The largest town in the Swartland region of the Western Cape, Malmesbury is situated about 65km north of Cape Town. A large agricultural community, Malmesbury is renowned for its grain and wine farming, as well as for its sheep and poultry breeding. The agricultural focus in the area means that there are a number of excellent commercial farms for sale in Malmesbury. There are also a variety of houses and homes for sale in the town itself, with plenty of vacant land and stands to buy.
Malmesbury originally developed around a tepid sulphur spring, with the first farms allocated in 1703. It was first known as “Het Swartland” (Black Land) because of the typical rhinoceros bush that was found in the area, which has a black colour at a certain time of the year. Those who buy property in Malmesbury can take advantage of the rural atmosphere.
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The Swartland Wine Route
Visitors to this unpretentious region will be pleasantly surprised with vistas of golden wheat fields, yellow conola, olive groves and green vineyards. Conveniently situated close to Cape Town, bordered by the West Coast, the Swartland is an ideal destination for anyone who enjoys great food, quality wine and good company.
Malmesbury is the main business centre of the area and home to the Swartland Wine Route office. The wine route shares offices with Malmesbury Tourism, the Cape West Coast / Swartland Tourism Association and the International Desk of the Swartland Municipality. The office is easily accessible and centrally situated on the corner of Church and Voortrekker Street. Visitors are welcome to visit the office for general information about the area and its wine cellars.
The Swartland Wine Route was established in 1986 and stretches from the Berg River in the North to the Paardeberg in the South, encompassing Piketberg, Porterville, Malmesbury and the Riebeek Valley. At present the route boasts 18 members – including co-operatives, estates, private cellars and garagista. Each cellar presents a unique experience. Some boasts beautiful historic homesteads and others brand new modern tasting rooms, while smaller wineries offer intimate wine tasting in rustic cellars or outside amongst the vineyards. Olives is an integral part of the agricultural products of the region and some wineries offer a variety of olive produce for sale
The region has diverse microclimates and soils, all contributing to the uniqueness of the wines on offer along the route. Harsh summer conditions, often followed by a mild winter with the rainfall often lower than expected, is the order of the day. Vines are hardy and although trellising is increasingly being adopted, bush vines are still dominating the scene. The area is predominantly known for its excellent Shiraz, but plantings are dominated by Pinotage and Chenin Blanc cultivars. Producers are also experimenting with scarce cultivars, such as Viognier, Malbec and Grenaché.
A wide range of restaurants and accommodation establishments, catering for a variety of tastes and preferences are available in the Swartland. Having indulged in the fabulous food and wine that is on offer visitors can browse around the art galleries and curio shops. For the more adventurous the Swartland is the perfect destination to explore the outdoors. Visitors can choose from several activities including golf courses, walking trails, 4X4 trails, mountain bike trails, clay pigeon shooting, canoeing and even hang-gliding.
Wine and olive tasting in the Swartland are free of charge, the locals friendly and the wine value for money. A map of the Wine Route can be obtained from the wineries and local tourism offices.
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The Swartland begins some 50 kilometres north of Cape Town and consists of the regions between the towns of Malmesbury in the south, Darling in the west, Piketberg in the north and the Riebeek West and Riebeek Kasteel in the east. Jan van Riebeek called this softly undulating land between mighty mountain ranges "Het Zwarte Land" (the Black Land) because of the endemic Renoster shrubs. After the rains, mainly in winter, they turn black. The wide fertile plain is the bread basket of Cape Town with its golden yellow wheatfields reaching up to the foot of the mountains, interrupted by wine, fruit and vegetable plantations.
Photo: Swartland scenery near Riebeek West.
Viticulture in the Swartland is still comparatively young, but it is grown under dryland conditions, without or with minimal irrigation. As a result, the wines from the Swartland are of an extraordinary quality and very much in demand. On the well sign-posted Swartland Wine Route you can visit the different wine farms and taste their products.
The Riebeek Valley is the centre of wine production. In the beautiful twin hamlets of Riebeek West and Riebeek Kasteel, at the foot of the Kasteelberg, artists and arts & crafts people have settled. The atmosphere is authentically rural. There are scenic hiking and horseriding trails.
A visit to Darling, founded in 1853, is worthwhile. In thís town there are numerous beautiful Victorian houses, the Butter Museum, which takes a look at the history of butter making, and the little theatre of the resident cabaretist Peter Dirk Uys alias Evita Bezuidenhout. During the wildflower season, after the first rainfalls in spring, the town is surrounded by carpets of rich colour.
Von Ellg House
Von Ellg House is a beatiful example of a double story Victorian House. It is situated in Malmesbury, the heart of Swartland.