Richard O’Neill, the owner of the farm Tweefontein (the son of John O’Neill, the owner of the farm at Majuba, at which the Peace Treaty ending the Anglo Transvaal War of 1880 to 1881 had been signed), on which the town was established in 1890, called it after Belfast in Ireland, the ancestral home of the O’Neills. Belfast lies at an altitude of over 2 000 m, the highest point on the railway line between the Witwatersrand and the coast and is considered to be one of the coldest towns in the country. The town’s high position, rich soil and cool climate make it an ideal sheep and dairy-farming centre. Belfast is also renowned for its trout and tulips and the annual Trout and Tulip Festival, held here every September, is enthusiastically supported by busloads of visitors. The finest black granite in South Africa is quarried in the vicinity of the town and iron and chrome are also mined here. Many local inhabitants call the town “Siya Thuthuka” (“We Grow”).
Adventure And Sport
Hiking: There are two, two-day hiking trails in the area. The Bospoort Trail takes you through lush indigenous forests and the Rapid Waterfalls Trail meanders through ravines, gullies and rapids ending at a waterfall, on the farm Langkloof.
Horse Trails: Many opportunities for horse-riding exist in the area, especially to and from some of the trout-fishing and other holiday resorts and lodges.
Trout-fishing: Belfast is a truly magnificent trout-fishing destination and has a wide choice of well-stocked dams and streams. Trout rods can be hired from specialist shops and lodges and flies are sold in the many shops catering for the trout and fly-fishing fraternity.
Mountain-biking: Mountain-biking is a popular pastime in this area and bikes can be rented. Some trout lodges supply visitors with mountain bikes as part of their services.
Fauna And Flora
Lakenvlei: The beautiful Lakenvlei wetland area surrounded by lush forests is a natural heritage site. The vlei with its dense reed beds lies some 10 km outside Belfast. The nearby hills and forests are home to a wide variety of birds as well as small mammals such as the Cape clawless otter, caracal and serval. Horse-riding, hiking, mountain-biking and trout-fishing are some of the leisurely activities available to visitors.
Scenic route: Take Road R540 towards Lydenburg, passing and stopping over at the trout-fishing village of Dullstroom. Alternatively; take National Road N4 through Machadodorp,
Waterval Boven and Montrose to Nelspruit. Allow enough time to enable you to turn right at Ngodwanaand and explore the picturesque village of Kaapschehoop, 32 km from Nelspruit.
Tulip Nursery: The enormous Tulip Nursery exports tulips to many different countries around the globe; in fact, they claim to be the biggest exporter of bulbs in the Southern Hemisphere. Visitors stream to the nursery in September, when the vast fields of tulips start blooming. Aerial flips over the farm/nursery allow visitors a better view of this magnificent sight.
History And Architecture
Battle of Berg-en-Dal: The last pitched battle of the Anglo-Boer War took place at Berg-en-Dal near Belfast, in 1900. About 20 000 British troops were resisted by a heavily outnumbered Boer force under the command of the famous Boer General, Louis Botha. However, after a three-hour artillery bombardment the Boers were finally overrun. The Berg-en-Dal Monument commemorates this historic battle.
Historic Buildings: The Dutch Reformed Church, Halfway House and Police Office, Lord Roberts’ house and Richard O’Neill’s farmhouse are all well worth a visit.
Mushroom farming: The Belfast area is also renowned for the mushrooms that are grown, dried and packed here before being exported.