Tourism, Accommodation and Historical Attractions in Natal, South Africa
The Natal Battlefields
The Towns of the Natal Battlefields: Dundee.
The Towns of the Natal Battlefields: Glencoe
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Dundee is one of the centres of northern KwaZulu-Natal and started life as a private farm on which British soldiers fighting the Zulu War of 1879 camped. After the soldiers left, the owner of the farm recognized its location and planned a town.
It was named after a town back in his home country by a Scottish coal miner called Peter Smith. The town was proclaimed by Smith and several others, including his son-in law who was reputed to be one of the last men to escape from Isandlwana alive.
Dundee is surrounded by coal mines earning it the title of Coalopolis. Much of the farming activity is centred around dairy farming.
Local farmers have combined to encourage wildlife to return to their farms and to promote tourism in the area by providing hiking trails, accommodation and working farm holidays. The town has a population of some 30,000 and a mild climate with bracing winters and warm summers.
On the 20th October 1899, the first shots of the Boer War were fired at Talana adjacent to the town (Zulu for Little Shelf because of the small, flat top of the hill). It was also the first time that British soldiers wore khaki instead of their usual redcoats. The British were forced to retreat to Ladysmith whereupon the Boers renamed the town 'Meyersdorp' for the seven months of their occupation.
Dundee is central to the battlefields of Rorkes Drift, Isandlwana, Blood River, the Prince Imperial, Fugitives' Drift and Elandslaagte.
Dundee Publicity Association, P/Bag X2024, Dundee 034 212121 2182837fx
The Talana Museum
The Talana museum on the battle site houses memorabilia as well as displays covering the growth of the Dundee area. The museum occupies a 20 acre site and ten different buildings, some dating back to pioneer times. There are also interesting displays from local industry (The Consol Glass Collection, a Chamber of Mines Coal Mine museum and the Corobrick Heritage display), agriculture and domestic life. There are also displays depicting the lives of the early settlers - the Zulus and the Bushmen (San).
A self guided trail is available for the Talana Battlefield and audio cassette tours are provided for the nearby Isandlwana and Rorkes Drift Battlefields. The Talana Trail follows the advance of the British troops up the hill to the two British forts on the top. Allow two hours for the return trip.
Delicious food is available from the museum's Miner's Rest Restaurant and curios that complement both the museum and ethnic art from the Talana Craft Market.
The museum will also on request readily organize the services of an experienced guide who will bring this historic area alive with fascinating tales. Set aside at least a couple of hours to fully absorb Talana Museum and its attractions.
On the other side of Talana Hill is Thornley Farm which was used by the Boer forces as HQ, hospital and mortuary during the battle of Talana. The buildings are on a private farm but visitors are most welcome.
Nearby is the Mahyeno Mission and Smith's Cottage, both of which were used as hospitals during the battle of Talana, the latter also now containing the Barn Shop.
The Talana Museum also plays host to a biannual cultural event - Cultural Festival where there is a display of music, dance, arts and crafts.
Talana Museum P/Bag X2024, Dundee, 3000 08.00 - 16.00 Sats. 10.00 - 16.00 034 212654 212376fx
The MOTH Museum
In the town, the MOTH (Memorable Order of Tin Hats) Museum is home to a unique collection of memorabilia dating from the Anglo/Zulu War of 1879 to the present. The caretaker lives in the adjacent cottage.
Dundee is the most convenient town to use as a base for exploring the battlefields of Rorke's Drift, Isandlwana, the site of the death of the Prince Imperial and Fugitives' Drift. On the first Sunday of September each year, there is an annual walk that follows the route taken by the survivors of the battle.
Fugitive's Drift Lodge nearby is situated on a 2000ha Heritage Park and offers twin bedded rooms with views. There is a large library and a lounge packed with relics of the Anglo/Zulu War.
Several hiking trails wind around the surrounding attractive countryside:
- The Mpati Hiking Trial comprises three sections of one or two days duration and starts from the Dundee Caravan Park with an overnight stop at the top of Mpati mountain(0341) 22121 ext. 247.
- The Spring Marsh Trail follows open grassland (0341) 22968.
- The Cannibal Trail takes ramblers to cannibal caves through countryside with prolific wildlife and historic sites. Start at the Penny Farthing Guest Farm.034 6421925.
- The Black Eagle Trail encompasses two picturesque valleys with abundant reedbuck, impala and Kudu. Start at the Penny Farthing Guest Farm. The Isandlwana Trail is a one day trail following the route taken by survivors of Isandlwana 0341 22121.
- The Oribi and Monks Trails start from Balbrogie Guest Farm with an overnight stop.
- The Isibindi Eco Reserve is close to Rorke's Drift. Traditional Zulu dancing and meals can be arranged as well as white water rafting. 03425 620.
- The Consol Glass Factory in the town is the oldest glass factory in South Africa. Tours can be arranged on request (0341 21151).
- The Izemfene Trail is a two day trail through historical sites and Voortrekker farms with an overnight in a mountain hut 012 3463550.
Near Dundee is the Valley of the Cannibals - so named for the persecuted tribes that took refuge in the area and resorted to cannibalism to survive (Paul Garner: guide 0341 21931). There are also San rock painting sites and iron age smelting sites nearby.
On the banks of the Tom Worthington Dam is the Farmers' Brewery where traditional German beers are brewed. Each October, there is a traditional Oktoberfest. On the first Saturday in June, a fair is held at nearby Elandskraal where traditional German food and entertainment is enjoyed.
Self Guided Battlefields Tours from Dundee:Tour 1 - The Red SoldierIsandlwana, Fugitives Drift, Rorkes Drift, Helpmekaar
Tour 2 - Route du Prince Imperial
The Prince Imperial, the only son and heir of Napoleon III joined Lord Chelmsford's staff as an extra Aide de Camp after the defeat at Isandlwana. He was an excellent scout and was given the responsibility of scouting for an overnight camp on the march to Ulundi. His small group was ambushed and he was killed. He fought bravely and died with 17 assegai stab wounds on June 1st 1879.
Tour 3 - Remember Majuba!
Fort Amiel Museum, Schuinshoogte, O'Neil's Cottage, Majuba, Laing's Nek, Volksrust.
Tour 4 -The First Battles 1899
Talana, Elandslaagte, Ladysmith
Tour 5 - Siege of Ladysmith
Ladysmith, Willowgrange, Estcourt, Chieveley, Colenso, Ladysmith, Spioenkop
Tour 6 - Battles of 1879
Vryheid, Hlobane, Kambula, Ntombe.
Tour 7 - In Voortrekker Footsteps
Estcourt, Saailager, Blaauwkrantz, Wasbank, Blood River, Dingaanstat.