guests have the run of the eight acre estate, which includes a rolling lawn leading down to the dam, a tranquil spot for swimming and boating.
Breakfast is included, other meals by arrangement. Sleeps 11. Nightly rates start at $250 during the week, $500 at the weekend. Facebook.com/TigoniLakeHouse