Did you know?
With its mists and chilly mornings, Dullstroom has been called a ‘Scottish outpost in Africa’.
In 1989, the Sunday Times in South Africa ran a ‘Finder's Keepers’ competition with a whopping prize of R1-million.
The thrill of a treasure hunt – and the huge purse – had South Africans following the published clues and scouring the countryside in search of the money.
In the sleepy Mpumalanga Highlands town of Dullstroom, famous for its trout fishing, regulars at the historic old bar of the Dullstroom Inn drank their favourite tipple and speculated on where the Finder's Keepers treasure could be hidden.
As they enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere of the old country bar, complete with a generous pub lunch in front of a roaring winter fire, they were totally unaware that the loot was stashed behind the bar clock facing them.
Legend has it that the tradition of a constant fire in the bar of the Dullstroom Inn goes back 100 years, to when the hotel was still called The Excelsior.
Linger long enough in the bar and someone will tell you about the large barrel to the left of the fireplace.
It is said someone once hoisted it up to the top of a 20m pole, climbed into the barrel and stayed there for 60 days – just to become an entry in the Guinness World Records. (A perfect pub story, the kind that makes you shake your head in wonder and order another draught.)
Wander through the hotel, check out the old-fashioned wallpaper in the 11 rooms and pop in at the Walton Room, a conferencing facility named after the ‘British Bard of Angling’, Izaak Walton.
Walton, who wrote The Compleat Angler, had this to say about the use of frogs as bait: ‘Use him as though you loved him; that is, harm him as little as you may possibly, that he may live the longer.’
Another feature of the hotel is that poker players like to congregate here and test their skills while others in Dullstroom wander the misty hills in wellingtons, casting out with flies with names like 'woolly buggers' and 'Critchley hackles'.
And when there’s a fat trout frying in the pan, fishermen, gamblers and romantic weekenders all drop what they’re doing and head for the dinner tables.
Dullstroom is, after all, Fisherman Central ...
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
How to get here
Dullstroom is approx. 250km from Johannesburg, about a 2.5-hour drive. Head east on the N4, turn off at Belfast and follow the signs to the next town, which is Dullstroom.
Best time to visit
Any time of year is good in the Mpumalanga highlands – winters (June to August) are misty and chilly and summers (December to February) are milder than the rest of the province because of the altitude.
Around the area
Dullstroom offers the visitor a lot: hot-air ballooning; altitude training; a range of great hiking trails; lots of trout-fishing spots; South African War sites; 4X4 routes; mountain biking; a bird of prey centre; and nature reserves where you can spot a number of different crane species, among others.
Tours to do
Tour the nearby Mpumalanga Panorama Route, Kruger National Park and even the Highlands Meander area with a recommended guide (see the listed Mpumalanga website), or go on a self-drive adventure.
You can hire a vehicle from OR Tambo International Airport outside Johannesburg and make Dullstroom part of your Mpumalanga road trip; or you can fly in to 1 of the smaller airports in the area and rent a car from there. This will give you the freedom to tour the area extensively.
What will it cost
You'll pay R795 per couple per night (bed & breakfast) over weekends, and R495 as a single rate.
Length of stay
2 to 3 days would be a perfect amount of time to explore Dullstroom and surrounds.
What to pack
Pack for chilly nights and hot days. A warm raincoat, hiking boots and generally mist-proof attire would be good.
What to eat
You should definitely try the Dullstroom Inn bar menu. You have a choice of big breakfasts, smoked trout, good meat pies and ploughman’s platters – honest pub grub.
The Dullstroom Arts & Cultural Festival in mid-December showcases the talents of local singers, crafters, artists and chefs.
Smoked trout is a speciality in the town. Dullstroom also has many small craft shops and art galleries. Spend an afternoon walking down the main street and going into the shops that catch your eye.