How better to celebrate Halloween next month than by hunkering down with a ghost or two at an atmospheric (but thoroughly comfy) hotel for a weekend?
LORD MILNER HOTEL
WHERE: In Matjiesfontein on the N1 between Touws River and Laingsburg, 250km from Cape Town. WHAT: This stately heritage-site hotel on the fringe of the Great Karoo was built by Scotsman James Logan in 1899, the year that the Anglo-Boer War started, and named for Lord Alfred Milner, governor of the Cape from 1897 to 1899. It served as headquarters of the Cape Command and a military hospital, giving rise to some of its legendary ghosts. Today it has 49 guest rooms, some set in the garden (one with its
Matjiesfontein Hotel own swimming pool), others in the main hotel, which has been carefully updated to preserve its Victorian feel. Floorboards still creak, the plush main lounge has a harp and 100-year-old piano, and the sweep of scarlet staircase is straight out of The Shining. The elegant dining room serves breakfast and dinner from an à la carte menu, with the famous Karoo lamb chops not to be missed. The Laird’s Arms pub prepares a variety of English-style dishes. THE HAUNTING: Besides the sounds of soldiers treading the stairs (the average age of those who died was 25), listen for Kate, a nurse who played cards with her patients until she died mysteriously at 19. She can reportedly be heard shuffling her deck in what is now Kate’s Card Room. Watch for a glimpse of the moustached Logan, founder of the town and a member of the Magic Circle, who is said to frequent the back lounges, and Lucy, a guest who died and never left, wandering the passages in a pale nightgown. There have even been reported sightings of the ghost of Olive Schreiner, author of The Story Of An African Farm, who lived in a rented cottage nearby for several years. INFO: From R475 sharing on weekends, accommodation only; children aged two to 12 pay 30% less. Call 023 561 3011 or visit www.matjiesfontein.com.
NOTTINGHAM ROAD HOTEL
WHERE: Nottingham Road Village, KZN Midlands, about a three-hour drive from Durban and four hours from Joburg. WHAT: Notties, as locals affectionately call this atmospheric hotel and its celebrated pub, dates back to 1854, when an inn was built to serve the soldiers stationed at nearby Fort Nottingham to protect farmers from Bushmen cattle rustlers. When the railway was laid, the present stately two-storey building went up in 1891 as the Railway Hotel. Today it has 14 cosy en suite rooms and 10 new garden suites with patios, all with DSTV, tea and coffee facilities, and heaters. The dining room serves fine country fare à la carte, but be sure to indulge in traditional pub grub by the fire in the legendary Notties Pub, especially on Friday nights, when local farmers descend on the pub. THE HAUNTING: On misty Midlands evenings, it’s easy to imagine the ghosts of dead soldiers patrolling the grounds, or the clip-clop of the horse of Christopher Groom. This early farmer was riding furiously to reach the hotel in a violent storm when lightning struck near the hotel’s first tennis courts, killing his horse and leaving a hole through the saddle. Groom was knocked unconscious, but was unharmed. Notties’ favourite ghost, however, is Charlotte, rumoured to roam the rooms, especially number 10, moving vases, straightening bed linen and tidying clothes. She is said to have been a woman of easy virtue or a chambermaid, who jumped to her death from the balcony of room 10 when spurned by a lover. Some say she was pushed…. INFO: Midweek: R640 per person sharing. Weekend: R690 per person sharing. Kids in beds: R380; kids on extra mattresses: R275. Garden suites: from R800 per person. Rates include breakfast. Call 033 266 6151 or visit www.nottieshotel.co.za.
WHERE: 13 5th Street in Houghton, Joburg. WHAT: One of the first houses in this plush ’burb, Foxwood House was built in 1924 in two-and-a-half acres of garden. Its soaring ivy-clad façade and balcony set the tone for grand interiors with wooden panelling and stone walls, furnished with family heirlooms. Today Foxwood is a boutique hotel with every amenity, from bar fridges to free Wi-Fi, but remains a haven of old-world tranquillity, where you can retreat from the bright-light bustle of the city and let your imagination roam. Dine in style in the à la carte restaurant, or request a private table in the garden. You may even be able to catch a stage show or music performance in the intimate Foxwood House Theatre. Then retire to your suite, turn off the DSTV and listen…. THE HAUNTING: Guests have reported strange footfalls and creaking doors, and sightings of a ghostly woman and her young child. Some say they’ve seen the figure of Paul Kruger, inspired perhaps by a visit to the SA National Museum of Military History, a 15-minute walk away. ‘There’s no ominous presence. If anything, it’s felt as benign and even comforting,’ says co-owner Pieter de Vos. ‘The Earth’s magnetic field is said to be strong in the area in front of the house, and most people feel at ease in the house and on the grounds.’ INFO: From R945 per person sharing, including breakfast; kids under 10 sharing with parents stay free. Call 011 486 0935 or visit www.foxwood.co.za.
WHERE: 12-14 Glen Road, Glencairn, about 5km north of Simon’s Town. WHAT: The hotel was built by architect John Parker in 1904, and the first people to stay were a George Scott and his wife, Renée, and son, David, who seem to have used it as their home. The place changed hands after the mysterious death of Mrs Scott and her son. Now new owners have lovingly restored it with a retro, quirky twist, playing up the high ceilings and glossy wooden floors and banisters. Seven en suite rooms focus on different elements of South African culture and history. The à la carte restaurant and Stoep and Swing pub are popular with locals for delicious seasonal food, drinks specials, live music, quiz nights, beer festivals, community markets and old-school vinyl parties. Best of all, friendly staff will fill you in on the ghost stories. THE HAUNTING: Glencairn has long been rumoured to be one of the most haunted sites on the southern peninsula. There have been many sightings and unexplained encounters, and paranormal investigators filmed in the hotel last year. Rumour has it that Renée and David met their untimely deaths in the hotel stairwell. There have been reports of a dark-haired woman in a white gown appearing in mirrors in various hotel rooms, and of a boy aged about five running in front of the hot pass of the kitchen. He plays pranks by moving things and breaking glasses. It’s believed another three entities haunt alongside them. INFO: From R450 per person or R600 for two per room per night (accommodation only); kids under two stay free. Call 021 782 0314 or visit www.hotelglencairn.co.za.
THE KIMBERLEY CLUB and BOUTIQUE HOTEL
WHERE: 72 Du Toitspan Road, Kimberley. WHAT: The venerable Kimberley Club was founded in 1881 by Cecil John Rhodes, after he formed De Beers Consolidated Mines at the age of just 28. As one early visitor observed, ‘the place was stuffed with more millionaires to the square foot than any other place in the world.’ Visitors down the years have included King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, who famously left a diamond ring in the bathroom. In 2004, the club was opened to the public, and is now a four-star hotel, with 17 en suite bedrooms and luxury suites blending the Club’s original furniture with modern pieces. The Rhodes Grill Restaurant is renowned for its fine dining and wines, while the Café Vitello offers more casual fare on the front veranda – but watch for fire balls. (See below.) THE HAUNTINGS: The old mining town is said to have about 150 haunted houses and more ghosts than anywhere else in South Africa. They range from the spirit of its first librarian in the historic Africana library, who took arsenic when caught tinkering with the accounts, to a phantom Scotsman who plays the pipes on the nearby Magersfontein Anglo-Boer War battlefield when the moon is bright. The Club itself is said to have a ghostly waiter who haunts the dining room, an old man who wanders the upstairs passages, and a woman in Victorian dress who stands on the beautiful wooden staircase under a stained-glass window. Guests have reported lights swaying mysteriously in the old De Beers boardroom, a ghost dog howling on the veranda and balls of fire falling from the veranda ceiling. INFO: From R870 per person sharing on weekends, bed and breakfast; children under 12 pay half price and under-sixes stay free, sharing. Call 053 832 4224 or visit www.kimberleyclub.co.za. Book a Kimberley Ghost Tour at 083 732 3189. GH
Lord Milner Hotel
Nottingham Road Hotel
The Kimberley Club and Boutique Hotel