From its mountain setting, horse meadows and streams to its cottages, atmospheric old pub and friendly hotel staff, the Eight Bells Mountain Inn between Oudtshoorn and Mossel Bay is one of South Africa’s landmark family establishments. Make sure you sample its regular – and legendary – afternoon tea-and-cake sessions.

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, one 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 eight 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 three generations of one 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 five 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.'

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Eight Bells Mountain Inn
Tel: +27 (0)44 631 0000

Mossel Bay Tourism
Tel: +27 (0)44 691 2202

How to get here

The hotel is almost halfway between Mossel Bay and Oudtshoorn on the R328 about 35km north of Mossel Bay.

Best time to visit

Eight Bells is best visited during the shoulder seasons of spring (September to October) and autumn (April to May), but its winter months lend themselves to log fires and snug ambience.

Around the area

The Dias Museum Complex in Mossel Bay is a must-see, as is a visit to an Oudtshoorn ostrich farm.

Tours to do

There are many tour guides in this part of the Western Cape – check the listed websites for details.

Get around

Hire a car from Cape Town and you can explore the Western Cape along the way.

What will it cost

The rates run at about R600 per person per night (including breakfast). Lunches and dinners are a la carte. Look out for seasonal specials on the Eight Bells Mountain Inn's website (listed alongside in planning info).

Length of stay

A two-day stay at Eight Bells Mountain Inn would give you the chance to see something of the area, including the spectacular Robinson Pass en route to Oudtshoorn.

What to pack

Pack seasonally for the outdoors and don't forget your camera.

What to eat

The breakfast buffets are excellent, and dinner choices include trout, ostrich fillets and Malay cuisine.

What's happening

Check both listed Mossel Bay and Oudtshoorn websites for details of events during your stay.