Matjiesfontein is a special place that is often fondly referred to as being ‘in the middle of nowhere’. The tiny Karoo village has a lot of history and character from yesteryear, with enough local ghost stories to entice any curious traveller.
Once a British army stronghold housing 10 000 troops at the time of the Anglo-Boer war, Matjiesfontein is about a two-and-a-half drive up the N1 from Cape Town, but blink and you might just miss the small town that is big on history.
Venture through the Hex River Valley until you find yourself in the shrubby, brown landscape of the Karoo – Matiesfontein is not far from here. An overnight stay, or even a casual visit, is a must for Capetonians.
The three star-rated Lord Milner Hotel is at the heart of the town. Originally a hospital dating back to the late 1800s, this Victorian-style accommodation perfectly captures the essence of an era long-gone, with its old-world feel and historical ambience. Over the years various renovations have taken place in the Lord Milner, but these have been to upgrade rooms while restoring their charm.
If you’re lucky enough you might stumble into Katie – a ghost rumoured to be haunting the hotel. Not much is known about her except for that fact that she was a nurse who worked at the hospital.
The photo in my hand below was reportedly taken last year and shows popular, locally-born character, guide and entertainer Johnny with two guests – make that three if you count the ‘ghost’ of Katie standing in the background against the wall.
Say what you will, there is something quite intriguing, perhaps mildly terrifying, about an encounter with a ghost. Many a Capetonian who has spent a night at the Lord Milner Hotel will probably have a story or two to tell about their stay. Aside from making a wickedly interesting story to tell friends, it’s this curiosity which drives visitors from all over to this town from another era.
From tours through the Victorian and Transport museums to veld walks in the nearby Boer War British Army remount encampment site, there is a little something for everybody here. Foodies will also appreciate the fact that there are three separate eateries on offer.
Head on over to the Matjiesfontein website and start planning your trip!