The Royal Hotel can be found in the small town of Pilgrim’s Rest, which was once a heady place where prospectors, miners, gamblers and investors from all over the world gathered to make their fortunes in gold. And they would often use canteens and drinking establishments like the Royal Hotel as their informal banks.

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

Royal Hotel
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.

What's happening

South African Gold-Panning Championships are normally held in Pilgrim's Rest in late October each year.

Best buys

Roadside crafts along the Panorama Route.