Destinations: Bliss – sheer comfort and mountain views in the King Suites at The Royal Hotel, Riebeek Kasteel, Western Cape

What: The Royal Hotel, Riebeek Kasteel

Address: 33 Main St, Riebeeck Kasteel, 7307
Phone: 0224481378
Facebook: (news about event and speciality evenings) Twitter: @TheRoyalRiebeek
Instagram: http://@theroyalhotel_rk

The Royal Hotel in Riebeek Kasteel (built in 1862) is one of the oldest hotels in the Western Cape. Riebeek Kasteel is about an hour from Cape Town, by car (beautiful scenic drive). My first stay at The Royal, was in September 2020, in the fugue of the first year of the pandemic, before vaccines, when we were still on an anxiety alert but beginning to step out, back into society. It was a time of frenetic sanitising and masking at all times. I stayed in one of the smaller rooms at The Royal but was impressed with the well-appointed interiors – excellent mattress, shower with great pressure, fluffy towels, wardrobes, robes (dressing gown) and black-out curtains (more on that, keeping reading). While there, I spotted four suites with mountain views and views of a dam. I thought – ‘wow – one day – I would love to stay in one of these rooms, The King Suites.’ I got my wish, when I was invited recently to a preview for Solo Studios Intimate Encounters. Solo Studios is an annual event which takes place in the Riebeek Valley. The 2022 edition is on August 26-28 (Friday to Sunday

Staying in a King Suite at The Royal Hotel is bliss. It ticks every box on my hotel wish list. I am a big fan of chef, Jamie Olivier and I have to invoke his frequently used praise mantra: ‘Gorgeous’. The King Suites are gorgeous.  Before you read further, get a room for Solo Studios 2022. Book because rooms sell out at this hotel (only 14 rooms) and for good reason. Oh, they do an amazing Eggs Benedict at breakfast (my choice – with smoked salmon). Service is speedy and un-intrusive.

Position, position, position

The Royal Hotel, is brilliantly positioned in terms of location. The entrance is on the Main Road, Riebeek Kasteel. One walks through a colonnaded stoep, through a small lobby. Left of the entrance, is its famous long bar– stocked with gin and tonics. The bar is renowned for its range of G&Ts and cocktails. The Royal is the oldest licensed hotel in the Western Cape. Moving along, walk through a small lounge and patio area and voila, one is in the country, with mountain and dam views. It is green and lush. One feels as if one has entered an alternative universe. There is an intimacy and restrained elegance, which is breathtaking.

King Suites – walk-in shower and black-out curtains

Right, so back to the Royal Hotel suites and why they had me drooling over the 60 m2 suites: Bedroom and living space (with bar fridge and tea/coffee making facilities), patio with mountain views (glorious), excellent mattress. There is a walk-in shower. This means that there no ledge or lip to trip over. This is essential for anyone with a disability or the elderly and is great for anyone. Those shower ledges have caused many people to trip or cut themselves. Yeah, been there and done that. The shower pressure is excellent. There is a heated towel rail, luxury amenity products (Charlotte Rhys). The built-in wardrobes are amazing. One could stay for a week.  Now, we get to the black-out curtains and one of the focal points of this review. Some years back, there was a trend to plonk toilets and baths in the middle of rooms. This may sound sexy but even for the most ardent couples, it means no privacy. Thankfully, that trend seems to have been shot down by complaints by guests.  Right, so in lockdown, I noticed a trend in new and renovated country accommodation: New York Loft Style- with full volume windows – often in multi storied units.  The idea is lovely – merging outside with inside so one has the sense of residing in nature. It is very Instagram-able and looks sexy and stylish, but, hello, where are the curtains or recessed blinds to block out the sun, so that one is not woken when the sun rises? Some may say that it is no problem and that eye patches can do the trick. That is not my idea of fun. I get it that aesthetically, it looks terrific: The merging of interior and exterior. The concept of being wrapped in nature is enticing but I do not want to be woken by the sun, if I want a sleep-in. It also means that there is no privacy as others can look inside. Windows (without insulation), may lead rooms to get very cold or very hot. Take note when booking at spots which may make you gasp on Instagram. Ask: ‘Do you have black-out curtains and/or recessed black-out blinds? Do you have a separate toilet, with a door that closes and which has a solid door (not a frosted window- try and go to the bathroom at night and the light shines through the door, disturbing the other occupant).’ That is my 2022 alert for the windows and bathrooms. One may not think of asking but there you have it. The window without cover is on-trend. Find out in advance what is available. The Royal Hotel is equipped with black-out curtains, bathrooms with solid doors and all the other add-ons that I have mentioned. Everything works. There are ample plug points and aircon, underfloor heating and good WiFi. Do not assume that there is WiFi at country hotels. It is not always available and sometimes it is only geared for one device per room- been there and experienced that.

Arts Town

The Royal Hotel is an excellent choice, when visiting The Riebeek Valley – referred to as Arts Town Riebeek Valley– because there is so much going on in the area- theatre, art, food festivals. The Royal Arts Town Amphitheatre (RATA), is on the grounds of the Royal Hotel. During the pandemic, theatre maker Mark-Graham Wilson, a resident in the Riebeek Valley, asked the Royal Hotel’s owner, Robert Brendel for permission to use and rent the amphitheatre (which was already on the grounds). It made sense with Covid, to stage outdoor theatre. Brendel not only agreed but waived rental and two wonderful seasons of theatre (including music and dance) were staged at RATA in 2020 and 2021. I stayed at The Royal, to attend the launch of RATA and that was when I spotted the King Suites and thought – ‘wow’. A big shout-out to Brendel. He is a true patron and benefactor of the arts. For the preview/media opening of Solo Studios, he made the hotel’s stoep available for visitors to mingle and sip on G&Ts. Brendel goes out of his way to make his hotel available for arts events and to assist creatives in any way that he can.  

Gin High Tea

I saw- after my stay at the Royal Hotel- that they have a fab High Tea menu – with a Gin Tea.  I also see that the hotel is highly rated for its patisserie and regularly hosts themed dinner events – such as Indonesian food. Keep an eye on its Facebook page:

Stone Circles: The Royal Hotel, Riebeek Kasteel gardens (ampitheatre is in the distance), with sculpture installation: The Boat Circle [2020], by Emma Willemse (a resident in Riebeek Kasteel). It was commissioned by Arts Town Riebeek Valley, in collaboration with: RATA [Royal Arts Town Amphitheatre]. The boat is filled with stones collected from the Kasteelberg Mountain in the Riebeek Valley.
© TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen.
Room with a view: The view from the patio at a King Suite at The Royal Hotel, Riebeek Kasteel. © TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen.

✳ TheCapeRobyn was hosted by The Royal Hotel and Solo Studios. Featured image- The King Suites- with mountain and dam views. Supplied.