I took my family on the hop on hop off red bus tour of Cape Town and one of the main stops was the Castle Of Good Hope. I actually live just down the street from the Castle, a star or pentagonal shaped fort built in the 17th century here in Cape Town, South Africa. Its position, although unremarkable today, indicates the original position of the shoreline, which, thanks to land reclamation, has been extensively changed. It’s strange to think that the original entrance to the fort had to be moved due to the waves that sometimes pounded against its doors!
The main entrance to the Castle still bears many reminders of the nearly one and a half centuries of Dutch presence in the Cape. Sections of the moat, which previously formed part of the defence system of the Castle, were rebuilt in 1992 and it adds to the authentic castle atmosphere.
Built by Jan van Riebeeck and the Dutch East India Company, the building was completed in 1679. The Castle of Good Hope is now the oldest surviving colonial building in South Africa. The building’s 18th-century décor has been restored and it now functions as a popular museum.
At 11am we joined the first free Castle tour of the day. Not only did we get to see the castle but we also learnt a lot about its history and what went on here years ago.
During the tour the guide took us for a walk atop the battlement. The Castle was planned from a central point with five bastions, named after the main titles of Willem, the Prince of Orange. The Western bastion was named Leerdam, followed in clockwise order by Buuren, Catzenellenbogen, Nassau and Oranje. From the battlement we had a phenomenal 360 degree view over Table Mountain, Devil’s Peak, Lion’s Head, the towers of the city centre and the other districts in the east.
The tour lasted just about 30 minutes leading us through all the main features of the Castle.
The Dolphin Pool, today is a recreation after the original had been demolished by the British.
The tour took us into places the public wouldn’t ordinarily be allowed to visit including the old prison cells and the gunpowder store room underneath one of the bastions. We even got to go into the torture chamber where confessions would be drawn from men whether they were innocent or guilty.
The fortress was once the centre of civilian, political and military life. Today the Castle of Good Hope is seat of the military in the Cape and hosts three museums, including: Castle Military Museum, Iziko Hope Gallery and William Fehr Collection, in which rooms are historically decorated with furniture, paintings and accessories of the 17th to 19th century.
The fortress housed a church, bakery, various workshops, living quarters, shops, and cells, among other facilities. They say the yellow paint on the walls was originally chosen because it lessened the effect of heat and the sun. It didnt do much to cool us down on this hot and sunny day, except when you were inside the cool building.
After the tour there was enough time to stroll around, take photos and to visit one of the museums before we continued our red bus tour.
I must admit that the tour should be a priority for anyone looking for a fun and well informed venture around the castle. The Castle of Good Hope is not just for history lovers or military fans but also for families, tourists and locals a perfect excursion, a Cape Town must!