Most cars speed past, en-route to larger metropolises, but if the steadfast passengers tore their gaze from navigators or smart phones long enough to notice Prince Albert dwindling in their rear view mirror, they might just change their destination.
Home to artists, writers, retirees and foragers of a peaceful existence, the small Karoo town of Prince Albert is the perfect melting pot of hinterland innocence adorned with the trappings of affluence. As the road merges into the town and gravel converts to tar, Prince Albert in all her glory lies before you at the foot of the Swartberg Mountains. Old world cottages, renovated with a lick of paint and love, take the shape of a bustling Karoo Village. A pharmacy complimentary with broekie lace, restaurants that offer all day breakfasts and antique shops (whose gems spill out the door and onto the verandah) offer visitors a front row seat in a town that has enjoyed a low profile – until now…
The perfect place for bikers, walkers and souls longing for the stillness of Africa, Prince Albert is fast becoming a popular tourist destination. Numerous B&B’s line Church Street (the Karoo’s bustling 5th Avenue) yet it is the century old Swartberg Hotel, that this traveler called her a pied-à-terre.
Established as a hotel in 1864, the Swartberg Hotel is now one of 19 national monuments in the village. The arched entrance beguiles visitors inside, where they can enjoy the charm of an old country inn. The hotel offers a wide selection of accommodation in the main building, as well as five garden cottages. While maintaining an air of times gone by, the rooms are all equipped with cotton linen, flat screen TV’s, air conditioning and en-suite facilities.
Dinner however is a more traditionally Victorian affair with meals being served in the aptly named Victoria Dining Room. Delicious local dishes are served in the unforgettable ambience of the restaurants vintage style. It’s the perfect way to enjoy the culture and character of Prince Albert, good food, and especially a candlelit dinner reminiscent of days gone by. And while you watch the candlelight flicker, you might want to pay attention to the late 19th century landscape paintings on the wall which all boast a ghostly tale about their history.
In between hearty breakfasts and slow bicycle rides around the town, guests can indulge in spa treatments at the hotel’s spa. From massages focusing on your hands and feet, you can be sure to get the ‘city fix’ you need.
Afternoon drinks are not the usual ‘Klippies and Cola’ one might expect of sundowners in a still Karoo towns.The Green Prince Gin Bar at the Swartberg Hotel is stocked with a selection of the finest spirits including Inverroche, Wilderer, KWV’s Cruxland and the colour-changing Six Dogs Blue. All of these delicious gins are combined with the tastiest tonics and different garnishes to bring out the unique flavours of each one. Let your inner alchemist come out as you infuse your gin with rosemary, limes and all types of berries.
So while foolish travelers speed past and we sip our G&T as the African sun blisters into oblivion, it’s easy to see why this little town is our ‘place de nostalgie’ long after it’s disappearance in our rear view mirror.