The Val hotel is the poster child for what can happen to a building when it is loved and what a loved building can mean to a community.
Good Vibes Only
Bought at auction in 1994, just a couple of weeks after the election, the run-down building has been lovingly renovated by Rita Britz and her husband.
“We were married at the small church in Val, in 1982. So, when we heard the hotel was being auctioned off in 1994, we decided to go and have a look.”
The auction was not well attended and before they knew it, they suddenly owned a hotel. They spent 8 months renovating, and the Val Hotel opened its doors on 27 August 1995, with a grand total of 4 bedrooms available.
Take a Book, Take a Breath
Not long after opening the hotel, they extended into the building next door, opening a restaurant and bar with a stoep and a reading room. During the frosty Highveld winters, there is a constant fire burning in the old-fashioned fireplace. Reading and relaxing are strictly prescribed. If you’re an overnight guest, take note that there are no televisions in the bedrooms, (by design) and Rita goes as far as “politely suggesting” that you leave your cell phone in your room.
In summer the doors of the covered stoep are open to the sultry air and you stand a good chance of being treated to a majestic Highveld thunderstorm, with spectacular cloud formations and lightning displays that would make Thor jealous.
It’s About the Journey
There isn’t much to do in Val other than wander around and check out the geese. But that’s the point. 90minutes from Joburg, the quiet drive through the Mpumalanga Highveld to get there is part of the allure. This is the perfect Saturday road-trip destination.
The restaurant offers delicious local food, with the Steak-and-Egg being a real crowd-pleaser.
The Love of a Good Woman
- It takes a special vision to do justice to a historic building:
- Update the plumbing but leave the scratched floorboards.
- Build a stoep but plan your outdoor seating around the existing trees.
- Install new glass but leave the old wooden window frames.
- Rita has this vision, and this is the magic of Val – It is respectfully renovated, not simply renewed.
That might just be why it is so successful. With a tiny Anglican church just across the yard from the restaurant and an old railway station across the street, which Rita and her husband rent from Transnet and use as a backpacker’s lodge for the hotel, the Val Hotel has once again become the lifeline of an extended farming community that might otherwise have disintegrated. At the bar on a Friday evening, you can meet locals and discuss anything from crop rotation and growing Soya to the merits of a good whisky and what to do when you see a ghost.
As Rita says:
“Don’t worry! Even the ghosts have good vibes. It’s all about positive energy here!”
Small Town, BIG Heart
In a time when small towns are simply giving up, backs broken by the unforgiving yolk of urbanization and corruption, Val should be an example of what can happen when someone cares and invests their time in a community.
Val Road Trip Cheat Sheet
- Hidden Gem or Superstar attraction? Hidden Gem
- Pet friendly? Yes
- Kid-friendly? Extremely! Look out for the white geese who nest across from the restaurant at the train station. The last time I was there they had four perfectly fluffy yellow ducklings.
- Pricey? Nope.
- Book in advance? Give them a call and let them know you are coming – if the sun looks particularly good that morning, they might just choose to lock up and go for a stroll with the geese if they are not expecting guests. Bookings are essential for overnight stays and Sunday Lunch.
- Vegetarian options? Yes – they do a good veggie burger.
Fact about Val
Val is the smallest town in South Africa that has its own Postcode and has a total population of 8. Yes. 8.
I want to stay over! Who do I call?
The Val Hotel and restaurant is closed on Mondays.
The little hamlet of Val is about 50 minutes from Heidelberg. It is only 160km (90mins) from OR Thambo International Airport. Val is close to Greylingstad and Standerton in the Mpumalanga Highveld.