The road between Cape Town, Oudtshoorn, the Garden Route and the Eastern Cape, offers travellers one of the most memorable journeys through the Klein Karoo. Whilst on this journey, through spectacular scenery and mountain passes and including some of the most famous wineries along the way, one comes across Route 62 and the town of Montagu. It has a unique rural atmosphere and is one of the best preserved, late Victorian, agricultural villages in the Cape.
The History of Montagu
Montagu was founded in 1851 on the farm Uitvlucht.
The village was named after John Montagu, then Colonial Secretary of the Cape, who traveled here to "baptize" the town at a ceremony held on the erf situated on the corner of Church and Long streets. Most of the erven were sold to colonists from the "Wagenmakersvallei" (Wagon Builders Valley) near Wellington from where building materials had to be lugged by ox wagon over Bain's Kloof to Montagu.
Most of our Cape Dutch thatched roof houses date from the years 1853 – 1870. It is generally accepted the Joubert House situated in Long Street, built in 1853, is the oldest house in Montagu. In 1983 it was restored to its former glory and it depicts the lifestyle of the lat 19th century.
Montagu, once known as "Agter Cogman's Kloof", lies between the Keisie and Kingna rivers, which join at the western extremity of the town. In the 19th century the only exit to the West was through Cogmanskloof and during the passage through the Kloof the river had to be forded eight times. Strong teams of horses or oxen were required for the trip as carts and wagons were very often stranded in the Kloof.
A mail coach transported the post between Ashton and Montagu and its arrival on special days was always a great event. The old coach house is still in existence and is used as a dwelling house. After the tunnel, constructed by Thomas Bain, was completed in 1877, a decent road was built through Cogmanskloof and other roads soon followed. In 1931 the road through the Kloof was tarred, streets and the provision of electricity in the village soon followed.
The first minister of the Dutch Reformed Church in Montagu Dr Servaas Hofmeyr , who was ordained two years previously: his salary was £300 per annum.
Education was not neglected. And Mr Bernardus Keet was appointed as the first teacher in 1855, followed by Mr George Euvrard. Dr Joseph Castles was the first resident medical doctor and with Dr Hofmeyr and Mr Euvrard made the triumvirate, much revered and respected in the area.
Mr WA Joubert was the first mayor of the newly declared municipality in1895, and within a few years water was laid to every house in town after having formerly been carried from The Mill.
It is practically impossible to ascertain the exact date of the discovery of Montagu's hot mineral springs, but the manner of their discovery is as follows: In the very early days trekkers often followed the course of rivers, and, according to our archives, the wagon on one such nameless pioneer became stuck in the rocks of the river bed. In his efforts to free the wheels, the trekker's hand was so badly injured that his party was obliged to pitch camp in the vicinity of the present day Montagu. They drank of the clear, strange flavoured water and found it wonderfully refreshing and traced its course though the Kloof where they discovered the hot springs. The injured hand, bathed frequently in the warm waters, healed miraculously. News of the healing water was soon spread by word of mouth and as a result the sick and ailing visited the hot springs, and sometimes from as far as 50 miles (±80 kilometers), which was a considerable distance to travel in those days.
The now-populated Montagu baths were originally part of the farm "Uitvlucht" but were sold for the first time in 1857, and have since been in the hands of various hands and bodies. At one time the property belonged to the old NCCR (New Cape Central Railways), also to Mr Jannie Marais, the great benefactor of Stellenbosch University. Other owners were a Mr Fernandes (from Madeira) who gave the whole complex and exotic and literally colorful character; Mr Hugh Tevis, Australian millionaire, intended building a large imposing spa but war time restrictions (1939 – 1945) dictated otherwise and he settled for building only "Little Sanctuary" as a holiday home. A Montagu hotelier, Mr Aaron Idelson followed, and the Montagu Municipality then took over the caravan park and public swimming pool were subsequently constructed.
On the 25th of January 1981, disaster struck Montagu in the form of a flood which swept away the entire Baths complex, stripped the Kloof of all vegetation (excepting one tree) and altered the course of the Keisie River to such and extent that the beautiful walking trail through the Kloof was completely obliterated and Lover's Walk destroyed. However, the Municipality investigated all venues until a developer was found who gave Montagu Springs its present new look, and a local hotelier had already commenced reconstruction of the Hotel.
Lover's Walk has been painstakingly built up and spacious lawns now fringe the walk that, like before passes the beautiful cliffs, leads past Eyssen House (Dir Ou Meul) and through the Baths Kloof to the hot springs. Many trees have been planted, and the enchanting beauty of the most charming walk can once again be enjoyed.
Interesting activities in and around Montagu
- Montagu Market: Every Saturday between 8am and 1pm, all the local townspeople gather to sell their homemade goods. This is a great opportunity to see Village life in its truest form. Situated in Euvrard Park, Bath Street, opposite the Tourism Bureau.
- Awe-inspiring rock formations
- Art galleries
- Hiking trails
- Trout fishing
- Bird sanctuaries
- Rock climbing
- Mountain biking trails
- Wild flower Nature Garden
- Montagu Springs and Avalon Springs: Avalon Springs boasts the one of the most famous sites for hot mineral pools in the Western Cape, along with a health spa and restaurant. Montagu springs, opposite Avalon, offers various other outdoor activities, such as cycling and the use of their imported pedal cars. Being only 45 minutes from African Game Lodge this is a lovely place to visit for an hour or two.
- Montagu Tractor trips from Protea farm: As a well known tourism attraction since its beginning in 1985, the trailer/tractor trip will take you to the summit of the mountain range, where Muskadel will be served before descending back for a farm style potjiekos lunch. The duration is approximately 3 hours. For further information please contact: +27 (023) 614 2471
- Wine cellars (Bloupunt, Uitvlucht, Rietrivier, Montagu Co-op, Drie Berge and Klein Karoo Winery). Montagu is famous for its Muscadel fortified wines.
- Rock art
- Montagu Golf Course: Only 1 kilometre outside of the city is a nine-hold golf estate, open to the public but reservation. African Game Lodge will gladly assist guests with bookings.
- Montagu Museums: Montagu is steeped in history and has been around since 1841.
After a jam-packed day of activities, there's nothing better than putting your feet up in luxury African Game Lodge Accommodation. Make African Game Lodge your base whilst exploring Montagu, the gateway to the Karoo.
Being one of African Game Lodge's favourite restaurants in Montagu. This renovated home is perfectly suited to fine dining, wherby they blend a mix of continental cuisine whilst still using the local produce, such as Karoo Lamb and springbok to name a few.
Contact name: Adele Joubert
Address: 47 Bath Street
Contact number: 023 614 1805
Open for lunch and dinner from Monday – Saturday.
Sunday lunches are served during the summer season. Lunch is served in a beautifully shaded courtyard under 100 year old Saffron Pear Trees.
Contact: +27 (023) 614-2278
Where to stay and What to do :
African Game Lodge is a private nature reserve outside Montagu in South Africa. We offer affordable accommodation on a self-catering, B&B or Full Board basis , and outdoor nature activities such as game viewing, hiking, cycling, mountain biking, biking, trail running and birding. As an added attraction, we have a cheetah awareness program and many species of game and wildlife on our game reserve. We are situated along Route 62 in the Cape Winelands, Western Cape.