Temenos: A Place Apart

Temenos: A Place Apart
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Oh, weary traveler, let me guide you through the white-walled grounds and lush gardens of Temenos, a surprising oasis settled in the heart of McGregor village in the Western Cape.


Leap from your hot-engined chariot (immobilize the steel hulk if you must), then cross the threshold into this tranquil space; a refuge from our furious-paced existence. Follow in my footsteps, (for I know this place), and be sure to heed the signs peeping from the lush, shrub borders that persuade us to walk in silence. Our ramble shall be leisurely and magical and when, once again, we return to this same shady courtyard, a feast of fine victuals and cool liquids will restore us.

Temenos, a unique guest house and retreat center in the main street of McGregor, South Africa, is the inspiration of Billy Kennedy. In just eight years, he has transformed the 5-acre property into a breathtaking Eden. This restful hideaway offers beautifully decorated private Cape Country or Cape Georgian cottages, each with a fully-equipped kitchen, open fireplace and private patio. Hidden in the shaded gardens are a thatch-cooled library, swimming pool, small chapel and other sacred places - all of which provide a healing sanctuary or weekend getaway for people with busy lives.

Do not be put off - there are no rules. If you are just looking for a terrific few days holiday, Temenos is for you. Guests can enjoy bird life, gentle mountain walks, a wide range of health therapies and daily meditation, as well as an exploration of the attractions offered in and around the village of McGregor.

So, step softly through this doorway and prepare to gaze upon a paradise. The well-trod path to our left meanders gently through a grove of grey-green olive trees, flowering Oleander bushes and tall fragrant lavender and finally emerges at the Spiral Garden, a deeply symbolic place hidden under a canopy of indigenous trees and encircled by tall conifers. Walk the Spiral and experience a deepening of self-awareness. In the shadows close by (only two tree-lengths away) lies the Zen garden. Will you rake the pine leaves or shall I?

The curving path now draws us to The Well, a magnificent, restful meditation space. Here a circular well of water tinkles gently in the centre of the floor-space. The walls are painted a deep plum colour and the peace and semi-darkness are welcome. Let us sit on the cushions awhile and be still.


Out in the brightness once more and carried along by the scent of several hundred roses, we reach the Garden of Rememberance where an exuberant statue of Saint Teresa – arms flung above her head – reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously. The wooden bench is warm and comfortable. A sign peeping from the foliage quotes the mystic poet, Rumi:

          "I lay in the dust at your feet, my heart entangled in the curls of your hair, I've had enough, bring closer your lips and let your kiss release my soul."

We amble on to the thatched library and conference room and browse the fine selection of books. This large space is cool and silent with dramatic views of the surrounding hills. In the foreground, across the library lawn, is the Baraka; an imposing shrine dedicated to four religions. The tall dome-like structure is surrounded by clear flowing waters and glorious indigenous plants. On past the Baraka, the path guides us to the sculpture of the Angel for Lost Children, arms extended towards the rising sun. Sculptor Bulenani Nooi created the angel for those who have suffered the loss of a child and to whom they may come to find inner peace and consolation.

Stepping along the narrow winding footpath, we continue and are surprised to find blood-red roses (which flourish in the McGregor clay) guarding the entrance to the chapel, The Little Way. Used not only for daily prayers and meditation but also for naming and christening ceremonies, weddings, anniversaries and celebrations of life, it features a large, wooden Celtic cross, superbly crafted by Will van der Schaaf.

Now the joyous sounds of ducks and other bird-life assail us. Here at the center of the garden, water is the focus. A duck pond glitters in the sunshine and teals and mandarins preen and play as koi silently glide by. On the pond's island, tall, green willows teem with bird life. Sit awhile and watch as the brash weavers build new nests and lordly peacocks stroll by. Four cottages almost hidden by brilliant blue-and-white plumbago and indigenous sweet-smelling shrubs overlook the pond. It is a truly remarkable place.

If you have a keen eye, you'll discover an overgrown pathway, behind the island, deep in the shadows, which will quickly transport you to the tiny Siloe chapel. Leave your shoes outside so that others will not be disturbed, and read in tranquility from the inspirational cards and books provided.

Finally we return to a welcome table beneath the courtyard trees and relish a delicious light lunch and cooling drink. We are at peace. Did I not say this was a special place?

Temenos Information:

Additional information about Temenos, a yoga retreat center located in McGregor, South Africa.

  • Location: McGregor close to Robertson - Western Cape
  • Rates: R450 per night couple sharing - R300 per night single
  • Contact details: tel - +27 (0) 23 625 1871; fax - +27 (0) 23 625 1193
  • Website: www.temenos.org.za

Temenos is easily reached from Cape Town. Please follow these directions (also available on the Temenos website):

  • From Cape Town, take the N1 (the Paarl road) north and stay on it until you reach Worcester.
  • At Worcester, take the second traffic light to the right into town, turn left when you reach High Street and watch for signs to Robertson (R60).
  • Turn right onto the R60 and continue to Robertson.
  • Once in Robertson, watch out for the McGregor sign (opposite the Roodezandt winery).
  • Turn right at this point and another 18 km or so will bring you to McGregor.
  • Once in McGregor, continue up the main road (Voortrekker Street).
  • You will find Temenos on your left, following the Dutch Reformed Church at the corner of Voortrekker and Bree Streets.