Author: Clifford Roberts ; Photographer: Johan Viljoen (unless otherwise mentioned)
Planning a break to the Swartland? We’ve put together a handful of reasons to give Malmesbury a second look.
The town, just 70km north of Cape Town, is commonly a halfway to somewhere else. Perhaps a fuel-stop or just a quick leg-stretch. Indeed, Malmesbury’s central location in the Swartland has made it convenient as a regional administrative centre. It has been a thoroughfare on the main route to the hinterland for centuries – since even before rhino and Cape Buffalo roamed these plains.
The situation has meant its well-preserved history and architecture is often missed by the hurried traveller. In spite of this, visitor experiences have developed to such an extent that Malmesbury these days can easily provide for a worthwhile and family-friendly breakaway that caters for a variety of interests from wine to skydiving, MTB to fresh farm produce.
Here is a list of a few highlights.
While the Swartland itself is one of the country’s most exciting and diverse wine regions, there are two premier options – one big, one small and both located closest to town.
- Swartland Winery is a large producer with a history going back seven decades. Back then, the globe was still trying to recover from the devastation of the World War. In Malmesbury, a small group of farmers met in the local movie house to plan a way forward. The result was what has emerged today as a regional powerhouse. Today, Swartland Winery produces some two million bottles of wine a year from grapes supplied by producers across an area of 3 600ha. While currently closed due to Covid regulations, it is generally open Monday to Saturday. For more information, visit www.swartlandwinery.co.za
- Hofstraat Wynkelder is a garagiste operation that was officially registered in 2002. Its name hails from its address before owner Wim Smit moved it to the Myrtledene smallholding just outside town. The winery is the home of Renosterbos Wines as well as Café Myrtledene, which is owned and run by Wim’s brother, Lawrence. To book, phone 060 329 1668.
2. Architecture & Heritage
A hot water spring was one of the reasons people congregated for centuries in the area now known as Malmesbury. The town was proclaimed in 1827 and is named after the then Cape Governor, Sir Lowry Cole’s father-in-law, the first Earl of Malmesbury in England. Official municipal status was granted 33 years later.
Many buildings from this era still survive in the town and are part of a mapped heritage route.
As broad perspective, Malmesbury was established as a church town – developments characterised by a congregational meeting place. This dramatic building of the Dutch Reformed Church remains as a visual centre of the town. Another landmark is the silo complex, which has its roots in the establishment of a farmer co-operative in the early 20th century, and the production of grain in the Swartland on an industrial scale.
These days, the town’s hot water spring is given prominence by the name of a popular shopping centre – Die Bron (The Source), where it is located.
For lovers of the great outdoors, Malmesbury has a selection on offer.
- Birding – The diversity of species particular to the region led to the creation of the Swartland Birding Route, which begins some 50km north of Cape Town and incorporates areas across the region from coastal plains to wheat fields, vineyards to mountains. For more information about the route as well as birder-friendly maps and accommodation, visit https://www.swartlandtourism.co.za/birding-route
- Cycling and MTB – Malmesbury has several routes currently under development. It is recommended that visitors contact the local club, which hosts weekly rides and can provide directions too. Visit http://www.malmesburyfietsryklub.co.za/
- Skydiving – Mother City Skydiving is located at Diepkloof Airfield, just off the N7 highway, 14km north of town. It is operational and has discounts available. Visit www.mothercityskydiving.co.za.
- Golf – Malmesbury Golf Club was established in 1960 and may be contacted on 022 487 1289. There’s a course at Mount Royal, a residential estate on the outskirts of town. For information, call 022 482 8811.
- Explore nature – One of the latest additions to protected conservation areas is the 64ha Driehoekpad Municipal Renosterveld Reserve, situated on the corner of Loedolff and Barlinka Streets. It is especially popular with runners and walkers as well as nature-lovers.
4. Hospitality & Shopping
Malmesbury has its share of festivals although Covid has put most on hold. The KykNet Outdoor Expo that usually takes place at Môreson Farm in February has provisionally been postponed to April. Nonetheless, there remain plenty of opportunities to shop and enjoy Swartland hospitality.
- Nuweplaas Farmstall is a roadside gift shop and restaurant located on the R46, at the turnoff to Riebeeksrivier. It is especially popular with families for its large children’s play area.
- The Langs-die-bos market was established in 2015 and takes place every Saturday in the Voortrekker Hall. After a year-end hiatus, it returned in early January. On sale are crafts, refreshments and produce. There’s also entertainment for the children and live music.
- Huiswinkels is an online store, but recently made the move to a physical coffee shop and gift shop, located on Biccard Street. The focus is on handmade items.
- Cherry Lane Coffee Shop has converted its gift shop into a deli and is now a retailer of fresh produce too. The popular store is located at 67 Hugenote Street.
- For something out of the ordinary, make an appointment to visit Growing Paper. The enterprise, located on a nearby farm, produces hand-made, recycled, plantable and biodegradable paper products that grow into herbs, vegetables or flowers. Make contact via www.growingpaper.co.za.