The Royal Hotel in Riebeek Kasteel

Home to the longest stoep south of the Limpopo and the finest gin and tonic west of India

Riebeek Kasteel’s Royal Hotel has a bit of a reputation. Some people know it as the oldest hotel in the Western Cape, others may call it to mind as the home of the ‘longest stoep south of the Limpopo’ and still more may remember it as the maker and creator of what could possibly be the most formidable gin and tonic in the world – the humble cocktail’s served in a goblet the size of a flower vase with fresh cucumber, strawberry, granadilla and the sheen of a blushing sunset.

All points that are certainly worthy of recognition, but as owner and Dutchman Rob Brendel attests, what the hotel should be most famous for is its status as “the Table Mountain of Riebeek Kasteel”. Quite simply, and much like the role the flat-topped icon plays in the city of Cape Town, you can’t come to the idyllic Riebeek Valley’s sleepy dorp without paying a visit to the colonial treasure.

Perhaps we need to back up though. The small Swartland Winelands town of Riebeek Kasteel may be a convenient hour from Cape Town, but it isn’t exactly Franschhoek or Stellenbosch. So why visit in the first place?

Well, for that very reason. Wedged between the wild scrubland of the West Coast and the comparatively manicured vineyards and commercial development of the more well-known Cape grape-growing regions, Riebeek Kasteel is the kind of charming destination where those on the hunt for a relaxing weekend getaway can still find true peace and quiet.

Its wineries still focus on good wine – rather than the pretense that comes with selling it. Its quaint restaurants and coffee shops still facilitate genuine country hospitality, its days are still punctuated by the sounds of birdsong and its creative spirit is still rooted in an authentic past as an artists’ enclave.

It’s the kind of place that Franschhoek used to be back at the turn of the millennium, and The Royal Hotel is the dear village’s destination extraordinaire.

“I saw a picture of this hotel, and it looked like I imagined South Africa to be,” recounts Robert of his first view of The Royal. “It was more English and colonial in style, not like the Cape Dutch architecture that characterises most of the wine farms. I fell in love. I saw the hotel in the morning and signed the papers in the afternoon.”

Since then (back in 2004), Rob’s made a point to hold fast to the sense of old-world charm captured by The Royal’s façade, and what’s followed is an experience and aesthetic that whisks visitors back to life in British East Africa or days when David Livingstone’s discoveries were the talk of the time.

Think real chocolates on the pillow, fires burning in every main room and complimentary afternoon coffee, tea and homemade cake - visitors have been known to drive over an hour for the carrot version of the latter.

Similarly, the hotel’s vast verandah is decorated like a tableau for explorers of past: among the colonial clutter are antique chairs, battered suitcases, a birdcage, a typewriter and green fan palms that add colour and symmetry. Inside, the colonial theme continues: bamboo fans spin lazily in the air above dark wood furniture polished to a high shine and framed daguerreotypes decorate the walls. The black and white images seem a salute to the hotel’s long history, which is said to include appearances by the likes of bygone South African politicians Paul Kruger and Jan Smuts.

Out back, vineyard-clad mountains cascade in the distance, a rippling dam leads into plump orchards and rolling green lawns sprawl out in the foreground. An elevated swimming pool sits just left and farther on waits a shaded restaurant terrace where leisurely country breakfasts, lunches and dinners are the order of the day.

As for the rooms - the décor is simple and elegant. A long white bed fills the space, high white ceilings and deep carpeting complete the effect and the overall impression is one of relaxation. All of the usual facilities and amenities are taken care of, from the heated towel railing in the en-suite bathroom to the well-stocked minibar.

And in true outpost fashion, a twinkling night sky and a deep country quiet sew it all together.

So whether you’re passing through, popping in for a drink, settling in for a meal or staying the night, The Royal Hotel is the perfect host – no cable car ticket necessary.

Tip: The Royal Hotel also makes for a memorable function and wedding venue. Email to get more information about packages and possibilities.

The Bill: Rates fall halfway between cheap and expensive. Costs vary depending on room type but generally ring at between R1000 and R2000 per room per night.

By Malu Lambert and Stephanie Katz


Read our review of the hotel’s charming eatery, the Royal Restaurant in Riebeek Kasteel.


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