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Best known for its prestigious school, Michaelhouse, Balgowan is a farming area located in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands.
Balgowan lies at the centre of routes 3 and 4 of the Midlands Meander, a trendy arts and crafts route that includes wine and cheese farms, and fabulous restaurants. The Balgowan area offers a range of excellent accommodation, wine farms and craftwork from weavers, potters and brewers.
It was in Balgowan that the first brown trout eggs were delivered from Scotland, hatched and released into the Mooi River where today trout fishing has become one of the most popular activities with visitors to the region.
Balgowan is a place to linger and appreciate the evergreen countryside with only the bleating of goats and the rustling of trees to interrupt the silence.
Top 6 reasons to visit Balgowan
1. Travel Route 3 of the Midlands Meander to stop in at Shuttleworth Weaving for pashminas and other finely woven products, and at Dargle Valley Pottery for award-winning and unique stoneware and porcelain pottery. End the day with a meal at the Piggly Wiggly Centre which also has a number of crafters on the premises.
2. Arrange to hire a rod before visiting St Ives Lodge and Restaurant to bag a few rainbow trout on the 3 scenic dams at the venue. There is small fee payable for visiting anglers. The lodge hires out bicycles for the rest of the family to explore the area.
3. The Michaelhouse Nature Reserve was only recently proclaimed to protect a section of indigenous forest, rock pools, a deep gorge and natural grassland in the mist belt, an area regularly watered by misty mornings. The Oribi antelope has been introduced and Nguni cattle roam the reserve.
4. Spend the day wine tasting at the two wine producers of the region; sample the chardonnay at Highgate Wine Estate Cellar and the historic cabernet sauvignon-shiraz blend at Abingdon Wine Estate. For unique and unusual wines, find them at the Wine Cellar and Mouse Trap Deli in Rosetta.
5. Visit the Nelson Mandela Capture Site and Museum to find out more of Nelson Mandela’s capture in 1962 and the trial that followed. The museum houses apartheid publications and other memorabilia related to the incident. A magnificent sculpture of Mandela’s face, made from 50 steel columns, is a great photo opportunity.
6. Pop in at Swissland Cheese to taste the various styles of cheese made on the farm. There is a relaxing bistro and large grassed area where live acts regularly entertain the crowds. The processing plant can be visited.
The nearest airport to Balgowan is King Shaka International Airport approximately 155km away. An alternate air route is via Newcastle, located 225km from Balgowan. Shuttle service companies operate at the airports, however, to best enjoy Balgowan and surrounds, hiring a car is the practical choice. To hire a vehicle, simply order one online.
Did you know?
British Settlers who purchased the original farm in the 1850s called it Balgowan after Thomas Graham’s farm of the same name in Scotland. Graham was a British army office with the title of Lord Lynedoch.
Michaelhouse School was established in 1896 and is in the top 3 best schools in South Africa. The school has produced some of the greatest minds and well known alumni include George Ellis, a scientist who co-wrote a book with Stephen Hawking, and Robert Holmes à Court, Australia’s first billionaire.