Bergville, Northern Drakensberg


Bergville the gateway town to the Northern Drakensberg and the entrance from the north to the Cathedral Peak area of the Central Drakensberg. Furthermore, the ‘capital’ of the local municipality for the Central and Local Drakensberg, or the Okhahlamba Local Municipality. Located in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Bergville, situated on Route R74, also, the recommended scenic alternative to the N3 Toll Road into the province of KwaZulu-Natal. This route takes one through the Oliviershoek Pass, with stunning views of the Sterkfontein Dam and the Northern Drakensberg. Access Bergville from Durban by turning off the N3 after Estcourt, joining the R74 and travelling through Winterton and on to this town.

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History of Bergville – some fascinating personalities and a timeline

M. Scott, friend and Parks Board Official: Royal Natal
M. Scott, friend and Parks Board Official: Royal Natal (Source: Daniel Scott)

The San lived in this area at least three thousand years before the present. Therefore, this area has many examples of their magnificent frescos in rock overhangs and caves.

The Nguni arrived around 1000 years before the present. The amaNgwane being the most well known. They settled in the ruggedly beautiful Mnweni Valley. Then came the first Voortrekkers under the leadership of Piet Retief in 1837.

The missionaries followed. Firstly, Rev C.W. Posselt and Rev W. Guldenphenning of the Berlin missionary society. They founded the Emmaus mission station some 18 kilometres from Bergville in 1847. Rev. C. Zunckel took over from them. To this day, his family is still famous in the area. Otto Zunckel, for example, established The Royal Natal Hotel in the Royal Natal Park.

Another interesting personality of this time was Samuel Sharratt. He established many fine farms and built many beautiful farm structures. Some of them are still found at the site of the Sandford Park Lodge. He also built the first jail and courthouse in Bergville.

The first administrator of law in the area was Captain Allison. He arrived in 1870. He was succeeded by Mr Chadwick in 1872. The next magistrate in Bergville was Mr Giles he served from 1890 to 1905.

The second Anglo-Boer War or South African War was an important time for Bergville. Some of the most important battles to relieve Ladysmith were fought in this area. Good examples being the battle of Spioenkop, Vaalkraans and Hartshill.

In 1900 there was a fear that the Boers would once again invade the colony of Natal. As a result, a series of blockhouses were built in and around Bergville. In 1902, the British started to dismantle the blockhouses. The magistrate of the time requested that they keep the blockhouse in the vicinity of the courthouse intact. This became the police station of Bergville.

History: Bergville
On the way to Royal Natal. (Source: Daniel Scott)

One of the most momentous occasions of the mid-1900s was the visit of the British Royal Family (King George VI, his wife Queen Elizabeth and his two daughters, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret). The royal family visited the Bergville area in 1947 out of respect for the South African effort in the Second World War. They stayed at the famous Royal Natal Hotel in the Drakensberg. The Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa, Jan Smuts accompanied them.

A special reception was organised for the Royal Family in Bergville.

Visit to Bergville: Queen Elizabeth and Princess Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth and Princess Elizabeth (Source: Daniel Scott)

The following is a list of some of the sporting heroes or Springboks of Bergville:

  • Firstly, Martin Henderson – Polo;
  • Secondly, Margaret Winter – Hockey;
  • Also, Chris Neysschen – Rugby;
  • Fourthly, Moira Zunckel – Hockey; and
  • Additionally Henry Honiball – Rugby.
The first plane to land in Bergville
The first plane to land in Bergville (Source: Daniel Scott)

Special thanks to Daniel Scott (Berg Adventures) and the notes of John Fyvie

A commercial centre

Bergville is renowned as a vital service centre for a vibrant agricultural region. Also, it provides essential retail outlets and a significant shopping mall for tourists.

Additionally, other essential services such as doctors, dentists, pharmacists, vets and car repair outlets exist in this town.

Furthermore, Bergville has a major multi-purpose conference and sports centre.

Attractions in close vicinity

Firstly, the Mnweni Cultural Centre and Valley. The Mnweni Valley is one of the most ruggedly beautiful areas in the Drakensberg. It is a traditional tribal area. This community has established a cultural centre where you can overnight and hire a guide to take you on the many hikes that exist in this area such as the Mnweni, pools.

Bergville: Mnweni Pools
The Mnweni Pools (Photo: James Seymour)

Also, Geluksberg. Please see the dedicated section to this hamlet.

Additionally, The Amphitheatre/ Royal Natal. The Amphitheatre is perhaps the most famous and photographed feature of the Drakensberg. The Royal Natal Park and surrounding resorts are very popular with tourists. There is a range of extraordinary hikes in this area. Perhaps, the most well-known being the Thukela Gorge Hike, walked by Queen Elizabeth, when she was a princess. This trail takes you virtually to the base of the second-highest waterfall in the world – The Thukela Falls.

Bergville: The Amphitheatre
The Amphitheatre (Photo: James Seymour

Cathedral Peak. This area is one of the most well-known regions of the Drakensberg. Renowned for four peaks, namely Cathedral Peak, the Inner and Outer Horns and the Bell. Two significant resorts exist in this area, namely, the Cathedral Peak Hotel and Didima.

Bergville. Cathedral Peak Hotel.
Cathedral Peak Hotel (Source: Cathedral Peak)

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