Cleopatra Hamlet is set on the Cleopatra farm of the Poynton family, so-called because of Cleopatra Mountain that overlooks the land.
Richard Poynton’s grandfather Fred bought the property in the 1940s, looking for a cool inland escape from the heat of Zululand, where he grew sugar cane. The whole family packed up to escape the blistering summers, the women being treated to a stay at a comfortable Durban hotel while the menfolk trekked to the mountain retreat that was considered too rough and ready for the genteel ladies of the family. Their stays were extensive – up to three months at a time – and all supplies including live chickens were taken along. The men lived in a small cottage that was built at the turn of the century by local African stonemasons from local stone; it can still be seen at Cleopatra Mountain Farmhouse Hotel to this day. There were originally only two rooms, a lounge and a kitchen – the men slept on the verandah. There was no running water or ablution facilities.
Conditions became a little less rustic when the cottage was extended by Richard’s parents, Marj and Ralph (Fred’s son), and the Poynton family enjoyed many happy holidays here. Richard remembers that even in the 1970s, lamps were lit at night and the wood-fired geyser next to the bath had to be stoked before bathing.
Richard and his wife Mouse used the cottage as a retreat while they worked at their landmark hotel, Granny Mouse, near Balgowan. On selling the hotel in 1993 they moved to the farm permanently with their two daughters, starting work on their new enterprise, Cleopatra Mountain Farmhouse, in 1997 and opening in September the following year.