Deeply involved in the Anglo-Boer War, Newcastle today is the largest town in northern KwaZulu Natal and shares its name with a further 27 sister Newcastles worldwide. It is awash with history and some fairly original ways to spend one’s time.
Newcastle was originally known as Post Halt Two - a stop on the journey from Port Natal-Durban and the then Transvaal. Whilst today’s major road, the N3, between the two provinces no longer runs through Newcastle, the town is worth a visit for the battle sites just outside of town, which include Laing’s Nek, Majuba (which also offers braai and picnic facilities) and Schuinshoogte.
There are a number of monuments and memorials in Newcastle, including Hilldrop House, once the dwelling place of author Rider Haggard whose books included King Solomon’s Mines, She and Jess - said to be based on his time at Hilldrop House; and O’Neil’s Cottage, used as a makeshift hospital during the war, including a number of grave sites.
Chelmsford Nature Reserve, with a wonderful variety of fishing, wild game and birding opportunities, as well as water sports on the dam, is just outside Newcastle. The Carnegie Art Gallery in town displays some wonderful examples of African Art, and you can arrange a tour through your choice of chemical rubber plant, pottery or textile factory with the Newcastle Publicity Association.
There is a Hindu Temple on Kirkland Street in Newcastle, with a beautifully shaped dome, and Snowy’s on the Newcastle / Volksrust Road sells wonderful home bakes and is renowned for its biltong