Irish-born Major Johnny Bawden moved to Oudtshoorn in 1881 and was later awarded the Queen’s Medal for his efforts in the Anglo Boer War. He owned and managed the Queen’s Hotel in Baron van Rheede Street (formerly Queen’s Street) until his death in 1913.
Built in 1880, it is claimed by the hotel’s management to be the third-oldest hotel in South Africa. Messrs Ford and Stokkam owned the hotel before Bawden.
Operating uninterrupted since March 1880, this four-star hotel with 42 rooms is, today, managed by BON Hotels, and was named the Queen’s after Bowden’s medal.
The first floor Colony Restaurant with its balcony overlooking the street, and Montague House, one of the former feather palaces and today a coffee shop, still serve up excellent cuisine that represents value for money.
Perhaps not quite as affordable as the R1,06 for the multicourse extravaganza served in February 1967, however, as a framed copy of the menu attests. But, the house speciality, slow-roasted lamb’s neck, was fully flavoured, buttery soft, and handsomely large.
In winter, the Colony has a three-course set menu for R250, which includes a glass of wine.
Room categories at the Queen’s include twin, double, family rooms with an adjoining room with two single beds and kitchenette, and deluxe rooms.
Farmer’s Weekly stayed in a first-floor family room with a view over the courtyard with its pretty reflection pool and fountain.
Rooms have been upgraded in the past few years and are comfortable and adequate in every way. And, most especially, in the way that travellers require: excellent Wi-Fi throughout the hotel and multiplug points, including USB and foreign configurations at the desk and besides both beds, even at the two single beds in the adjoining room.
Both rooms have a TV, but only the ‘children’s’ room had a small fridge, microwave, espresso maker and small sink. Rooms are not intended for food preparation and cooking, but rather to warm prepared meals.
At one side of the Colony Restaurant is a comfortable sitting room with large wingback chairs and sofas around a stove-style fireplace.
On the other side of the restaurant is the bar area with another fireplace to keep things warm in Oudtshoorn’s chilly winters. Natural light comes streaming into the sitting area, which makes it perfect for reading.
On the ground floor is the impressive lobby and reception area. The breakfast room, glamorous with its black-and-while-tiled floor and historic furniture, was being used for a wedding party during this visit, so the inclusive breakfast was served in Cafe Brûlé, a coffee shop and bakery looking over the main street.
Like in all the public areas in this hotel, surrounding windows fill the space with natural light.
The wonderful CP Nel Museum, in the former Boys’ High School, is right next to the hotel. A time capsule of the area’s history, rooms are themed to communicate what life in the past might have been like.
Living quarters are elegantly recreated; there is an old pharmacy complete with scales and drawers of medicaments, while one room is dedicated to a recreated synagogue with a history of the area’s early Jews, who were pioneers in the feather trade.
The zoological areas have taxidermied mammals, birds and reptiles. There is a section that tells the story of displaced black people during apartheid.
Entry to the museum also includes your ticket to Le Roux Town House, the only former ostrich palace that is now a museum. Unfortunately, it was closed on the Saturday visited.
One of the recommended restaurants near the Queen’s was The Black Swan. However, since reopening after COVID- 19, they have changed the name to Cape Karoo Eatery, so it was tricky to find.
Jemima’s may be the most acclaimed and well-known restaurant in Oudtshoorn, but it was closed for winter holidays.
The great advantage of staying at the Queen’s Hotel is the easy proximity to most of the attractions and restaurants on foot. There is a mall directly behind the hotel with Pick n Pay and Food Lover’s Market.
In summer, the large swimming pool at the back of the hotel will be a welcome respite from the heat.
Room rates and the food and beverage options are pegged at offering South Africans an affordable yet comfortable holiday. The staff, many of whom have been working here for many years, deliver an experience of Klein Karoo hospitality that is friendly and efficient.
And, for a town that hosts the annual KKNK festival, it doesn’t come as a big surprise that most of the staff speak Afrikaans. Room rates on 15 September, as an example, might be R1 144 for two, including breakfast.
Phone the Queen’s Hotel on 044 272 2101, or email [email protected].