About The Old Jail
The Old Jail in the peaceful farming town of Willowmore offers a unique experience for tourists, business travelers and sports enthusiasts seeking quality accommodation in the Karoo. Flanked by the spectacular Baviaanskloof and Swartberg mountain ranges, this striking 1880s building is on the edge of the town and is one of the finest examples of Victorian architecture in the area.
Registered by the Government in 1895, the building is built of stone, the walls being half a metre thick with plaster “quions” (corners) on the windows, doors and wall corners. The Old Gaol, as it was then called, comprised a hospital cell, hard labour cells, awaiting trial cells, a female cell and kitchen cell.
It ceased to operate as a prison and police station around 1960 and was sold to private owners. It has changed hands several times in the past 40 years and remained uninhabited for almost 12 years until its present owners took possession and began transforming it into a boutique guest establishment.
Now lovingly restored and renovated, the building is surrounded by attractive landscaped gardens. Although oozing character and retaining many original features, it has now been given a new – and less intimidating – lease of life as a welcoming B&B and art gallery. The cells and exercise areas have been cleverly converted into three elegant, air conditioned rooms with modern amenities, high quality period finishes and private courtyards.
Whether you're looking for an overnight stay along the N9 highway or a few days’ hiking, cycling, golfing, small game hunting or relaxing in peaceful, unspoiled surroundings, The Old Jail is a place you won't want to escape from in a hurry.
All rooms are fully air conditioned with high ceilings, original features, quality bedlinen, brass bathroom fittings, original artworks and tea / coffee making facilities. Each has a private, lawned courtyard with sun loungers and parasols.
Originally housing sick inmates, the suite offers a spacious bedroom featuring a king size bed, original Victorian fireplace and antique wardrobe, plus an elegant ensuite bathroom with claw foot bath, separate shower, toilet and underfloor heating in winter.
The Womens Room:
Once used exclusively for female inmates, this is a characterful double room with its private bath/shower room (with unique stone bath) and separate toilet just a few steps away across its secluded, lawned courtyard.
The Remand Room:
As the name suggests, this was the cell used for prisoners awaiting trial. It now features twin beds and also has a separate Victorian-style shower room and toilet off a private courtyard.
Self Catering Options:
We have 2 self catering units in the Old Stables: Our budget room called Orange Room is very small with a double bed only and very rustic. No TV. The Farmers Suite can accommodate up to 4. TV available. Both rooms do not have airconditioning. They have safe parking and breakfast can be taken in the Art Gallery of the Old Jail. Both units have self catering facilities and an outside braai area as well.
Breakfast and Dinner
A full Continental breakfast is served either in the main indoor yard or in the Art Gallery, weather depending. Dinner is served by special arrangement. Braai facilities are available at the Old Stables and braai packs (a selection of Karoo lamb and beef and boerewors) can be organised on request.
Activities and Attractions
Pierre Ferreira Hiking Trail:
The trail leads through beautiful virgin Karoo veld and past two old Boer War forts. It offers panoramic views over the charming village of Willowmore – particularly striking in the early morning or evening sun.
Willowmore Golf Course:
The club is one of few Karoo golf courses that boasts 9 grass greens, plus a practice range. Visitors are welcome every day to enjoy a unique – and inexpensive – round in an unspoiled setting.
Built by South African Railways to supply water to steam locomotives stopping in Willowmore, the dam was taken over by the local Municipality as the town’s primary source of water when steam trains were eventually replaced by diesel. Today, bird watchers can spend hours observing the abundant birdlife at the dam.
Old Power Station:
Supplying the town with electricity until 1984, the power station is now a visitor attraction. It contains six Lister Blackstone diesel generators, one of which is the largest still in working order, using five litres of diesel every 15 minutes.
Old Boer Graveyard & Gunpowder Chamber:
A must-see sight in town is the old Boer graveyard with interesting headstones dating back to the Anglo Boer War. From here it’s just a short walk to the small chamber used during battle to store gunpowder and ammunition.
This is truly remarkably freak of nature where two trees of different species have grown together to form one tree. It can be found approx. 10km outside Willowmore on the N9 towards Aberdeen.
One of the few places in the Karoo where coastal fynbos grows, Aasvoëlberg (or Vulture Mountain) overlooks the town and offers panoramic views of the area. A number of trails provide hikers and mountain bikers with the opportunity to explore the fauna and flora of the mountain.
The town’s name derives from William Moore, a settler from England who arrived in the Cape of Good Hope in 1819. ‘The Willows’ trading centre and farm was set up in 1864 and was re-named Willow-More. The town grew to become magistracy in 1884 and a municipality a decade later.
The Baviaans Municipality now covers an area of 7 ,727 square kilometers with Willowmore as its administrative hub. Agriculture (notably mohair and wool production), tourism and service industries form the basis of the area’s economy.
Being on the edge of the famous Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area, Willowmore offers a number of unique experiences including hiking, mountain biking and 4x4 trails. Small game hunting (principally wild pig, kudu, springbok and other antelope) is also popular in the area as is birdwatching.