Eight Bells Mountain Inn
Did you know?
The oak tree at the entrance to the hotel is more than 200 years old.
In the late 1890s a little farm school called Ruiterbos Primary was established in a valley between Oudtshoorn and Mossel Bay in the Western Cape.
The new headmaster needed quarters, so a room was built for him on a local farm. Entranced by the charms of this hidden valley, more and more visitors wanted to stay over, so the property became a guest farm. Thus was born the Eight Bells Mountain Inn, 1 of the most tradition-rich family hotels in South Africa.
Mossel Bay is a mere 35km from Eight Bells Valley, so the guest farm became very popular with sea captains on shore leave. In fact, the name itself refers to the ringing of a ship’s bell every 8 hours to announce changing shifts. This nautical theme is carried through to the pub, the Bosun’s Arms.
Members of the staff, who come from the Ruiterbos area and a forestry settlement up the road, have taken the concept of ‘long-time service’ to heart. Some of them have been with Eight Bells Mountain Inn for more than 40 years. There are local dynasties in service at Eight Bells, and it’s no strange thing to meet 3 generations of 1 family working there – at the same time.
Like the famed Victoria Falls Hotel in Zimbabwe, the inn is well known for its afternoon teas. Dinners are 'old school' affairs, complete with silver cutlery, linen serviettes and congenial staff.
The people who come to stay take the concept of 'repeat custom' seriously. One couple has been here no fewer than 22 times over decades. Another couple from Mossel Bay visits Eight Bells as often as 5 times a year. The hotel has a 25% foreign occupancy, which is also made up of a lot of repeat business.
So what makes the Eight Bells Mountain Inn so special?
One of the regulars, Jean Emere, says: 'It's peaceful, it's personal, and you know, that's unique in this day and age. There's a personal touch to the service and the staff is very caring.
'We’ve never been able to fault the service. Even when the hotel is at its busiest, you'll never find a dirty towel in the public bathrooms, for example. There's great attention to detail.
'Also, it's so beautiful here with the mountains and views. But it's close enough to the beach if you want it.'