Take a deep breath, smell the roses and stroll straight into a nineteenth-century watercolour painting. Light blues and greens are accentuated by white-washed houses with thatched roofs, rambling gardens and long, winding roads.
Welcome to McGregor, the village that time forgot. Not only is this town one of the Western Cape’s best-kept secrets, but it’s also the perfect fusion of country living and nature.
Uncorrupted by commercialism, old and new merge together, creating an authentic village feel. Here you will definitely not find chain stores and fast-food places. Instead, quaint bespoke shops, delis, and country restaurants line the streets. Even the old South African tradition of the café corner shop is still thriving where you can find anything from a pin to a pumpkin – when in season of course! Life here is slow and easy and time is measured the old-fashioned way – by church bell. And don’t forget your early morning call, courtesy of your friendly neighbourhood rooster!
Pack your things and head off to the famous Route 62. McGregor is located approximately 150 km east of Cape Town and 20 km from Robertson and lies at the foot of the Riviersonderend Mountains. Weather and traffic permitting, it should take you about two hours from Cape Town.
Turn off at the N1 at Worcester, take the R60 to Robertson – and McGregor lies 20 km south, a mere 10-minute drive away. McGregor is part of the wine route network of the Western Cape. It’s also situated at the one end of the popular Boesmanskloof Trail to the town of Greyton.
McGregor shares the climate of the Little Karoo so be prepared for sizzling summers and frosty winters.
How to tell the weather in McGregor? If even the roosters are silent, it’s hot! And if there’s snow on the mountains – head for the nearest fireplace because it’s going to be freezing!
The town was founded in 1861, and was originally named Lady Grey after Eliza, the wife of Cape Governor Sir George Grey. However, a namesake in the Eastern Cape caused confusion and in 1905 it was renamed. The honour went to Reverend Andrew McGregor, a Dutch Reformed minister who played a pivotal role in the area for nearly 40 years.
In the late 1700s the promise of fertile farming soil drew the first farmers to settle here. In the early 1800s a few houses were built to house labourers, and for use by the farming families when visiting town for church services, such as communion. These houses were called “Nagmaalhuisies”, which can be roughly translated as communion houses.
Even the irrigation system has history and consists of old-fashioned irrigation channels or “leivore” that is fed by a dam at the top of the village. A visit to this reservoir with its clear water and walk paths, makes for the ideal short walk to stretch the legs and clear the mind.
Another famous landmark is “The Road to Nowhere” – a tarred road running all the way from Robertson to McGregor, only to come to an abrupt halt just outside the village. It was supposed to continue through the mountains to Greyton and the first attempts to build a pass were made between 1865 and 1880. However, the project kept being placed on the back burner due to financial and labour constraints.
Which brings us to the best kept secret of them all: McGregor has no through-road. Not only has this kept the town off the mainstream map of commercialism, but it also gives you a good reason to never leave.
McGregor is definitely not a sleepy town when it comes to pastimes. There are activities and adventures that will appeal to everyone – from the fitness fanatic and the seeker of health and wellbeing, to the epicurean lover of art and food.
Nature and history enthusiasts will also find plenty to explore. If you want to extend your day tripto a longer stay, unique accommodation options that cater for various pockets and preferences are also available.
There are a few restaurants in McGregor, offering anything from Italian dishes and Portuguese Prego rolls to robust traditional dishes and healthy deli options.
The village lies on the southern end of the Robertson Wine Valley Route and there are a few wineries in the area. Blessed with sun-soaked soil, the terroir of the McGregor valley and slopes produce quality wines. Some of the wineries in the area are Tanagra Wines, Lord’s Wines, McGregor Winery and Koningsrivier Winery.
Whatever your style, and wherever you choose to rest your head, you’ll find it inMcGregor. From affordable backpacker-style stays and self-catering to guest houses where you’ll be treated in style and comfort.
Self-catering ranges from stylish homes to picturesque cottages. You can choose between romantic, antique, eclectic or modern – but whatever the interior, the charming views from your window and country-style living are sure to enhance your stay in the most memorable way.
Perhaps it’s the awe-inspiring mountains, the quiet country life or the abundance of natural and architectural beauty, but if a muse had her own town, McGregor would be it! The quiet and slower pace provide a creative, nurturing atmosphere that’s sure to feed the soul. Inspiration is everywhere.
Stories wait to be discovered in old rooms, words are written in the dusty roads, poems travel by wind from the mountains while visual inspiration shape shifts in every interesting building, face or rock formation that you see. The McGregor muse has inspired artists in all fields over the years and there are a few studios and galleries in the area.
While the Temenos Retreat in the village will look after your spiritual and physical wellbeing with gentle walks and even yoga, there’s also a clinic that tends to the villagers’ medical needs.
The nearest hospitals are in Robertson and Worcester (the Robertson Hospital, Worcester Hospital and a Worcester Medi-Clinic). The fresh unpolluted air, tranquility and slower space will also rejuvenate body and soul with various walking, hiking and cycling trails in the area.
There are numerous hiking trails in the McGregor area for those with itchy feet and lots of energy. The Kleinberg trail is within walking distance of town, and is an easy two-hour walk in the surrounding hills. Or go for a walk amongst the wild life at The Krans Nature reserve or the Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve.
The Rooikat and Boesmanskloof Trails, 13 and 14 kms respectively, offer a more challenging hike, both through mountainous terrain. Dassieshoek Nature Reserve offers a two-day hike, as does Genadendal, or you can take the easy Waterfall hike to secluded, crystal-clear rock pools. What makes the Boesmanskloof Trail exceptional is that it starts in one town, and ends in another. Hikers can choose to start in McGregor and finish in Greyton, or vice versa. The hike starts or ends at the nature reserve in Greyton, following a trail through the Riversonderend mountain range with a stop at Oak Falls. Permit requirements for Boesmanskloof and Vrolijkheid at www.capenature.co.za
A new 7km walk at Lords Wines is now also available. Please enquire at the Winery 023 625 1265
McGregor is a true mountain biking heaven with a variety of routes in the area from flat and easy trails for families to hardcore single tracks and longer gravel rides.
Pop into McGregor Tourism to pick up their route map of the seven most popular mountain biking trails. Wheel amongst the wild at Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve, just 5 km out of town. Here you’ll find an easy 8 km trail along footpaths and gravel roads through the reserve– expect to see resident springboks and other mammals. For the adventurous there are four challenging trails at the Van Loveren Wine Estate, ranging from 12 km to 35 km.
Various events are held throughout the year in McGregor turning this hamlet into a hive of activity. Find current and future events on our Facebook page.
Marking 26 years of existence, the McGregor Heritage Society has kept the heart and soul of McGregor alive with its core principles: conservation, preservation and restoration. Under the society’s watchful eye the village stays beautiful and peaceful, and historic buildings and streetscapes are kept intact.
The society prevents any development that will destroy the town’s cultural and architectural character. It also helps to restore old homes that add to its charm. Having founded the Krans Nature Reserve, once a worksite for San people to make new tools, current members continue to manage this vital and recreational area. They also educate the next generation on the importance of indigenous flora and fauna. The society aims to embrace and enhance the reasons that attract visitors and house-hunters to choose “the village on the road to nowhere” as their preferred destination.
Paying tribute to the past while celebrating the present, the McGregor HeritageSociety Museum may be small, but has been declared one of the most fascinating by more than one enthusiastic visitor.
It’s situated in a suitably central position in the village, and forms part of theMcGregor Tourism office. Here locals and visitors can browse along the walls lined with exhibits and portraits and pictures of past events. Even as future exploration is mooted, tales of deeds that range from enterprise to preservation, conservation to restoration are recorded as reminders of successful village endeavours over the last 160 years.
Friends of Care McGregor Animal Welfare is a fundraising organisation that cares for injured and neglected animals in need. Friends of Care also hold educational outreaches. One of its most important functions is to create awareness about pet population control through regular sterilisation programmes. These programmes take place at their own sterilisation clinic at Ouplaas.
Friends of Care also provides flea and tick vaccines at weekly clinics. The organisation also runs educational programmes under the Happy Pet, Happy Heart banner to educate animal owners on how to treat their pets humanely and provide adequate shelter for them.A veterinary team from the Cornerstone Veterinary Practice visits every six weeks.Under its charity wing, the John Moore Foundation, they perform sterilisation procedures on animals in need.
In 2001 Dr Johan and Annemarie van Zijl of McGregor responded to a request from the SPCA to provide shelter for two badly neglected donkeys. The two fellows arrived and were named Vaal and Japie - Vaaljapie being an Afrikaans term fore
Soon it became evident that there were many other donkeys similarly in desperate need of food, water, shelter and care. The dream of a donkey sanctuary was born. Eseltjiesrus Donkey Sanctuary was officially opened to the public in November 2007by its patron, singer-songwriter David Kramer. Today the sanctuary provides a permanent refuge for abused, neglected and elderly donkeys.
In South Africa, the Symbulon Charitable Trust has been authorized by the Cape Town High Court as a NPO (Non-Profit Organization). The Trust is Section 18A approved that allows the Trust to issue tax deductible receipts.
The primary focus is to ensure the continuity, and encourage development, of First Step Ballet McGregor by providing financial and material support, but Symbulon Charitable Trust also supports other existing projects in the field of Dance, Music & Theatre.
The strength of the ‘dance, music & theatre’ paradigm for the development of the local youths is so convincing and worthwhile that it deserves to be applied on a larger scale. This minimally requires sufficient funding, for which we request your assistance, but also additional dedicated individuals to scale, manage and implement the creative process.
Small changes are well known to take a large effort. The McGregor project demonstrates that success is attainable. We hope to make a small contribution to make them sustainable.
A group of creative people who celebrate the arts.
We have 35 artists in our group who paint, photograph, sculpt and do pottery.
Our website - https://www.mcgregorart.co.za/ is a portal for these artists who also have their own websites.
McGregor has always been known for its Cape Victorian architecture and historical cottages which provide wonderful inspiration for artists and photographers. Our landscapes of mountains, vineyards, sunrises and sunsets are breathtaking in all seasons.
The energy and light in McGregor also contributes to the quality of creative work by our artists.
The McGregor Tourism office is located in a grand old building on the corner of Church and Voortrekker streets. Feel free to contact us for any information regarding accommodation, restaurants, places of interest, activities and events. We will gladly assist you. Also feel free to visit our Facebook and Instagram pages.