Just under three hours’ drive from Nairobi, the town of Nanyuki feels like it’s on the brink of taking off. Popular for its proximity to Mt Kenya, and a gateway to northern Kenya, this former sleepy backwater is poised to become one of Kenya’s most vibrant urban centres, at least if the new Cedar Mall is anything to go by. Savvy weekenders head outside of the town for the best places to stay, and fun things to do.
Inspired by traditional mobile homes in Somerset in Britain, these two cottages are tastefully furnished with a light and airy modern feel. Each contains a double and a single bed. These are the newest and quirkiest accommodations around Nanyuki and are set up behind One Stop, a tiny shopping centre hosting a grocery shop and cafe. Ideal for small families or couples, these are bound to become immensely popular so best to book in advance. They have limited cooking facilities though, so come prepared to lunch at the café and dine at one of the restaurants nearby. Ksh 6,000 per night based on two sharing.
MAU MAU CAVES
Nigh impossible to get there without an insider to guide you along the way, if you do finally stumble upon this old cave near a waterfall in which Mau Mau warriors would hide out and store supplies during the 1950s Rebellion, chances are you will have the entire place to yourself. The easiest access point is from Bantu Lodge – turn off about 15 kilometres before reaching Nanyuki – and it is a seven or eight kilometre walk to the caves. Make sure you wear your walking shoes, bring a picnic and the kids and then challenge yourself to wade out to the waterfall and keep your head under it for thirty seconds. Your brain will feel frozen before 10 seconds are up.
NGARE NDARE FALLS
Get your friends to photograph you in slow motion as you plunge off a waterfall into the icy river pools of the Ngare Ndare Forest Reserve. Situated an hour’s drive from Nanyuki, this amazing picnic and camping spot is run by a community trust and boasts a beautiful suspended one-kilometre canopy walk – apparently the only one of its kind in East Africa – from which you can look down on buffalo, elephant and other animals as they refresh themselves in the nearby holes. Getting down to the stream is just about walking distance from the main parking area and there is always a guide at hand. Ksh 200 entrance for citizens, Ksh 400 for residents.
Extremely popular with the locals, many swear they never go without its twice-monthly Sunday curry lunches. This colonial-style bungalow is nestled in verdant gardens and is the perfect place to enjoy a delicious mid afternoon tea surrouarby. The kitchen uses mainly locally-sourced ingredients and features a traditional Anglo-style menu complete with steak, lamb and, of course, fish and chips. There is also a small playground for children. Open from 9 am to 4.30 pm, except for Friday nights when opening hours are extended for Tapas, or bitings. Closed every other Sunday. www.capechestnut.com
SOAMES HOTEL AND JACK’S BAR
Built in 2013 and set between Nanyuki and Naru Moru, everything about Soames Hotel still feels spanking new. Each one of its en suite Mt Kenya-facing cottages are designed with a contemporary aesthetic keeping clean lines and light, neutral pallets in mind, while still maintaining a wooden and homely feel that wouldn’t feel out of place in a New England guesthouse. Locals looking for a chilled sundowner followed by a meal can be found at Jack’s Bar on weekend afternoons, relaxing on the porch, a glass of wine or beer in hand, or sitting inside on one of the downy sofas when a chill comes in from the mountain. Doubles start at Ksh 13,000 per night, bed and breakfast.
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This lived-in guest cottage oozes character and is packed with the memories of the many creative minds that have passed through its doors. Famous Kenyan authors have been known to use this place as a bolt-hole when looking to escape the chaos of city life. The guest house, named after the stream running through the land, has four bedrooms and sleeps six comfortably or eight at a push. The owner Keith Pearson, who bought the property in 1993, recently added a large activities studio adjacent to the property. If it’s luxury you’re after, this is probably not the place for you. But if you’re looking for something unassuming and down-to-earth, this may well be your perfect spot. Ksh 10,000 per night for the house at weekends. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
PENGUIN HOUSE AND TIN CANTINA
What Penguin House lacks in immediate aesthetic impact – its close cluster of grey brick rooms appear built for practicality and comfort rather than beauty – it makes up for in charm. Its en suite rooms are clean and functional, but the real draw here is their restaurant, Tin Cantina which has a small and delicious menu. Recently taken over by William Stephens, a Nanyuki-born chef who spent a large part of his career working in Australia, the restaurant serves a short but exciting menu inspired by the produce of its nearby organic farm. Expect classic dishes made to a much higher standard than we often expect from unpretentious eating establishments in Kenya. Doubles start at Ksh 5,000 a night, B&B. www.facebook.com/pg/penguinhouse.ke