Lady Grey, Eastern Cape
Did you know?
Lady Grey's Royal MacNab originates from John Buchan's book about a poacher, entitled John MacNab.
It's a chilly winter's night in Lady Grey village, in the Witteberg Mountains in the high country of the Eastern Cape. This area is also famously called 'the tail of the dragon', where the southern part of the Drakensberg (literally the 'Dragons' Mountain in Afrikaans) range peters out.
No-one here in the sports club seems to mind, however, because the bagpipes are in full blow, the whisky is in full flow and a steaming haggis is about to be sliced up for supper. There's a guy near the stage flogging colourful kilts hand over fist.
This distinctly Scottish affair is the culmination of The Lady Grey Royal MacNab competition, during which the entrants have to catch a trout, hunt a mountain reedbuck and bag a greywing francolin, all in the space of one day. This time there are only four successful 'MacNabs' including a woman who downed her mountain reedbuck from an amazing distance of 344 metres. Most of us can't even really see that far.
The MacNab is just one of the festivals that Lady Grey pulls off with aplomb every year. At Easter, villagers and students from the Lady Grey Arts Academy stage a three-day Passion play, during which scenes from the life of Jesus are acted out all over town.
When you arrive in Lady Grey in the snowy season, you might think you had been suddenly airlifted to a Swiss village high up in the Alps. It is truly 'chocolate-box beautiful' and local residents take great care to maintain the old Victorian building styles that have made this place such a drawcard for weekenders and new settlers alike.
Named after Eliza Lucy Grey, the wife of Sir George Grey, who was governor of the old Cape colony from 1854 to 1861, the village is a great base for visitors interested in San rock art, hiking, 4X4 trails, fishing, hunting or simply relaxing on top of the nearby Joubert's Pass, looking down on the world with a tot of Scotch and fresh mountain water, drawn direct from 1 of 1000 flowing streams.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Mountain View Country Inn
Tel: +27 (0)51 603 0421
Wild Mountain Adventures
Mobile: +27 (0)79 536 3996
How to get here
Lady Grey is 50km east of Aliwal North in the Eastern Cape province, and about 300km south of Bloemfontein.
Best time to visit
Lady Grey is an all-year destination, with snows in winter (June-August) and blooms in spring (September-October).
Around the area
There are seven major mountain passes in the area, all of which offer spectacular views. Bird-watching, mountain passes and old South African (Anglo-Boer) War battle sites are but some of the outings you can embark on in the area.
Tours to do
Wild Mountain Adventures (see contact details below)
Because of its remote setting, self-drive is the best option. Unless you are planning some serious pass-riding, a 4X4 is not essential.
What will it cost
Accommodation prices vary, but in general they are affordable country rates.
Length of stay
You should spend at least three days in Lady Grey, exploring the mountain regions around the village.
What to pack
Informal outdoor gear is best. If you're hiking in cold weather, plan your packing carefully to keep warm.
Where to stay
Lady Grey has a number of b&bs, self-caters and a popular hotel in the centre of the village.
What to eat
Good country fare at Lady Eliza's Restaurant and the Mountain View Country Inn.
Lady Grey is a busy village, holding an Easter Passion Play annually, fly-fishing clinics, a July agricultural show, the 140 km Sky Run in late November and a very good Christmas Concert.
Locally produced goods purchased along the Lady Grey Craft Route, which is a great way to spend a morning in the village.