Monday, March 7, 2011

Humble and Historic – Tulbagh Awaits

Tulbagh. It’s a place that’s just out of reach but one that seems to keep its hold on you long after you’ve left. Beyond the grasp of tourism, one and a half hours from Cape Town, it’s an historic haven off the beaten wine lands tracks in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. A rare treasure, its honest authenticity has survived its modern day need to play on the world stage as a premiere wine making region.

Church Street is perhaps the most famous example of Tulbagh’s past – building after building it is a national monument of Cape Dutch architecture, painstakingly restored after a devastating earthquake destroyed the original structures back in the 1940’s. Perhaps it was only a latent aftershock from the “big one” that must have formed Tulbagh into such a dramatic valley so many millennia ago.

No longer private homes, these days the national monuments of Church Street have mostly been converted into an array of B&B’s, curios and cafés. With all the modern excitement it’s difficult to imagine the truth of the past, when Tulbagh’s first citizens bustled along this lane conducting the business of the day. But for the observative, a raw reminder of Tulbagh’s founding souls can be found at the Church itself, just at the edge of town. Walk through the gates and the respect of generations will envelop you as your eyes settle on one ancient tombstone after another. The names, the dates – the only thing these souls have left on God’s earth – now crumbling into the distance, about to join the bones of their patrons in surrender to the elements. Nothing lasts forever – and to me it feels like an honour to hold testament, if only for a moment.

Just a few minutes out of town, the road meanders into the countryside past picturesque wine estates. Drostdy-Hof Manor stands watch like old faithful, flanked by others who hold the valley’s humility steadfast whilst making an impression on the palettes of unsuspecting wine lovers everywhere: the fourth-generation Twee Jonge Gezellen Estate “The House of Krone”, Saronsberg Cellar, and the historic Oude Compagnies Post. It’s easy to get swept up in the romance of the place – and the chapel at Montpellier stands like a beacon to such notions, its small stature belying its position amongst the vines on a hillside of monumental beauty.

It seems to me that the people who visit Tulbagh have something in common with the people that live there – maybe we’re drawn by the call of the mountain range, the quiet that moves on the breeze, or even the past that seems to whisper from every rock, nook and cranny. Something draws us all there – something that makes the jagged mountain peaks that curve overhead in the shape of a horseshoe landscape feel like home’s embrace.


  1. Very interesting! We've been there, actually enjoyed lunch at the Paddagang Restaurant.

  2. Really liked your newest blog. Is there anywhere else I can go to see your work

  3. Thanks very much! I do some writing for the Good Food & Wine Show, here in South Africa. Check out and their blog at