With its thatched cottages watched over by the Langeberg range, Montagu is a sleepy Route 62 getaway offering abundant outdoor activities and country charm at its purest. By James Bainbridge
1. Out and about
Montagu regularly scales its way on to lists of the world’s favourite climbing spots, with varied sports-climbing routes such as Legoland (so named because of its blocky appearance). The local climbing routes benefit from dependably dry weather, and are suitable for climbers from beginners to pros. The latter group can really test their mettle on Mazawattee, South Africa’s toughest. For climbing information and instruction, check out Montagu Rock Climbing and Climb ZA – both are run by local guides Justin and Riki Lawson. Much of the climbing takes place on the wrinkly sandstone and quartzite cliff faces overlooking Route 62 in Cogmanskloof, the dramatic pass in the Langeberg.
082 696 4067
2. Out and about
Established in 1851, Montagu is a spot full of history. Its thatched, white 19th-century buildings and national monuments house at least a weekend’s worth of museums and galleries. Start a historical tour in Cogmanskloof, the pass built by the great road engineer Thomas Bain. Here, Route 62 squeezes through South Africa’s oldest road tunnel – a rocky arch topped by a British fort dating to the South African War. In town, Montagu Museum and Art Gallery (cnr Long and Kohler streets) exhibits local artwork, including oils and etchings by the late François Krige, in a century-old KWV warehouse. Nearby, Joubert House (25 Long Street) is the town’s oldest dwelling, built in 1853, with a kitchen floor made of peach pips and beeswax.
023 614 1950, www.montagu.org.za
3. Out and about
Protea Farm, some 30 km north-west of Montagu, offers a novel way to see the Langeberg – from the back of a tractor. For 30 years, its specially customised tractor and trailer, both kitted out with seats and awnings, have chugged to 1 500m for wide views of the Koo and Robertson Valleys. The topography below is stunning in every season; highlights include spring blossoms, apple and pear orchards in autumn colours, and flowering proteas in the winter snow. The tractor trip (R120 pp) is offered on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, with the option of finishing off the outing with a hearty potjiekos (R120 pp extra).
023 614 3012, proteafarm.co.za
4. Out and about
Pick up a free map from the tourism office on Bath Street and follow hiking trails deep into the Langeberg. When on the 15.6 km Bloupunt and 12.1 km Cogmanskloof trails, you should start nice and early, take all the precautions typically associated with exploring the wilderness, and buy a permit (R30 pp) from the Montagu Mountain Reserve reception in Joubert Park. The 2.2 km Badskloof trail, which follows the Keisie River between Joubert Park and the Avalon Springs resort, is an easy and tranquil walk, for which permits cost R15. Paths run through the fynbos of Montagu Nature Garden, while scenic strolls around town include Piet-se-Pad and the riverside Lovers’ Walk.
Tourism office, 023 614 2471
5. Eat and drink
One of Montagu’s newest eateries, this country bistro is a stunning example of the new ‘Boere chic’ look – replete with white walls, rustic furniture and tin-basin lampshades. One wall is adorned with planks from fruit boxes and antelope antlers, while a small shop sells quirky artefacts, from beaded poodle fridge magnets to recycled picture frames. The food makes Boere Bistro a great stop for breakfast, lunch, coffee and cake, or a craft beer. In addition to the regular menu, the harvest table heaves with goodies such as gourmet sandwiches, lasagne, salad and moussaka in a big zucchini from the chef’s garden. Free WiFi and a few local ales (the likes of Saggy Stone) are two more reasons to linger on the shaded stoep overlooking Montagu’s main drag.
27 Bath Street, 023 614 1145
6. Eat and drink
Ye Olde Tavern
This long-running favourite serves hearty South African classics in the atmospheric setting of a historical house. Dishes including lamb shank, Cape Malay chicken curry, bobotie, steaks and Montagu’s best pizzas keep tourists and locals coming back. Book ahead during the holidays for a seat in the cosy interior or on the stoep, with its view of Montagu’s prettiest street and elegant Dutch Reformed Church. If you do have to wait for a seat, Ye Olde Tavern also has a bar and the town’s convivial Irish pub, Mulligan’s, is nearby. Dinner only.
Church Street, 023 614 2398
AA Quality Assured accommodation in and around Montagu
In Abundance Guest House
(AA Quality Assured Superior status)
The four suites at In Abundance are individually styled, personal, inviting and extremely comfortable. Staying in the quaint little town, you can expect warm country hospitality mixed with contemporary facilities, which include en-suite rooms with super-sized beds, elegant linen, a 10m swimming pool and a beautifully secluded garden.
A few restaurants are within walking distance, although the views of the surrounding mountains will have you sitting on the deck soaking it all in for hours on end.
There is unlimited high-speed WiFi, air conditioning, DStv and wholesome country breakfasts to keep you going when you head out for the day.
Corner of Bath and Rose streets
023 614 2099, 083 285 3040
Anchorage Inn Guest House
(AA Quality Assured Highly Recommended status)
At Anchorage Inn, you can choose between the bed-and-breakfast or equipped self-catering options. All units have private entrances, as well as fridges, TVs, en-suite bathrooms and complimentary tea and coffee. If you opt for the farm breakfasts, you definitely won’t be disappointed.
Anchorage Inn is in a central part of Montagu – the village centre and its restaurants are within easy walking distance, or you can just relax at the poolside or in the tranquil gardens. There’s also free WiFi, but it’s the breathtaking views that will capture most of your attention.
14A Van Riebeeck Street
023 614 3329
Photography Kendall-Leigh Nash/HMimages.co.za, Riki Lawson
(This article was first published in the autumn 2016 issue of AA traveller magazine)