Explore South Africa: Castles and fortifications

Although castles aren’t always associated with South Africa, there are no fewer than 12 castles and fortifications - from the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town to Fort Mistake in Glencoe, KwaZulu-Natal.

The Castle of Good Hope - Cape Town

Probably the most famous, and most visited, of all the castles in South Africa, the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town was built in the 17th Century to replace the clay and timber Fort de Goede Hoop which was built by Jan van Riebeeck upon his arrival in 1652.

The first stone was laid on the 2nd of January 1666 and the five bastions of the star shaped fort  are named after the main titles of William III of Orange-Nassau: Leerdam to the west, with Buuren, Katzenellenbogen, Nassau, and Oranje clockwise from it.

The fortress housed a church, bakery, various workshops, living quarters, shops, and cells, among other facilities. The yellow paint on the walls was originally chosen because it lessened the effect of heat and the sun.

There are also various stories about ghosts that still haunt the grounds, whether you want to believe that or not is up to you.

Noetzie Castles - Knysna

From legends of pirates and smugglers under the Portuguese to a forgotten Roman outpost - the Noetzie Castles in Knysna has inspired many tall tales, however the truth is that these sandstone castles are nothing more than holiday homes. The legends can mostly be traced back to the owners playing into the curiosity of visitors.
The oldest castle, at the end of the beach, was built as a holiday house by Herbert Stephen Henderson, who lived in what was then Southern Rhodesia. He started building it in 1930 out of the local natural stone . The story goes that he had no intention of building a “castle”, but simply used the stone for practical reasons, when Rex Metelerkamp, a member of a well-known local family, who was watching the building, jokingly said “All you need to do is to add a few turrets and you’ll have a castle”. And he did! That set the trend, and Pezula ,up on the hill, was completed in the late 1930’s, and became known simply as “The Castle” , in 1942.

His son, Ian, built Montrose in the 1970’s and the Lindsays built “ Perekuil “, now known as Lindsay Castle, in the 1960’s.

Fort Beaufort

Today Fort Beaufort is a beautiful town in the Eastern Cape but back in 1822, six years after it was established as a mission station, Colonel Maurice Scott of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment constructed a blockhouse about three miles from the mission station as a military frontier post and stronghold against raids by the Xhosa under their chief, Maqoma. The British named it Fort Beaufort to honour the Duke of Beaufort, father of Lord Charles Henry Somerset, first British governor of the Cape Colony. In 1839, the British commenced work on what is probably the world's only inland Martello tower, a small, circular Napoleonic era design hitherto used only in coastal defences. The tower was completed in 1846.

Castle on the Cliff

Situated in a private nature reserve with its own coastline just outside of Plettenberg Bay, Castle on the Cliff is a holiday experience you don’t want to miss! Built in the early 1960’s from tumbled stones below the dramatic cliff and surrounded by Fynbos, Castle on the Cliff is a one of a kind experience!

In essence this a villa that is rented out to one group at a time for their exclusive use. There are four luxurious master bedrooms - all with en-suite facilities overlooking the sea. In addition, there is another slightly smaller bedroom - suitable for children - which has private bathroom facilities close by. Other facilities include a barbecue wood fired pizza oven, swimming pool and a lounge with a wonderful view. 

The walking on the estate is wonderful, and there is a wide choice ranging from gentle to adventurous. You can also swim in the deep rock pool, scramble over the rocks among the rock pools or simply lie in the sun watching the waves roll in. Access to the coastline below The Castle is through a cave - an adventure in itself. Whales, Dolphins and Seals can be spotted in the sea directly beneath The Castle's terraces or living room windows. A family of Sea Otters lives in the dam alongside The Castle. Dassies dart among the rocks and Baboons visit the estate from time to time, but they are shy of humans. The estate is famous for its birds, particularly Kestrels, Eagles, brilliantly coloured Nectar Feeders and the Sea Birds. 

Fort Dunford

Situated in the uThukela District of KwaZulu-Natal, Fort Dunford was built in 1874 from natural sandstone after the Langalibalele Rebellion to protect the townspeople against an attack from the Zulus, the fort stands on a rise overlooking the old military post at Bushman’s River drift.

Today the fort is a museum with interesting displays of fossils, Iron and Stone Age articles, old wagons, exhibits on the Moorleigh mission station and the Amangwe homestead, and an extensive collection of bird eggs. There is a reconstructed Amangwane Zulu Kraal in the grounds.

Fort Hare

Originally, Fort Hare was a British fort in the wars between the British settlers and the Xhosa of the 19th century. British fort, Fort Glamorgan, was built on the West Bank of East London in 1837, and annexed to the Cape Colony that same year. This fort is one of a series of forts the British built, that include Fort Murray, Fort White, Fort Cox, Fort Hare and Fort Willshire.

Some of the ruins of the fort are still visible today, as well as graves of some of the British soldiers who died while on duty there.[3] Missionary activity (James Stewart) led to the creation of a school for missionaries from which at the beginning of the 20th century the University of Fort Hare resulted.

Castle Kyalami

 photo kyalami.jpg

Built in 1992 by Greek millionaire and architect Demos Dinopoulos, Castle Kyalami is situated in the northern Johannesburg suburb of Kyalami. This well-know landmark is set on 8.9 hectares, with the castle itself spreading out over 5 900m²  consisting of spa, 24 suites, a luxury hotel, a restaurant, a conference centre and its own helipad.

The millionaire owner and designer only lived in the castle for nine years before putting it on auction. The property was bought by Planet Hotels and opened as 4-star hotel in 2001 and converted the main house into 11 en-suite rooms, and the self-contained apartments which Dinopoulos originally built for his extended family consisted of 13 en-suite rooms.

In March 2008, the castle was purchased by the Church of Scientology for an undisclosed amount. Paul Sondergaard, National Director of the Church of Scientology's Public Affairs Office, stated that the grounds will serve as a Scientology retreat: "We were looking for a building big enough for these purposes, that had some character and was out of the city rush". 

Fort Mistake

On the east side of the N11 overlooking the Mkupe Pass between Newcastle and Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal lies Fort Mistake - a British signalling post built during the war. The fort was originally known as Fort One Tree Hill, and stories are plentiful about the origin of why it became known as ‘Fort Mistake.’

Voortrekker Fort

The Voortrekker Fort was built around 1847 by early pioneering Voortrekkers in modern day Mpumalanga Province, serving as protection for the Voortrekkers against possible attacks by the local tribes in the general Ohrigstad vicinity. 

The fort was built using a combination of dry stone walling and mud brick layering with loopholes supported by slate stone lintels, making rifle-fire easier. The site is mostly in ruins today, however it has received Provincial Heritage status, and a new roof has been placed over the site in order to protect the mud construction.

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