The Royal Hotel Bethulie was acquired by Anthony Hocking in 2005. He refurbished the establishment and turned it into South-Africa’s only Book Hotel.
The decor is eclectic but it takes a back seat to walls lined with books and records. It is home to more than 30 000 books and a extensive collection of Vinyl’s.
The smell of the Hotel is accurately described by Chemists of the University College of London: “A combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying muskiness.”
The Royal Hotel is old, but crammed with character and stories. It is advisable to book the optional home cooked dinner. A hearty meal by lantern with music of your choice crackling from the record player, is an unforgettable experience. We chose Bob Dylan whilst our host, Anthony shared his extensive knowledge of the area and it’s fascinating people.
Our host, Anthony Hocking wrote more than 40 books mostly on South-African history. He is a walking encyclopedia and a living legend. He has also been acknowledged by the FAK for his contribution towards preserving the area’s history.
The town of Bethulie is 60 km from Gariep Dam in the Southern Freestate. The town’s name means ‘Chosen by God’ and was given by Missionaries in 1829.
The surrounding area has much to offer and we opted for sun downers on the bridge crossing the Orange river, which is the border between Freestate and Eastern Cape. Interestingly the height of this bridge anticipates rising water levels that would result from the planned lifting of the Gariep Dam wall. Such rising dam levels will regrettably engulf the town of Bethulie.
Our visit to the Royal Hotel in the historic town of Bethulie surprised us with more than we anticipated. Surely this has been an enriching and unforgettable experience.