Location: South Africa » Kwazulu Natal » Newcastle

in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

Newcastle is a town in north-west KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, on the Ncandu River. It is moderately industrial. The town started off life as Post Halt Two on the journey between Durban (then Port Natal and the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek and Johannesburg.The town was strategically placed in 1854 by the Surveyor General of the Natal Colony, Dr PC Sutherland. The town was later known as the Waterfall River Township because of the Ncandu River. In 1864, the town of Newcastle was founded on the site, becoming the fourth town to be established in Natal after Durban, Weenen and Pietermaritzburg. Newcastle was named after the British Colonial Secretary, the Duke of Newcastle. In 1870 the Fort Amiel was built to ward off the Zulus. To commemorate Queen Victoria's Silver (60th) Jubilee a sandstone town hall was built in 1897, but was only completed two years later. The town was used as a depot by the British during both the First and Second Boer War. Newcastle functioned as a major transport junction and popular stopover for wagons and post chaises during the second half of the 1800s. In 1890, the first train arrived in Newcastle. In 1891, Newcastle was declared a borough. The discovery of coal brought a new era of prosperity and several ambitious building projects were planned.

The upper part of the Drakensberg mountain range curls along the West side of the town. A large proportion of the population lives in Madadeni Township in the south-western part. The N11 is the principal road running through it.


Newcastle is the seat of the local municipality by the same name as well as being the seat to the Amajuba District Municipality.

Not only is Newcastle named after the mother of all Newcastles, Newcastle – Upon –Tyne, in England, but it has links with 27 sister Newcastles in countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom, and the USA. The cosmopolitan character of Newcastle is celebrated over the first week of September each year when the International Village Festival is held. The town was briefly known as Viljoensdorp during the Boer occupation in 1889, but reverted back to it’s original name some months later. Situated a few kilometers south of the borders of the Free State and Mpumalanga (formerly Transvaal), Newcastle has always formed a natural junction for travelers and it was from this corner of Natal that General Colley led the British forces to their final defeat at the Battle of Majuba Hill in 1881. The largest town in Northern Kwazulu Natal, Newcastle has cinemas, a thriving commercial centre, an art gallery and township tours, as well as a wide range of accommodation. Yet an easy ten minute drive out of town in any direction takes the visitor into scenic mountain countryside.


How to get there

Durban 350 km, Johannesburg 300 km, Pretoria 358 km, Volksrust 53 km, Ladysmith 100 km, Dundee 66 km

Altitude – 1210 m above sea level

Average Temperatures – 25°c

Average Rainfall – 600 – 700 mm per annum

Banks – Absa, Fnb (ATM), Standard (ATM)

Rivers – Buffalo, Dorpspruit, Pivaan, Sandspruit


Buller’s Headquarters

43 Ayliff Street, Newcastle. Once used by General Buller as his headquarters and now the business premises of the grandson of James Bruce, who built this quaint Victorian home in 1891. The Bruce home was commandeered for the use of Boer officers during the Anglo Boer War in 1899. The letters ZAR (Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek) are carved deeply into one of the window sills.

Carnegie Art Gallery

A national monument built in 1915 on the old town gallows site. The Carnegie collecting theme in landscapes by South African artists.

First War of Independence (1880 – 1881)

‘To the Boers watching from the heights it must have been an astonishing sight. Five companies of Redcoats advancing parallel to one another, each in it’s column of fours, their white helmets and scarlet coats brilliant against the green of the plateau, and in their midst, as had always been the custom of British infantry going into action, the Colours unfurled – two large, heavy standards nearly six feet square, the Union flag for the Queen’s Colour and the regimental flag, each carried by it’s ensign’. (The Anglo Boer Wars – Michael Barthorp). When the peaceful attempts by the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek (Transvaal) failed to gain independence following annexation of their territory by the British in 1877, the First War of Independence was declared. British forces were marched from Durban to Newcastle close to the Transvaal border, where they clashed at Laing’s Nek, Schuinshoogte and Majuba. In this last engagement the British commander, General Colley, was fatally wounded. The armistice was signed in March 1881 at O’Neill’s Cottage at the base of Majuba (‘the mountain of doves’) and the peace treaty at Hilldrop House in Newcastle. The subsequent Pretoria convention, signed in October the same year, was never wholly acceptable to the Boers and contained the seed of discontent, that led to the Anglo Boer War in 1899.

Fort Amiel

This attractive historical complex overlooking the town, houses a cultural / history museum. When the British expected trouble from the Zulus in 1876, Major Charles Frederik Amiel was sent with 2000 men from the 8th Regiment to build this fort at Newcastle (one of a series throughout Natal). Fort Amiel served as a transit camp hospital during the Anglo Boer War. You can proceed from the fort across the veld to the cemetery, which dates back to the First World War of Independence. This is the burial place of the British colonial soldiers who died while stationed at Fort Amiel. There is also a monument to the officers and men of the Welsh 41st Regiment.

Fort Terror

The remains of this old signaling post can be seen at Blue Ridge Guest Farm just outside Newcastle on the Ladysmith Road.

Hilldrop House

Once the home of author Rider Haggard, whose novel Jess, published in 1887, was based on his experiences at Hilldrop. His best known novel was King Solomon’s Mines. The peace treaty signed at O’Neill’s Cottage at the end of the First War of Independence was ratified at Hilldrop House. Now a National Monument, Hilldrop House is a private residence and arrangements to visit should be made through the Newcastle Publicity Association.

Kestrels and Quaffers

Victoria Street

Housed in an historic turn of the century Manor House, the Adams fireplaces, original sash windows and Oregon pine floors have been retained.

Majuba and Laing’s Nek Battlefields, O’Neill’s Cottage

The northern triangle of Natal, bordering on the Republics of the Free State and Transvaal, was an especially vulnerable region during the Boer struggle for independence from Britian in the 1880’s. decisive battles were fought in the vicinity of Newcastle and Volksrust at Laing’s Nek and Schuinshoogte (Ingogo), followed by the Boer victory at the Battle of Majuba, where the British commander, General Colley, was fatally wounded. Take the N11 between Newcastle and Volksrust.

Schuinshoogte Battlefield and the Valley Inn

Take the N11 to Volksrust and turn left at Ingogo Station. The British suffered severe casualties during this penultimate battle of the First War of Independence. The rough stone fortification was built by the British in 1881, but the fortification near the Boer cemetery dates back to about May 1880 when the British had a large camp in the area. You pass the Valley Inn en route to the battlefield. This historic hotel was built in the 1880’s and was known to the British soldiers who stayed there as ‘Fermistones’, named after an officer of the Scots Greys. Ghandi passed the hotel on his peaceful protest march to the Transvaal.

St Dominic’s Pavillion

A National Monument, this elegant building dating from 1916 was designed as a skating rink and used for social events. Situated at St Dominic’s Academy, previously a Catholic convent.

The Armoury

It is believed that the Newcastle Mounted Rifles built this arsenal in the 1870’s. The architectural design and gable are unusual. The Armoury is used as a Moth Shellhole.

Town Hall

A National Monument built in 1897 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The beautiful fully restored sandstone hall with it’s stained glass windows and attractive clock tower is still in use as a concert venue and houses the offices of the Newcastle Publicity Association.


Cultural Highlights - Traditional Zulu Arts & Crafts Village. Annual Spring Festival

Draaiwater Country Farm Stall

26 km out of town on the Memel Road (R34), it is well worth a visit. Fresh produce, ice cold ginger beer, ethnic handwork, crafts and work of art, all produced locally, are on sale. Look out for the colourful tractor marking the entrance.

Factory Tours

Tours of a chemical rubber plant, as well as pottery and textile manufactures, can be arranged through the Newcastle Publicity Association.

Hindu Temple

It has a beautifully shaped shell, with the dome reputed to be the largest on a Hindu temple in the southern hemisphere.



A bird sanctuary with horse riding, canoeing and bird watching on the marsh

Hiking Trails and Outdoor Adventure

Scenic well developed hiking trails in the foothills of the Drakensberg offer a variety of birdlife, small game, waterfalls, indigenous forests, stream and rivers. Short day hikes and two day hikes are offered. Overnight accommodation is generally in mountain huts, barns, thatched cottages or sheltered caves. Bushmanskrans Trail, Children’s Farm Holidays, Eikehof, Fort Mistake Trail, Geelhout Trail, Holkrans Trail, Hunter’s Valley Game Ranch, Majuba Mountain Battlefield Trail (Half Day), Ncandu Trail (KZNNCS).

Accommodation in and around Newcastle

Draaiwater Lodge    accommodation in Newcastle
Self catering, 3 star. 1 by 10 sleeper, 2 by 6 sleepers. Units situated on the Ngogo river with trout fishing. Property consists of 3 farms, plenty of walks, quad bikes, game and bird watching. Also 4*4 drives if required. We are situa... More

Grey Goose Farm Lodge    accommodation in Newcastle
Looking for accommodation, wedding or conference facilities in Newcastle, the Grey Goose Farm Lodge, in the Drakensberg foothills, overlooking the Nguduma Vlei with views of the Drakensberg mountains is the right place for you. Situated midway betwee... More

Haggards Hilldrop B&B    accommodation in Newcastle
With unbelievably warm hospitality, inviting interiors and magnificent garden surroundings from every room, Haggards Hilldrop B&B is every traveller’s home away from home.Haggards Hilldrop B&B, a Four Star Graded Establishment, provides... More

Hilldrop Bed & Breakfast    accommodation in Newcastle
Established in 1993, Hilldrop bed and breakfast has 6 well appointed garden cottages on a magnificent equestrian property situated 4km from the center of Newcastle.Each room is individually theme decorated with TV, fan, heater and tea / coffee making... More

The Farmhouse Lodge    accommodation in Newcastle
The Farmhouse Lodge is situated 3 minutes from the centre of the town of Newcastle in magnificent parklike surroundings. We are an ideal stopover between Kruger Park and the KwaZulu-Natal Coast. German spoken. A total of 28 guests can be accommodated... More

Larksend Farm    accommodation in Newcastle
Accommodation consists of a cozy thatched den set in a spacious garden. It is comfortable, homely, has a TV, video and 2 bathrooms. It opens onto a large verandah where home-cooked meals are often served.THE DENThis is the accommodation used by T... More

Nan's Country House    accommodation in Newcastle
Nan's Country House is a newly renovated farm house with 12 beds in 5 bedrooms, a fully equiped kitchen and stoep with a beautifull view of the northern Drakensberg. ... More

Mountain View    accommodation in Newcastle
Sue and Charles invite you to come and stay with them at Mountain View. An old style working guest farm set in beautiful tranquil surroundings only 6km from the heart of Newcastle. Fully upgraded and renovated you can... More

Kwa-Ntulindawo Guesthouse - Newcastle - Coronoation St    accommodation in Newcastle
Welcome Home to a tranquil, elegant guesthouses in Newcastle, Northern KwaZulu Natal AccommodationTEN cosy en-suite rooms in tranquil surroundings and safe environment, elegantly furnished. Each room with DSTV, wall mounted heaters and be... More

Kwa-Ntulindawo Guesthouse - Newcastle - John Parks St    accommodation in Newcastle
Welcome to a tranquil, elegant guesthouse in the heart of Vryheid, a small town situated in Northern KwaZulu Natal just south of the Fricona valley.   Safe parking and 24 hour security will put your mind at ease.We offer bed and breakfast, ho... More

Directory of accommodation in Newcastle