Matjiesfontein, Western Cape
Did you know?
One of the late Ethiopian Emperor Haille Selassie's jackets hangs in the museum at Matjiesfontein.
Standing alone in the vastness of the Great Karoo like a Victorian dream, the village of Matjiesfontein and its legends have endured for more than a century.
Conceived and built by the enterprising Jimmy Logan, an Englishman who grew up in a railway family in Berwickshire, Matjiesfontein became a favoured stopping place for train travellers between Cape Town and the hinterland.
The legend goes that Logan cunningly served his first course - soup - so hot that no-one had time for the rest of the meal before having to jump aboard their train again.
The village and its sole hotel - The Lord Milner - was known in Victorian circles as a great health destination, because of the clean air, fresh mountain water and wide open Karoo spaces. The sultan of Zanzibar made an appearance; Sir Randolph Churchill passed by and borrowed one of Logan's hunting dogs; and mining magnate Cecil John Rhodes and author-activist Olive Schreiner shared many a heated discussion in the elegant dining room.
Jimmy Logan, being a cricket fan of note, sponsored two English tours to South Africa. He built a cricket ground at Matjiesfontein and the matches were the highlight of the season. During the South African War (also sometimes known as the Anglo-Boer War), the hotel housed British officers and, at a later stage, the wounded.
After Logan died, the village slumped somewhat, only to be revitalised by the accomplished hotelier, David Rawdon, in the late 1960s. The new 'Laird' brought Matjiesfontein back to its former grandeur, and it has once again become one of the prime Karoo overland stops - including the twice-weekly arrival of luxurious The Blue Train.
David Rawdon, who also established one of the largest private museums in South Africa at the station itself, passed away in August 2010 and the new man at the helm is his nephew, Jonathan Rawdon.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
The Lord Milner Hotel (Matjiesfontein)
Tel: +27 (0)23 5613011