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Richmond, between Johannesburg and Cape Town – a culture town worth the stop

Richmond, between Johannesburg and Cape Town – a culture town worth the stop
Hanging out and catching the sunset along Richmond’s main drag. Image: Chris Marais

Richmond is where modern art, literature, history and fine dining combine for a classic visitor experience.

Richmond lies just off the N1 and almost halfway between Johannesburg and Cape Town.

In the past, the town had little to offer passing motorists, except for a chance to refuel, grab a snack and continue their journeys north or south. Modern-day Richmond is worth at least two days of a traveller’s time, in terms of a range of activities, overnight stays and dining choices.

The Horse Museum on Loop Street used to be a school for the orphaned and the underprivileged. It was converted into a horse museum (one of only two of its kind in the world) in 1963. Apart from all things equestrian, the museum also offers Victorian-era lifestyle displays and an intriguing legend of an in-house ghost. 

Richmond is known for its bookshops and collectibles.

Richmond is known for its bookshops and collectibles. Image: Chris Marais

The Richmond Horse Museum is one of only two of its kind in the world.

The Richmond Horse Museum is one of only two of its kind in the world. Image: Chris Marais

Right next door is another museum full of interesting oddments that will keep browsers occupied for hours: South African (Anglo-Boer) War gravestones, a relic from the old cool drink factory, cuttings about an infamous local murder, a collection of vinyl albums of popular music from 50 years ago, and an enormous whale vertebra with flensing knife and harpoon.

Even the Info Centre across the road is packed with memorabilia sure to catch visitors’ attention.

Further on along Loop Street is the reading room for the Bookbedonnerd Literary Festival, which used to take place every October. This festival has seen the literary likes of playwright Athol Fugard, academic Professor Jonathan Jansen, poet Clinton du Plessis, author Rian Malan and activist Breyten Breytenbach over the past decade.

The MAPSA bookbinders next to the most amazing art gallery in the Karoo. Richmond Northern Cape

The MAPSA bookbinders next to the most amazing art gallery in the Karoo.
Image: Chris Marais

Browsing for second-hand reading treasures in Richmond.

Browsing for second-hand reading treasures in Richmond. Image: Chris Marais

Nearby is the unusual and visually stunning MAPSA Gallery and book-binding centre, where a team of Richmond women produce works of art in book form, using Japanese paper-craft techniques to bind pages into books, covered in recycled flour, maize and sugar bags.

The old Masonic Hotel in Richmond has been transformed into another small enterprise that creates local jobs: Karoo Creations, which produces top-end duvets made from sheep’s wool.

At the edge of town is the Hope Centre, which feeds more than 200 Richmond children on most weekdays. The centre is funded by the American Rotary organisation, and also cultivates its own vegetable plot.

About 18km to the north on the national highway stands the Karoo Padstal, owned and staffed by Richmond people. The upmarket farm stall has developed into a central source for regional products. 

The gang behind the grub at the world-class Richmond Padstal.

The gang behind the grub at the world-class Richmond Padstal. Image: Chris Marais

If you make something authentic from the Karoo, this is your shop window. If you’re motoring down or up the N1, this is your oasis of coffee, upmarket edibles and all manner of Karoo goods. There’s even a world-class chef in the kitchen! DM/ML

What to do

Modern Art Project: 073 436 4413

Richmond Horse Museum: 072 629 0742; email [email protected].

Richmond Books & Prints: 081 270 8827; email [email protected].

Die Vetmuis Restaurant: 082 380 1196

Pat’s Kitchen (Saddles Bar): 053 693 0142 or 073 406 4643

Richmond Trading Post (Tourist Info & Antiques): 082 797 2018; email [email protected]

Karoo Padstal (Open Mon-Sat): 081 219 2890 

Richmond Meats & Deli: 082 554 8477 or 053 693 0037; email [email protected].

Karoo Creations: 076 886 0262

Bookbedonnerd Festival: The 2022 festival may have been cancelled – check before you go. 

***

Where to stay

The Richmond Café and Rooms: 079 755 8285

Karoo Manor: 082 498 8650

Bloemhof Karoo Farmstay: 082 449 7700

Three Birds Country House: 079 529 5660 

“Karoo Roads”, “Karoo Roads II” and “Moving to the Platteland” by By Chris Marais and Julienne du Toit book covers.

“Karoo Roads”, “Karoo Roads II” and “Moving to the Platteland” by Chris Marais and Julienne du Toit book covers.

For an insider’s view on life in the Karoo, get the Three-Book Special of Karoo Roads I, Karoo Roads II and Moving to the Platteland – Life in Small Town South Africa by Julienne du Toit and Chris Marais for only R720, including courier costs in South Africa. For more details, contact Julie at [email protected]

In case you missed it, also read Loeriesfontein — home of the giant steel flowers

Loeriesfontein — home of the giant steel flowers


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  • André van Niekerk says:

    You just reminded me, thanks – I have just ordered my Alpaca Wool duvet from Karoo Creations. Top class references and unique – I would have thought they could have got a bit more than a one-line mention.

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