Barrydale lies in a fertile valley between South Africa's Langeberg mountains and the Karoo. Stay over for a couple of days to ease into the slower pace of life here and experience some of the many things to do in Barrydale on Route 62.
There are well over a dozen Barrydale restaurants and coffee shops – a huge number for such a small village. My current favourite is Mez Karoo Kitchen, which features Mediterranean and local flavours. The place is bright and charming, especially the terrace area with its red chairs and the peaceful garden. Run by a welcoming mother-and-son team, it’s as much about the relaxed mood as it is about good food. We had the lamb kleftiko with veg, which was succulent and tasty, and a chicken phyllo pie with lemon-and-spinach rice and salad. Yum. For dessert we shared the rosewater ice cream with a delicious spicy-sweet Moroccan crunch. If you love tasty comfort food that’s well presented without being precious, this is your kind of place.
A completely different experience that’s a must for the vibe and décor is Diesel & Crème vintage diner. There are wooden tables, blackboard menus and old tin signs advertising anything from Pepsi and Castle to Lucky Strike, Nugget and Castrol motor oil. The best things here are milkshakes like Morning Glory (shot of espresso), Vintage Villain (with bits of chocolate brownie) and Lady in Red (with bits of red velvet cake). Note that the ‘small’ ones are large and the ‘large’ ones are jumbo! The diner also does breakfast, lunch, gorgeously decadent cakes and man-sized waffles I’ve heard people rave about.
2. Explore the Karoo Art Hotel
3. Get arty and crafty
If you enjoy browsing and buying arts and crafts, you’ll love mooching around Barrydale. Visit Barrydale Hand Weavers on the Ladismith side of town – a skills and job creation project – to marvel at the hand-woven rugs, tableware and fabrics and maybe even watch the looms in action. Next door is MUD Gallery where you’ll find a super space built of local materials, with a collection of paintings, sculpture and ceramics inside. Relax in the garden and enjoy something to eat. Hardy’s Memories has a selection of art and crafts from all over Africa.
For more art in the nearby village of Suurbraak, see point 14.
4. Join the Barrydale Art Meander
Each year in mid-December the artists of Barrydale get together for the Barrydale Art Meander (BAM), where they open their art studios and spaces so you can wander from one to the other and immerse yourself in the town’s creativity. Don’t miss the creative Puppet Parade on one of the days of the Art Meander, which is great fun for both young and old. Keep an eye out for the dates and grab your Barrydale accommodation before it’s too late.
5. Wander the streets with your camera
6. Hike to the waterfall
Enjoy Renosterveld fynbos on a hike up to a waterfall that overlooks the Barrydale Valley, looking out for birds along the way. Get up early so you’re not out in the midday heat, and don’t forget to take a hat, sunscreen and plenty of drinking water. The 10km return trip should take about four hours.
7. Go wine tasting
8. Enjoy a beer tasting
9. See Barrydale in Bloom
Visit during the Barrydale in Bloom festival in October and enjoy the sight of gardens in their full glory. The open gardens each day are the main draw card but there are some other special events at this time too, like a craft fair and bring & braai, where you can get to know the locals.
10. Dream a country dream
Spend some time browsing the listings in the estate agent’s window and indulge in a dream of dropping out of the fast lane and coming to live in Barrydale yourself. Just be sure you can take the extremes of heat in summer and cold in winter before you commit to any grand life changes.
11. Stay over for a few nights
12. Visit Ronnie’s Sex Shop – not what you think
You may be disappointed to know that the Ronnie’s Sex Shop – a pub and pit-stop on Route 62, just under 30km from Barrydale on the road to Ladismith – has nothing to do with sex. It all started when owner Ronnie bought the tiny farm cottage to use as a farmstall and painted the words ‘Ronnie’s Shop’ on the wall. You can get an idea of the kind of friends he had when one day, for a lark, they added the extra word ‘sex’. Given the natural curiosity of travellers, the new, improved sign was soon raking in the visitors. So Ronnie went with the flow, opened a pub and the rest is history. Inside you can get a cool drink or something to eat, soak up the frontier grit of the place. Outside, a selfie of you in front of the famous sign is almost unavoidable.
13. Take a drive on Tradouw Pass to Suurbraak
14. Visit Donovan Julius Contemporary Arts
15. Take a dip at Warmwaterberg Spa
Visit the Warmwaterberg Spa for a dip in the mineral hot spring. You’ll find it about 20km north-east of Barrydale, on the road towards Ladismith. The hot water (43.5 degrees Celsius at the artesian spring) is high in iron and visitors claim they feel soothed and calm after bathing in the pools. For the more energetic, there are two hiking trails here too.
16. Go horse riding
17. Visit Grootvadersbos Nature Reserve
Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve is a swathe of indigenous forest in the Langeberg a 36km drive from Barrydale. According to CapeNature, it’s the most important afromontane forest left in the south-western Cape. Things to do here include swimming, mountain biking, hiking and birding (there are 196 recorded species and a great way to see some of them is from the two bird hides). When you’re out on a day walk, you might spot bushbuck or baboons, but the prize sightings would be the forest emperor butterfly or a sub-species of the rare ghost frog, both of which you can find only in this forest.
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