Did you know?
The 1873 gold rush in Pilgrim’s Rest attracted prospectors from as far afield as California, United States.
The last stagecoach robbery in South Africa took place just more than a century ago, in the hills above the little gold-mining town of Pilgrim’s Rest in what is today Mpumalanga province.
The village laundryman, Tommy Dennyson, road up on his horse, stopped the coachman at gunpoint and ordered him to throw down the money boxes. They hit the ground and broke up, revealing a large pile of half-crowns.
The next day, there was Dennyson at the bar of the Royal Hotel, paying off his £20 debt with a bagful of newly minted half-crowns. He was arrested and sentenced to five years in Pretoria Central Prison for his crime.
That very bar of the Royal Hotel began its life ministering to a different kind of clientele: it was a Roman Catholic chapel in old Lourenco Marques (now Maputo), the capital of Mozambique.
The congregation outgrew the chapel and the building was sold to the owner of the Royal Hotel in Pilgrim’s Rest, who broke it down and had it transported by ox-wagon across the mountains to South Africa.
Today, when you walk into the Royal Hotel, with just a bit of imagination, you can hear the diggers carousing, the gamblers laughing and the drovers cursing their beasts in the narrow road outside.
The Royal Hotel has been preserved – and restored – in true Victorian style. Its 50 en-suite bedrooms are spread around 10 different buildings in Pilgrim's Rest. Here you will find old brass beds, wash stands from another era and authentic Victorian baths.
After a traditional meal in the dining room, it’s time to visit the Church Bar and gaze at a world of memories on the walls, in the form of old photographs and memorabilia collected over 100 years, including those from the heady days of gold mining.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)13 768 1044
How to get here
Pilgrim's Rest lies in the heart of Mpumalanga's Panorama Route, between Sabie and Lydenburg - about a four-hour drive east of Johannesburg.
Best time to visit
Winters are mild in this area; it's an all-year round destination.
Around the area
Panorama Route day drives to the small towns of Sabie and Graskop, as well as to scenic attractions such as the Blyde River Canyon and Mac Mac Falls.
Length of stay
A one-night stopover should cover your visit to Pilgrim's Rest.
What to eat
Traditional South African fare at the Royal Hotel.
South African Gold-Panning Championships are normally held in Pilgrim's Rest in late October each year.
Roadside crafts along the Panorama Route.