Britstown, Northern Cape

transkaroo lodge
All roads lead to the Transkaroo Lodge in Britstown.

You wouldn’t think that a Northern Cape place like Britstown once used to breed those clompy Clydesdale horses you normally associate with damp British weather and English country markets.

But back in 1885 a group calling themselves the Smartt Syndicate set up shop in these parts, constructed a couple of dams and planted lucerne which they fed to their herds of karakul sheep and Clydesdales.

These days, much of the action happens around the Transkaroo Country Lodge in the middle of town. From here, you can organise some of the finest natural experiences in the Karoo: hiking trails on local farms which expose you to stunning views and landscapes.

Britstown is named after one Hans Brits, a local resident who used to travel with explorer David Livingstone. Brits was a smart guy who realised that the recent diamond boom in the Kimberley area would bring thousands of fortune-hunters streaming into the Northern Cape.

So he set up a town on his farm, which lay smack dab in the middle of the Diamond Way (the route between Cape Town and Kimberley) and it became a way-station providing fodder, food, drink and occasional musical merriment for trans-Karoo travellers with dollar signs in their eyes.

And when gold was discovered up in the Witwatersrand where Johannesburg now stands, Britstown became an even more sought-after stopping point. A lot of beers were served in Britstown during the boom years before the Anglo-Boer War.

But the Great Trans-Karoo Railway Line was built, and the diggers took their travelling ease on this famous train instead. And Britstown became what it is today: a quiet little settlement in the Karoo…


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