After taking a road trip with Tom to the small town of Bathurst and visiting The Pig and Whistle Inn – the oldest pub in South Africa – last week, I’ve decided it’s an experience that everyone in the Eastern Cape should do at least once.
That’s my word, and it’s final.
But … if you need more persuasion, here are a few reasons why you should visit the oldest pub in the country
I love pub food. It’s hearty, filling, generously portioned, and is usually easy on the wallet and reminiscent of a home-cooked meal. As the oldest pub in South Africa, The Pig and Whistle does pub food as good as any quaint bar you’d find in the English countryside.
For lunch, I had a basket of chicken strips and potato chips for R60, which was well-portioned and tasted like any basket food should: deliciously deep-fried, hot to the touch and extra salty! Tom had a Ploughman’s platter for R70, which was a bit on the small side but had the usual selection cheese, ham, bread, pickled stuffs and a small salad.
Aside from the food, the drinks were chilled and well-priced, which is all I ask for in life, really.
THE SPECIALS AND EVENTS
The Pig runs specials for almost every day of the week, from R20 soups to Asian nights and steak evenings. They also host events for the small town of Bathurst, including Christmas in July (which took place this past weekend!), farmers markets and music nights. And to make life easier for you, they offer a frozen meals menu for those lazy nights when you can’t be arsed to cook yourself dinner.
THE DÉCOR AND SETTING
You don’t find pubs like The Pig and Whistle in South Africa. With its ancient fireplace, wooden shutters, open beams, magnificent bar, and old wine barrels acting as tables, the pub isn’t trying to look like it’s from a bygone era – it just is!
Set on the town’s main road, you can sit out on the terrace, al-fresco style, and watch as old trucks drive by carrying local produce, and people on the street greet each other by name.
It’s like stepping out of Bathurst and into a traditional, timely English pub.
As the oldest pub in South Africa, it’s worth visiting The Pig and Whistle just to brag. I sure as hell have been, which probably means I don’t get out enough.
Founded in 1832, the pub is the oldest continuously licensed bar in the country. It was built as an inn by Thomas Hartley, an 1820s English settler, and has since seen a steady stream of different owners over the years. Previously known as Bathurst Inn, the pub was only christened The Pig and Whistle Inn in the mid-1950s.
THE TOWN OF BATHURST
Can you believe that I’ve lived in the Eastern Cape for 20 years, and this is the first time I’ve taken the drive of one-hour-forty-five-minutes to get to Bathurst? It’s a one-road sort of town, but I could very happily spend a weekend there discovering all of the town’s nooks and crannies, and old-age wonders.
After enjoying a cold pint of beer at The Pig, you could wander across the road to tuck into a pizza at Pickwick’s Oven, stroll down the road to the Book Store to browse through the dusty shelves, or take a wander around the art galleries, antique shops and craft stores.
But a trip to Bathurst isn’t complete without a visit to The Big Pineapple, a massive pineapple structure reaching nearly 17m high. Take some candid photos, sip on a bottle of locally made pineapple juice and have a walk up to the observation deck for views over the green-and-yellow pineapple fields.