A good, solid pub is a national treasure. Where else would you find so many people from so many different walks of life swapping stories, the one more fantastical than the other, as the afternoon ticks away into the evening and beers are bought and shared as though between close friends? Add to this a great ambience and a barman who knows the tales (or at least has made up some great ones) of the local area and the pub itself, and you’ve got a winner!

TravelGround has scoured the country and found 12 great English-style pubs that hanker back to olden days and, like a good beer mug, are a o’er-brimming with stories, atmosphere and the boozy bottoms of many a good chap looking for some great pub fare.

The Church Pub at The Royal Hotel, Pilgrim’s Rest

The Royal Hotel

Once a Roman Catholic chapel in old Lourenco Marques, Mozambique, the aptly named Church Pub was bought by the owner of The Royal Hotel in the rapidly expanding gold rush town of Pilgrim’s Rest, Mpumalanga, after it had become too small for its Mozambican congregation. And so it happened that what was originally a place of worship was stripped, shipped and re-erected in Pilgrim’s Rest and soon started soliciting a completely different type of clientele — the gamblers, chancers, prospectors and miners who frequented Pilgrim’s Rest in the 1870’s during South Africa’s very first gold rush.

This ‘holy’ pub was also the reason for the last recorded stagecoach robbery in South African history. The town laundryman, one Tommy Dennyson, had some dirty laundry of his own, and had run up quite a bit of debt at the pub. To clear his bar tab, Dennyson robbed a stagecoach that was passing through the hills above the town and was paying off his £20 debt (about £2200 in today’s terms) at the Church Pub, when he was arrested and sentenced to 5 years in Pretoria Central Prison, without getting to drink that last beer.

One too many? Rather spend the night.


Portland Arms at the Portland Manor, Knysna

Portland Manor

Situated high up in the Knysna Hills, off the Rheenendal Road and along a dirt road flanked by citrus orchards, you’ll find the elegant Portland Manor — a citrus and game estate built in the 1860’s by an Englishman and later member of the South African parliament, Henry Barrington.

Apart from the hotel on the premises, its lavish dining room, 4-star Pack House Restaurant and the peacocks roaming the grounds unaware of the pomp they add to this splendid scene, Portland Manor also sports its very own on-site pub, the Portland Arms, where guests can enjoy a drink, play some pool, watch sport or keep an eye out for the resident ghosts roaming the grounds. Though the manor has been lovingly restored by Dennis and Debbie Corne, it retains its English splendour, especially where the pub is concerned, and one can almost imagine English lords spending an evening of mirth in the stone-walled pub, drinking away their colonial worries and woes.

One too many? Rather spend the night.


The Albert Bar at Victoria Manor, Cradock

Die Tuishuise & Victoria Manor


Step back in time and enjoy a pre-dinner sherry at Cradock’s Victoria Manor. Having been built in 1848, this lovely hotel is one of South Africa’s oldest, and with Cradock having been a frontier town where people from many different and fascinating walks of life crossed over into the hinterland heading north, The Victoria Manor has seen its fair share of interesting visitors. The well-known author, Olive Schreiner, and mining magnate, Cecil John Rhodes are just two of this fine establishment’s well-known patrons. The hotel’s cellar also acted as a holding cell for captured Boers when it was commandeered by British forces during the South African War.

It is this very cellar which has been converted into the hotel’s charming pub by current owner, Sandra Antrobus. So pull up a chair and be treated to stories of a bygone era including the colourful tale of a farmer who made a habit of riding his horse up to the bar counter and insisting on a brandy for himself, and some beer for his steed, to be served in a Cadillac hubcap.

One too many? Rather spend the night.


The Shamrock Pub at The Shamrock Arms Guest Lodge, Waterval Boven

Shamrock Arms Guest Lodge

End an eventful day of sightseeing in this scenic region with an Irish Coffee (or two) at the historic Shamrock Arms Guest Lodge’s pub and let the passionate owners of this Victorian lodge share its tales and legends with you.

These days the pub is housed in what was originally the singles quarters where steam train drivers rushing to and fro on the railway line between Lourenco Marques and Pretoria could rest their weary bones. Paul Kruger, president of the then South African Republic, is known to have stayed in Waterval Onder just before he departed to the Netherlands at the end of the South African War, and so it is rumoured that the elusive Kruger Millions are hidden somewhere in the vicinity and might well be soundly secreted under the floorboards in the pub which are still the original 1894 boards. So, if you decide to have a round at this cosy pub, don’t forget that metal detector!

One too many? Rather spend the night.


The Garrulous Griffin at the Royal Country Inn, Dundee

Royal Country Inn

Dundee was founded in 1882 by a Scottish coal miner seeking his fortune in the Biggarsberg Mountains of KZN. The Royal Country Inn opened its doors just four years later, and so the inn has witnessed as much of the town’s history as any other building dotting its streets, with memorabilia, art, historical documents and replicas pertaining to the South African War and the Anglo-Zulu Wars lining its corridors.

Dedicated to the 24th Welsh Regiment who fought at the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, the charming resident pub, the Garrulous Griffin, is the perfect place to take in the town’s history – and of course to have a drink and become a bit garrulous yourself.

One too many? Rather spend the night.


St Andrew 19th Hole at NH The Lord Charles Hotel, Somerset West

NH The Lord Charles Hotel

With its golfer’s theme and Scottish feel, it is not surprising to learn that The Lord Charles Hotel’s resident pub was replicated from the bar on St Andrews golf course in Scotland. In fact, this pub was designed and completely manufactured in the land of golf greens and wide open spaces and then dismantled to be shipped, in parts, to South Africa, where it was reassembled by three Scottish craftsmen. Today the wood, tables, chairs and all the other decor in the pub is still originally from Scotland.

But, of course, this full-blooded Scottish pub couldn’t open its door wit’oot ae wee bit ae foon, and so, on opening night, the barmen also wore traditional Scottish kilts. Whether they wore them in the traditional Scottish way, well, we’ll probably never know.

One too many? Rather spend the night.


The Hunter’s Pub at Tsitsikamma Village Inn, Storms River

Tsitsikamma Village Inn

This cosy pub, with its antique fireplace and red carpet was the very first building in the quaint village of Storms River, and was built in 1841 as a hunt box for the gentlemen who walked all the way from Knysna to Plettenberg Bay to shoot the wild pigs in the region’s forests – a favourite pastime of a bygone era. These days the aptly named Hunter’s Pub is still decorated with old rifles, horns, trophies and skins which date back to the 1800s.

Captain Duthie, a man of note in the late 1800s and the son-in-law of George Rex who is reputed to have been the illegitimate son of King George III, was one of the gentlemen who frequented the pub as a hunting haunt back in the day. After Duthie’s days not much else happened around Storms River until the property and its few surrounding buildings were declared a hotel in the 1940s and became the Tsitsikamma Village Inn. Since then the pub has gotten some modern touches and has been graced by some more recent persons of note, like the lovely Tannie Evita Bezuidenhout (Pieter-Dirk Uys) who saw her resemblance in the sketch of a buffalo hanging on the pub’s wall and took the liberty of signing the back.

One too many? Rather spend the night.


The Chukka Bar at The Oyster Box, Umhlanga

The Oyster Box

This old-world, polo-themed bar has occupied the same spot in the Oyster Box Hotel for well over 50 years and has remained a firm favourite both with the locals and with those associated with horse-racing, more specifically the famous Rothmans’ Durban July. Of the 3 bars on the premises, The Chukka is the only one with a separate entrance and the only smoking venue in the hotel. Its convivial ambience and experienced staff has been drawing patrons back year after year to enjoy an evening of great whiskey and cigars.

Or maybe, the loyalty of the Chukka’s regular patrons is owed to the barmen having their back when domestic disputes threatened to infringe on a pleasant night out. Until a while back, there was a phone in the Chukka flanked by a sign that read: ‘Wife phoning rules. R10 – Not Here. R5 – Just left. R2 – Having last round’. But the barmen didn’t lie magnanimously! Monies paid by desperate men trying to avoid a scolding or at least to placate an angry wife, would go into a kitty and be used to pay for a nice Christmas lunch for the regulars.

One too many? Rather spend the night.


The Pound & Penny Pub at The Sunnyside Park Hotel, Johannesburg

Sunnyside Park Hotel

At this fine establishment, deemed a Victorian-style national monument, 21st century luxury has been seamlessly combined with old-world charm and elegance. Guests can have a cold beer and enjoy delicious pub fare at the resident Pound & Penny pub, warm up in front of the fireplace, inspect the history on the walls and take a leisurely stroll about the vast gardens. Sipping on your beer, you’d almost be able to imagine that you’re in 19th century England and not in the middle of the bustling metropolis that is Johannesburg.

One too many? Rather spend the night.


Two & Sixpence Tavern near the Central Hotel Guest House, Simon’s Town

2'6 Tavern in Simon's Town

If you want to meet the locals of our country’s naval capital, the 2’6 Tavern should be on your list. Looking as though it would be at home in Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley, this tavern was built in 1902 to serve as cold storage, presumably for the navy base right across King George’s Way, before it was utilised as Standard Bank offices and then turned into a local haunt for the thirsty in the 1990’s.

Its ceiling hung heavily with the flags of various sports teams, and with a fitting naval theme, this quaint pub is a favourite among the locals, and you won’t have to observe for very long to see how a simple gesture from a familiar local’s hand has the barman pouring her the exact drink she’s been having at this joint for years. So attuned is this pub to the comings and going of its regular patrons, that when a particular local pitches up with her scraggy jack russell terrier, a special place is reserved for the little dog on the deep window sill, the shutters thrown open and a ash tray with fresh water placed in front of the pooch to ensure that no one leaves this fine establishment without having their thirst properly sated.

The Occidental Bar near New Rush Guesthouse, Kimberley

The Occidental Bar (The Ox)

Having been established during the Diamond Rush, Kimberley has its fair share of historical pubs with quite a bit of English flair. But the Occidental Bar, known as The Ox, is definitely worth a mention.

Situated inside the Big Hole Centre in Old Town, a replica village of the Diamond Boom period, the Occidental Bar looks like something straight out of a period film, although its clientele is mostly a young bunch having some fun at the latest gig being played in the courtyard in front of the bar. No entrance fees to the Big Hole Centre need be paid if you only want to have some pub and grub at The Ox, so pass right on through. And, to add to this period pub’s appeal, it is one of the very few pubs in the Northern Cape that serves craft beer.

One too many? Rather spend the night.


The Colony Restaurant’s Pub at the Queen’s Hotel, Oudtshoorn

Queen's Hotel

Though the style of the pub at the Queen’s Hotel is more British colonial than Old English, the queen herself ensured we add it to our list when she and her family visited this very hotel in 1947 on their Royal Tour through the country.

With its heavy wooden bar and cosy fireplace, this hotel bar is as worth a whiskey or two, as the hotel itself is worth a night or two spent in its luxurious rooms. The Colony Restaurant also has a private entrance from the street, so there is no reason to feel like a plebeian entering the presence of royalty if you’d only like a gentleman’s drink or have a meal in style. Pull up a bar stool and sit down. You’re in the presence of royalty!

One too many? Rather spend the night.


Well, that’s it for our list and we think you’ll agree, these Old English pubs are full of history! So when you’re in town, come around and have some beers. We’re sure you’ll have a pleasant night. That’s it folks, so cheers!



All photos not acknowledged below are from the establishment’s TravelGround profile.

Cover photo: The Portland Arms at Portland Manor, provided by Fine & Country, Knysna.
The Royal Hotel: Provided by the establishment.
Portland Manor: Provided by Fine & Country, Knysna.
Die Tuishuise & Victoria Manor: Main image provided by Street View Trusted.
Tsitsikamma Village Inn: Provided by the establishment.
The Oyster Box: Bottom right image from The Oyster Box’s website.
Sunnyside Park Hotel: Main image from SA Places’ Sunnyside Park Hotel profile.
Two & Sixpence Tavern: Adriëtte le Roux.
The Occidental Bar: Main image by Martin Kotze at Die Swart Kat Productions, Bottom Left image by Infinity Focus Photography on The Ox’s Facebook page.
Queen’s Hotel: Main image from the Queen’s Hotel’s website.
Men at bar stock image: Bigstock


All information not acknowledged below is available on the establishment’s TravelGround profile or was sent by the establishment itself.

The Royal Hotel: South African Tourism
Portland Manor: Fine & Country, Knysna
Die Tuishuise & Victoria ManorBig Sky Karoo, South African Tourism