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DDriving from Grahamstown into the decidedly English-looking town of Bathurst in the Eastern Cape, one of the first signs you encounter is 'There’s no thirst like Bathurst.' 

Welcome to the Pig and Whistle, said to be the oldest licensed pub in South Africa. 

It stands at the heart of this lovely little historic settlement and, although it has changed hands many times, ‘The Pig’ still serves hearty fare and liquid refreshments to travellers exploring 1820 settler frontier country. 

‘Pig’ refers to an ancient drinking peg, which determined how much monks and their guests could imbibe from a beer tankard. ‘Whistle’ is a corruption of the word ‘wassail’ (an old English word meaning an alcoholic beverage or to enjoy oneself heartily). In modern terms, ‘pig ‘n whistle’ means to ‘drink judiciously and party hard’. Hmm. 

'The Pig' was originally opened in 1832. Also established locally in 1832 was the elegant Wesleyan Chapel, which was later besieged during the long series of frontier wars. 

A quick stroll around the village will reveal very old buildings bearing Victorian-era names like Bleak House, Morley House and Bradshaw’s Mill. 

Bathurst has become a village of retired academics, artists, eccentrics and pineapple farmers. 

You will not fail to notice ‘The Big Pineapple’ on the outskirts of the town, a 16.7 metre, 3-storey high fibreglass pineapple. 

This monolithic faux fruit looms over a field of real pineapples, the principal crop in the area. 

Following the motto of ‘today’s machinery is tomorrow’s history’, the Bathurst Agricultural Museum was established in 1970 as a home for old farming implements. 

What began as a 30-item display has now developed into a remarkable museum with more than 1 300 objects. Ox wagons, steam engines, old tractors, ostrich incubators and dairy utensils are but a few farming artefacts to be seen. 

Bathurst neighbours the Waters Meeting Nature Reserve, home to many species of animals, birds and plants. The reserve offers hiking trails, picnic spots and remarkable views of the river and valley.  

Did You Know?

TTravel tips & planning  info 

Who to contact 

Bathurst info 

Bathurst Agricultural Society 
Tel: +27 (0)46 625 0759 

How to get here  

Bathurst lies 16km inland from the seaside village of Port Alfred, and 40km east of Grahamstown. Travelling from Port Elizabeth, the coastal and inland routes to Bathurst are equidistant, at about 170km. 

Best time to visit  

Bathurst has a relatively temperate all-year climate, but if you enjoy a busy social life then the best time to visit is between Christmas and New Year, when the pubs are full of musicians and the annual ox braai (barbecue) is staged. 

Around the area  

Grahamstown is nearby and offers plenty by way of bookshops, historical sites, general shopping and live entertainment. Along the coast, Port Alfred is a colourful and vibrant seaside village. There are a number of game reserves like Shamwari, Addo Elephant National Park and Double Drift that are within striking distance.  

What to pack  

Pack for all seasons, because the weather along the Eastern Cape coastline can turn at any minute. However, it’s generally temperate. 

Where to stay  

Choose from hotels, self-catering options and BnBs on pineapple farms. You could also stay at the old Bathurst Inn, where the Pig and Whistle is located. 

What to eat  

Wholesome country fare is on offer – and don’t forget to sample the premier crop: pineapple. 

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