Road Tripping South Africa

Anglo-Boer War Blockhouses – What to visit the Easter break

There is now a wonderful book to explore the various old blockhouse left behind after the Anglo-Boer War. Whether you want to drive there, pass by en-route to family or friend or hike into the mountains – there is blockhouse somewhere near most of you! The Anglo-Boer War Blockhouse – A Field Guide is a companion guide to the full story of the war’s blockhousing activities contained in Anglo-Boer War Blockhouses – An Engineer’s Perspective, both by a local author Simon Green. Both available from our shop – buy them for your travels this Easter or future road trips.

Staying in Gauteng?

A brilliant example in on the A59 heading south just by the Engen garage, park there and see Witkop Blockhouse a fine example of 120 year old construction. Further a field drive into Magaliesberg to see Barton’s Folly on the Barton Trout and Nature Retreat, a fine example of what looks like a small English castle. Read in the book why this is such a silly site for a fort, and why it became a ‘folly. For the more adventurous hikers, then it’s off to Heidelberg to see a trio of blockhouses forming a large site called Fort Whatman. High in the Nature Reserve is overlooks the town and well worth the one hour hike there.

Magaliesberg and the Northwest Province

Magaliesberg and the Northwest Province had a line of blockhouses running from Pretoria to Rustenburg. Sadly not many remain other than those in the nek over the range. Commando Nek near Hartbeespoort Dam has three blockhouse ruins on a path to the top on the hill – well worth the one hour hike for the view at least. On a clear day you can see for miles. Similarly, Breedtsnek and Olifants nek both have great examples and highlight the size of blockhouses and the sheer amount of stone and effort required to build over 9,000 of them during 18 months of the Guerrilla Phase. These hilltop blockhouse sites are well worth a trip to then maybe pop into ‘Harties’ or the Kedar Heritage Lodge, near Rustenberg that has plenty of Anglo-Boer War museum pieces to see and provides an excellent lunch!

Eastern Cape

In the Eastern Cape there are many excellent stone blockhouse survivors, why not start in Aliwal North which has three in various states of preservation. The one has a local cemetery, and the town also includes memorials to black and white concentration camps. Perhaps it’s time to dust off the walking boots and hire a battlefield guide for a trip to the Battle of Stormberg. Find out who got lost and how this was part of the British ‘Black Week’ of losses. Stormberg also boasts the only blockhouse you can stay in overnight. Its’ basic but find out what it was like to be a ‘Tommy on the blockhouse line’. More extreme hiking can be done to the hills west of Port Elizabeth, where the story continues in a series of small forts up in the remote hills built to protect the town’s water supply.

Free State

The Free State has some great opportunities to see blockhouses from the relocated one at The Museum of the Boer Republics, in Bloemfontein. You can see it in the Museum grounds or visit the three placed around Harrismith to protect the town garrisoned by the British. Find out who was bored there and left their name chiselled into the blockhouse stone. You can also visit some great replica blockhouses, on the N1 near Springfontein or at the Aanleg Guest Farm near Frankfort, on in the grounds of the church in Fouriesburg. Most were built for the war’s centenary and details of how to find them are in the guidebook. The Free State has something for everyone – somewhere hidden away!

Kwa-Zulu Natal

Sadly Kwa-Zulu Natal is not so blessed with blockhouses sites as there is only one remaining in the SAPS compound at Bergville. This half underground wood and zinc blockhouses in now a MOTHS Shellhole and worth of a visit if you can track down the contact! Details in the Field Guide or via the Police Station. The Shellhole is a fascinating visit.


Limpopo is not blessed with very many surviving blockhouses but has two sites of incredible historical value and shows how sites can be preserved over time. In Makhado you will find the unique Fort Hendrina, built like a Lego kit out of steel plates this fort was used in the first Anglo-Boer War and had some very infamous and bloody occupants! In Bela-Bela there is the mint condition example of a lovely square sandstone blockhouse located in the grounds of the Government Vehicle Testing Centre. It is worth a visit, but only during normal business hours during the week.


In Mpumalanga you will find six very different blockhouses sites, start in Barberton as this old wood and zinc blockhouse may not be there much longer as it struggles against the elements and vandalization. Located in town it is part of a great heritage walking trail, and Barberton is rich in golden history. If you’re going to Dullstroom, there is a tiny fort overlooking a small British graveyard close to down northwards, and much further in the country you’ll find Fort Opperman and relocated blockhouses at the Roodedraai Veld school both on private land.

Northern Cape

The Northern Cape boasts 15 sites to visit, and you’ll have to drive or make a day trip for most of these, but no need for a 4×4! The finest examples are at Modder River, where previously the Battle of Modder River was fought, and at Prieska, where these is magnificent example of a very odd looking blockhouse made from Tiger’s Eye Stone. Not to be out done – Noupoort has an old windmill which was converted to a blockhouse – or was it? Find out the most probable story in the Field Guide. Other fantastic examples you can drive to are at Danielskuil, Merriman, Brakpoort Station, and Orange River Station. The guide will always let you know what else it worthy of a visit in these areas, and often there is plenty to do and great hospitality to be had along the way.

Western Cape

Last but not least the Western Cape has the most sites you can visit, with over 20 very different blockhouses to see it provides visitors with the best opportunity for ‘blockhousing’ but be prepared to drive!. Most were built to protect the railway taking the British troops and supplies north to fight the in the war. During the war the Boer Commandos came south to attack these supply lines. Around Paarl there is a loop of 6 of the best preserved Elliot Wood Pattern blockhouses, all guarding railway bridges, and so well built never saw any Boer attacks. Further into the Karoo, everyone has driven past the blockhouse near Laingsburg, over the Geelbeck River on the N1, but most likely not driven to Ketting Station or to the blockhouses, called the Twin Towers guarding the Dwyka River, mentioned by Rudyard Kipling in his poem ‘Bridge Guard in the Karoo’. Watch out you’ll need a 4×4 here or re-trace your steps in the dusty Karoo – or you’ll fall victim as the author did! Other sites in the mountains further north require lots of investment in time and energy and are well off the beaten track, only for the most serious hikers at sites such as Aties Fort, Attakwaskloof and Cloete’s Pass.

The Field Guide is a one-of-a-kind book designed to provide information and to promote adventure and exploration, sometimes in new places, and often well off the beaten track. Have fun and be safe and make sure to read the basic safety rules for visiting remote sites.

Happy hunting – or ‘Blockhousing’ as we say.