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The battles fought in the rolling hills and valleys of northern KwaZulu-Natal some 120 years ago changed the course of South African history, and still today, the area now known as ?the Battlefields? seems to echo with the heroic and often tragic deeds of the past. The sites of famous skirmishes that rocked the British, weakened the Boers and broke the mighty Zulu nation continue to draw visitors.

A good place to start and to give some context to your visit of this fascinating and beautiful region of KZN would be to take a guided tour. Other options are to self-drive to each site with a good guidebook and just enjoy the beautiful and often haunting views, or for a wonderfully authentic experience, in some places, you can tour them on horseback. Engaging the services of a qualified tourist guide will bring these sites to life. A great many forts established by the British during the South African wars have disappeared, while others, such as Fort Durnford near Estcourt, are now most interesting and somewhat quirky museums.

Isandlwana and Rorke?s Drift are two of the most famous battlefields in the country, and also perhaps in British history, perhaps because it was here that, in a furious two-hour battle, Zulu forces armed primarily with traditional spears and shields thrashed the mighty British Colonial Empire forces, one of the few times they were ever routed by an indigenous army. Eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded to those who defended Rorke?s Drift.

Another interesting battlefield site is Spioenkop, where three men who would play an important role in world affairs were present. Winston Churchill was there as a war correspondent, Mahatma Gandhi was present as a stretcher bearer, and Louis Botha became the first prime minister of the Union of South Africa. ?Visits to Elandslaagte, the Blood River Monument and Talana Museum near Dundee are also worthwhile.

On an annual basis, numerous ?re-enactments? of some of the famous battles take place. These are great fun affairs with many local people dressing up in bright red, colonial British soldier or traditional Zulu warrior attire. Food, music and other activities often accompany these events.

Not far from the curious town of Babanango is the highland Ntingwe Tea Estate that sells a high quality tea to the famous London Store, Harrods. A tour of the estate takes one through the mountain top tea plantation, the factory, and to meet some of the pickers.

Just as interesting in this area of KwaZulu-Natal, are the excellent game reserves, such as Weenen, Nambiti Private Game Reserve with its luxury lodges to hire, and theSpioenkop Nature Reserve all of which have great game viewing and bird watching experiences.?

A lovely romantic experience is to take an early morning hot-air balloon flight over the region near Vryheid to enjoy a bird?s eye view of some of the battlefields as well as do some game watching.

On the banks of the Thukela River and surrounded by the Drakensberg foothills, Colenso was known as Commando Drift before being renamed in honour of the first Bishop of Natal. John William Colenso was a missionary who translated the New Testament into Zulu...earning the title Sobantu - Father of the People. African life can be observed here in an undisturbed natural state, unspoiled by any form of commercialisation.

A small, picturesque town in the Battlefields area of KwaZulu-Natal, known for its coal.
Dundee & Surrounds
Nestling in a valley of the Biggarsberg mountains, Dundee was originally a farm owned by Peter Smith, who in 1882 named it after his Scottish hometown. Dundee is surrounded by evocatively-titled peaks - Indumeni (where the thunder rolls), Mpati (place of good waters) and Talana (shelf for precious items) rich coal deposits attracted merchants and fortune hunters.

Estcourt & Surrounds
Originally known as Bushman's River on account of its waterside location, thepicturesque town of Estcourt was renamed after the MP for North Wiltshire who sponsored British settlers under the Byrne immigration scheme.

Estcourt is a gateway to the imposing Giant's Castle region of the central Drakensberg range and the KwaZulu-Natal Battlefields.

Named after a valley in Argyleshire by Scottish settlers during the late 1800s, Glencoe has a proud railway history the first train arriving on 4 September 1889.

General French was periodically stationed at Glencoe during the Anglo-Boer War, and Boer President Paul Kruger twice stayed overnight during the Siege of Ladysmith.

The house of Carl Landman - second in command at the Battle of Blood River can - be found on a farm close to Glencoe.

Ladysmith & Surrounds
This town on the banks of the Klip River - proclaimed in 1850 - was named after the Spanish wife of Sir Harry Smith. It became a prosperous staging- post for fortune-hunters en route to the Transvaal gold-fields and diamond discoveries at Kimberley.

Ladysmith made world headlines at the turn of the century when it was besieged for 118 days during the most crucial stage of the Anglo-Boer War. Today a commercial centre for surrounding communities, the town is a natural gateway to the tourist delights of the Central and Northern reaches of the Drakensberg range. Snowcapped peaks during winter form a breathtaking backdrop.

Originally known as Post Halt Two on the journey between Port Natal-Durban and the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (Transvaal), the town was referred to as Viljoensdorp by the Boers during their brief occupation in 1899. At the junction of three provinces, this 'natural' destination and departure point for travellers is now the largest town in northern KwaZulu- Natal...with all the amenities and advantages of city life a mere ten minutes' drive from scenic, pristine mountain countryside.

Newcastle was named after the Earl of Newcastle who was, in 1864, the Colonial Secretary in Queen Victoria's Government. The township was set out by Dr Sutherland who later became the Surveyor General of Natal.

This cosmopolitan character is celebrated annually over the first week in September - with the International Village Festival.

Nestling in a corner of the Balele mountains, the little town of Utrecht is one of the five original Voortrekker settlements established prior to 1850.
Nestling in a corner of the Balele mountains, this Utrecht is one of the five original Voortrekker settlements established prior to 1850.

Utrecht was prominent during the Anglo- Zulu War of 1879, when for several weeks it served as British HQ for both Commander-in-Chief Lord Chelmsford and Colonel Evelyn Woods' famous 'Flying Column'. The house in which Prince Louis Napoleon is said to have visited the daughter of Swart Dirk Uys is today an important tourist attraction.

Utrecht is uniquely situated within a game park - animals roam into town at night! For more information on the KwaZulu-Natal town of Utrecht please refer to the following menu of registered KwaZulu-Natal tourism services.
Weenen was established in 1838 on the banks of the Bushman's River and named 'The Place of Weeping' in memory of Zulu-massacred Voortrekkers. Weenen is today a fascinating mix of history and eco/ a myriad opportunities for daredevil thrill - seekers in this aptly-named Adventure Valley.