Quiet luxury: FQ takes the Range Rover Velar for a spin down south

17 April 2024
By Sarah Murray

A stay at one of New Zealand’s finest establishments teaches FQ’s editor in chief Sarah Murray to simply sit and enjoy the view.

Arriving at Flockhill Lodge. Image: Christopher Collie.

The first thing that hits you when you arrive is the view. Straight-ahead, overlooking the infinity pool, and the 36,000-acre working sheep station that has been here since 1857, is Te Heru-o-Kahukura/Sugarloaf. It’s the landmark that Flockhill Lodge’s logo is based on, and it’s what their new restaurant will be called when it’s built (along with 7 villas) later this year. The famous Arthur’s Pass sits snug behind it. I’m here for one night with my mum to experience this ultra-luxe
accommodation tucked away in the Craigieburn Valley, and I couldn’t be more ready.

Getting there

Surprisingly, it was easy to get here. The 1.5-hour journey from Ōtautahi/Christchurch consisted mostly of two straight roads. While driving the Range Rover Velar Electric Hybrid I took in the expansive views of the flat plains on either side of us that seemed to go on and on. With up to 64km
of pure electric driving range, the short journey was seamless as the Range Rover Velar switched from electric to petrol. Before we left the city, I adjusted the seat to my preference and synced my phone to the expansive infotainment system. It houses the Pivi Pro software (which was very intuitive) however I switched to wireless Apple Carplay® to play my music. It’s a hot day but inside the car I set the temperature to an easy 21˚. As we neared Flockhill Lodge, tussocky grass bleached blonde by the sun clung onto the hills. We wound around the roads through Craigieburn Valley and, almost instinctively, the Range Rover Velar matched our change of pace, effortlessly cornering around the bends and getting us to our destination. As a luxury mid-size SUV it was perfect for the city and beyond, and its distinctive coupé-like silhouette, spacious interior, and the All-Wheel Drive gave me confidence for handling both on and off road. 

A recharged Sarah Murray in the Range Rover Velar. Image: Christopher Collie.
The sitting-room bar. Image: Christopher Collie.
Image: Christopher Collie.

Inside Flockhill

So comfortable was my mum that she was lulled to sleep, waking up only when I’d told her we’d made it to see the outside stone exterior of Flockhill Lodge blend seamlessly with its mountainous surroundings. While our bags are deposited into our rooms “in the west wing” we are taken on a quick tour. Inside, a pitched timber roof and expansive floor-to-ceiling windows show off that view. A mix of artwork from New Zealand artists populates the walls. In fact, every aspect of this place has a distinct and thought-out New Zealand touch — the dining table is made from tōtara, the overhanging glass pendant lights are from Monmouth Glass Studio. We’re told even the handmade ceramics (Ceramics by Renate) were a “Covid project” made locally. Needless to say, the space is opulent but it doesn’t feel cold. Rather, it has a warm and homely atmosphere.

When you stay at Flockhill Lodge, you have the entire space to yourself. That’s four generous bedrooms, each with its own ensuite, a spacious lounge and dining room, a farmhouse-style kitchen, a sitting room (with a built-in bar), a media room, and a wine cellar filled with the best New Zealand wines. You also get a personal chef and an attendant. Often described as “refined wilderness” Flockhill is an escape from the world and attracts the luxury traveller. Andrew Cullen, the lodge manager, tells us how some Golden Globe winners recently received accommodation to Flockhill Lodge in their goodie bags. “Can you tell me who?” I ask eagerly. He shakes his head before adding, “I wouldn’t tell you the names of anyone that’s stayed here.” It’s that level of discretion that embodies the entire space. All around us are people attending to your every whim — but you barely see them. They’re there in the background but never in your way. They exist solely to enrich your experience. For example, at 3.30pm, after my mum wakes from a nap, I find her in the living room with a flat white and a just-out-ofthe-oven slice of apricot tart that somehow just materialised.

Outlook to Sugarloaf peak. Image: Christopher Collie.
Image: Christopher Collie.
Image: Christopher Collie.

While she relaxes, I’m taken out into the rugged terrain, past hills dotted with mānuka and silvery birch. My guide is Heather, an expert horse handler, who before I know it has me wandering through the landscape atop Stella the horse, with Fizz the dog stalking along beside us and shooing off any cattle that dares to come too close. Heather has packed a drink and snacks for me in Stella’s saddle, which I’m too scared to delve into, but I feel pleased the thought was there all the same. About an hour later we make it back to the Rosa Hut (formerly a shepherds cottage) and head home to Flockhill. The only things we see are some wild hare and a coal train which cuts through the land.

Back at the lodge the fire has been lit, and after a quick outfit change, we’re served a trio of delectable canapés in the living room. Next, we’re moved to the dining table where a mini degustation materialises one course at a time, teamed with wine from Pegasus Bay. Award-winning chef Craig Martin appears out of the kitchen to personally present some of the dishes he’s been creating. A highlight is the Flockhill lamb, which Craig insists we try when taking us through the ingredients. We eat like queens, ending with a dessert he calls “honey honey honey” — panna cotta with a poached apricot and a crispy honeycomb top. Like many of the ingredients, the honey is sourced from the farm.

The terrace. Image: Christopher Collie.
The swimming pool. Image: Christopher Collie.
Image: Christopher Collie.

We return to our room and are greeted with a turndown service that sees a diffuser and fire turned on, blinds drawn, and a hot-water bottle placed on my bed along with a handwritten note telling me the sun will rise at 6.44am. Unfortunately, when I wake, clouds blanket the landscape so there is no sunrise to see, but it doesn’t dampen our spirits. We emerge from our rooms and I suddenly remember I need to charge the car. It’s moved to one of the garages by a helpful attendant. I offer to help but I’m assured they can handle it. Thankfully, it can achieve a 0-80 per cent charge in as little as 30 minutes away from home using a 50kW charger.

We head to the kitchen in the meantime where a more casual breakfast is waiting. There’s everything you could possibly want — bircher muesli, croissants, figs and blueberries, bacon and freshly scrambled eggs. We’re told they’re Barrie’s eggs, the only resident in the nearby town of Cass (home to the old railway house immortalised in Rita Angus’ painting of the same name). Like everything at Flockhill, it’s these local touches that make you realise how thought-out the entire space is. By the time we finish breakfast I’m advised the car is ready to go. I briefly set up camp in the living room, overlooking the majestic Sugarloaf Hill and surrounding alpine-scape. I open my laptop to check my emails before our journey back, reluctantly letting some of the real world seep in. After a minute or two, I snap it closed again, preferring to simply sit and take in my surroundings. I want to experience every last second of this place, feeling confident the car is charged up and ready to take me home.

Words: Sarah Murray
Photography: Christopher Collie, Supplied

In association with Range Rover
With special thanks to Flockhill Lodge

This article originally appeared in Fashion Quarterly’s Autumn 2024 issue. 


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