Prince Albert, on the north side of the Swartberg Mountains, was established in 1842 and named after the then newly-born son of Queen Victoria. The well-preserved old buildings contribute greatly to the charming old-world atmosphere. The town is the perfect base from which to discover the wonders of the Swartberg area. The area includes Gamkaskloof (also known as The Hell) and Meiringspoort.
The village of Gamkaskloof got its name from the Khoisan word for lion (gamka), which is also the name of the river that runs through the valley. In this valley near the town of Prince Albert, a small community lived in isolation for more than 100 years. Access was very difficult and the community could only be reached by foot or horseback until a road was carved through the mountains in 1962. Some say the daunting name of “The Hell” was given to the village by a local stock inspector who once described the journey to the village as going “to hell and back”. Needless to say, the name stuck.
Adventure And Sport
Hiking, mountain-biking: The region has much to offer for the outdoor enthusiast. Hiking and mountain-biking are but some of the ways in which the lovely countryside can be explored.
Archaeology And Palaeontology
Dinosaur Footprints: Fossilised dinosaur footprints are found near town.
Art And Crafts
Prince Albert Gallery: Local artists exhibit their work at the gallery.
Prince Albert Tannery (Looiery): The tannery produces and sells some exquisitely crafted leather articles, such as sheepskin slippers, fur hats and much more.
Wolskuur Spinners: The talented crafters at this centre produce artistic hand-woven carpets, jerseys made of 100 per cent wool, as well as other products.
Delicacies: No visit to this area would be complete without having sampled some of the locally freshly grown and produced culinary delights. Karoo lamb, olives, olive oil and cheese are some of the local delicacies.
Farm Visits: Various farms in the district offer tours and visitors can purchase some of the fresh farm products.
Fruit: The area around Prince Albert is famous for its sun-ripened fresh fruit. This fruit is sold fresh or dried at several venues.
Olive Festival: The Olive Festival is held here every April and visitors are entertained by a street market, delicious food and music.
Witblits: Similar to American “moonshine”, this potent drink made from fermented fruit is sold at several places in town. The method for producing it has followed the same principles for many years, although modern methods are considered to be more hygienic.
Entertainment And Shopping
Town Observatory: The observatory provides facilities for amateur astronomers.
Walks and Stories: Various routes have been laid out to allow visitors to meet some of the residents who made Prince Albert what it is today. The routes pass well-preserved homes and buildings built in a specific style of architecture. The Ghost Walk is particularly popular with those who pride themselves on their strong nerves. This walk takes them to people and places that tell of those who refused to leave the town, although they have been dead for centuries.
Fauna And Flora
Swartberg Pass: This pass was built by Andrew Geddes Bain with convict labour from 1881 to 1888 and is considered to be one of the most scenic passes in the country. It offers spectacular views of the countryside and leaves visitors in awe of nature, as well as of man’s determination to overcome obstacles. The pass was declared a national monument in 1988 on the centenary of its opening.
History And Architecture
Alberts Mill: The mill was built in 1850 and was declared a national monument in 1963.
Dennehof: This is the oldest farmhouse in the area and has been declared a national monument.
Dutch Reformed Church: The church was completed in 1865 and has a very striking appearance. It served as a fort during the Anglo-Boer War when British soldiers used it as a lookout point.
Fransie Pienaar Museum: The house in which the museum is situated forms part of the history of the town and also houses exhibitions on the history. The house was built in 1906 and served as a hospital from 1952 to 1978. The exhibitions include a collection of antiques and artefacts that were collected by Fransie Pienaar.
Swartberg Hotel: This magnificent Victorian-style hotel was built in 1868 and still has some antique furniture. It is also a national monument.
Vintage Car Museum: The museum displays various cars and motorcycles. The first vehicle to arrive in town, a 1923 Model T Ford can be seen here.