Tourism, Accommodation and Historical Attractions in Natal, South Africa
The Natal Battlefields
The Towns of the Natal Battlefields: Newcastle.
The Towns of the Natal Battlefields: Newcastle
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An industrial/agricultural town in northern KwaZulu-Natal.
There are many hiking trails in the mountains around the town. Other attractions are Chelmsford Dam and the Ncandu Forest.
Newcastle is the largest in town northern KwaZulu-Natal, and offers a wide variety of facilities and has links with all 27 other "Newcastles" in the UK, Australia and the USA.
It was originally a stop on the Post Chaise route between the coast and the interior and was known briefly as Viljoensdorp during the Boer War. The idea for the town arose from the enforced encampment on the banks of the swollen Ncandu river by the Surveyor General who designed a plan for a town on the banks of the river in order to pass the time whilst the river was in flood.
On the first weekend of September each year the International Village Festival is held and the town takes on a very cosmopolitan flavour.
Newcastle Publicity Association PO Box 2220, Newcastle, 2940, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa 034 3153308 Fax:034 312 9815
The town's strategic position at the northern gate of Natal ensured that soldiers would always be present. After the defeats at Isandlwana, many of the town's womenfolk were left widowed.
Fort Amiel, close to the town was used as a transit camp, hospital and commissariat store between 1867 - 1902 with a cemetery behind the fort dedicated to those who lost their lives while stationed there. It now houses a cultural history museum. Fort Terror on the Blue Ridge Guest Farm nearby is one of a series of old signalling posts ( 07.30 - 16.00, 03431 29878).
General Buller's HQ is situated in the town in an Edwardian home that was briefly taken over by the Boer forces. The First Boer War battlefields of Schuinshoogte, Majuba and Laing's Nek are close to Newcastle on the N11. Below Majuba is O'Neill's cottage where the peace treaty ending the first Anglo/Boer War was signed.
The Carnegie Art Museum
The Carnegie Art Gallery is built on the old town gallows site and specializes in landscape themes by South African artists. Art and indigenous craft from the northern KZN area is also collected and there are some fine examples of Zulu beadwork and ceramics.
P/Bag X6621, Newcastle, 2490. 03431 27211 21570fx
The Town Hall is an interesting structure with a sandstone hall and stained glass windows. It was built in 1897 to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria and during the second Boer War was piled high with looted furniture about to be destroyed. General Buller arrived in time to save it.
South of Newcastle is the house Hilldrop which was once the home of the author Rider Haggard who based his novel Jess on his time there. One of the displays at Fort Amiel depicts the life of this author. The peace treaty that ended the first Boer War in 1888 was ratified at Hilldrop.
From Newcastle there are tours to experience the vibrant township culture of nearby Madadeni and Osizweni. Trained guides will share their experiences (and a beer) with you in a local shebeen (township pub). Bookings are at Newcastle Publicity Association.
The Association will also arrange tours of the local ISCOR ironworks, pottery and textile factories. Some 20km out of town on the R34 is the Draaihoek Country Farm Stall where you can purchase a variety of farm fare and traditional arts and crafts by local artists.
The town nestles close to the foothills of the Drakensberg and thus the scenery is most picturesque. There are more than a dozen hikes from between a half day and two days in duration with overnight stays in huts or caves.
- The Holkrans Trail is a two day trail through open grassland and river valleys 0343 511600.
- The Ncandu Trail is a two day trail through yellowwood forest and grassland. 03431 77205.
- The Bushmans Kranz Hiking Trail offers swimming in a dam, horse trails and overnight in an old farmhouse 034 3411910.
- The Eikenhof Hiking Trail is a two day trail through spectacular scenery with overnight in chalets 03435 11846.
- Fort Mistake is a day-out trail with at an old British signalling station with canoeing and fishing in a dam 03462 12052.
- The Geelhout (Yellowwood) Trail is located on the Normandien Pass through through riverine vegetation and yellowwood forest 03431 86560.
Amcor Dam has a caravan park, picnic sites, a playground and swimming pool. The Newcastle Publicity Association has more details.
Chelmsford Dam (6000ha).
The dam is noted for its carp fishing but there is also a 1000ha game reserve stocked with highveld game such as wildebeest, rhino, zebra, jackal and springbok. Sailing, powerboating, swimming and skiing are permitted on the dam. The dam is also home to a profusion of waterbirds.
There are eight five bed chalets and two camp sites on the northern shore and four five bed chalets and a camp site on the Southern shore of the dam. All chalets are fully equipped.
Contact Ezemvelo Wildlife or 03431 77205
Ncandu Forest (3000ha)
32kms from Newcastle, the forest is at the edge of the Drakensberg escarpment and comprises steep yellowood gorges and grassland plateaux. There are a number of walking and horse trails to the beautiful waterfalls on the Ncandu river, one trail leading to a hut that may be hired.