Equidistant between Cradock and Graaff-Reinet at the foot of the Bosberg Mountains, lies charming Somerset East. The town is noted for its beautiful oak trees, whitewashed historic buildings (many of which are national monuments), mountain streams and waterfalls. It started life as a military farm after the “trekboer” (migrant farmer) Willem Prinsloo established some successful plantations near Bruintjieshoogte. This led to Governor Lord Charles Somerset’s decision that feed for the horses of the eastern frontier cavalry should be produced here. The town, named after him, was established in 1825. Angora-goat farming, citrus and dairy farming are the most important economic activities of the area.
Adventure And Sport
Fishing, horse-riding, hunting, walks: Somerset East is well known for its great outdoor opportunities that include fishing, horse riding, hunting safaris and nature walks through the forests on the slopes of the nearby Bosberg Mountain.
Auret Mountain Drive: Take this scenic, 10-km drive past the golf course and Besterhoek and along the Bosberg summit to fully appreciate the beauty of the area.
Bosberg/Besterhoek Hiking Trail: Choose either the 4-km or 7-km circular Bosberg Hiking Trail or the two-day, 15-km Bosberg Mountain Trail through “fynbos” vegetation, trout-filled streams and areas where buck and zebra can be seen. There is also an easy, 1,5 km Besterhoek Trail to choose from.
Golf: Somerset East is renowned for its excellent 18-hole golf course.
Art And Crafts
Walter Battiss Art Gallery: The gallery houses the country’s largest collection of work by this acclaimed artist.
Museum shop: Do not leave town before you have purchased a jar of the Museum’s home-made rose petal jam or apple mint jelly. Various other art and crafts are for sale at this venue and at the Walter Battiss Art Gallery.
History And Architecture
Andries Vosloo Monument: The fountain of the Andries Vosloo Monument, at the entrance to the Town Hall, commemorates Andries Vosloo, one-time Administrator of the Cape, who grew up in the town.
Comley Memorial: Comley Memorial was erected in honour of Commander William Comley who fought in the Frontier Wars of the 1870s.
Delville Wood Monument: The monument was erected to honour those citizens who died fighting in the two World Wars.
Historical buildings: Paulet, Beaufort and Charles streets have many old, historical buildings. Noteworthy buildings include: Hope Church, the Anglican and Dutch Reformed Churches, the Walter Battiss Art Gallery, the old Mill House, believed to have been part of the first homestead in town, and the Langenhoven Library. The beautiful school buildings of Gill College High School include two national monuments.
Old Pastorie (Rectory): The rectory is surrounded by a beautiful garden.
Peace Cross: Representatives of all the inhabitants of the town erected this cross in 1993, along the scenic Auret Drive to the summit of Bosberg Mountain.
Somerset East Museum: This Georgian-styled building, whose beauty is enhanced by some 700 rosebushes and an herb garden, has been declared a national monument. It gives visitors a glimpse of life in a nineteenth-century parsonage and features late Victorian household items and furniture, a collection of old wedding gowns, historical photographs and documents and handmade dolls. It also includes a blacksmith’s workshop and the town’s oldest existing graveyard.
Fauna And Flora
Bosberg Nature Reserve: The 2 050-ha, thickly-wooded Bosberg Nature Reserve, with its prolific bird life and magnificent lookout points, overlooks Somerset East. It is situated 1 615 m above sea level and is overgrown with fynbos and the rare Dohne Sourveld vegetation. The two dams in the reserve, the Besterhoek and Bosberg Dams, are well stocked with trout. Take one of the two Bosberg Hiking Trails or the shorter Bestershoek Trail to see kudu, mountain zebra, blesbok, steenbok and duiker.
Glen Avon Waterfall: Although prior permission is needed to visit this waterfall and the old Mill nearby, this spectacular 85-m-high waterfall is worth seeing.