About Somerset West
Somerset West is situated in the Helderberg area of the Western Cape province of South Africa. This flower-filled residential town, surrounded by vineyards, orchards and farmlands at the foot of Helderberg mountain, lies only 50 kilometers from Cape Town central. Somerset West is surrounded by an amphitheatre of mountains between the Cape Winelands and False Bay.
Somerset West was originally a cattle post established by Dutch soldiers in 1672. The town developed around the Lourens River and the farm Vergelegen. The farm Vergelegen is now owned by a subsidiary of Anglo American and the farm has been restored to its original magnificence and continue to produce some of South Africa’s best wines. Somerset West was founded in 1822 and was named after Lord Charles Henry Somerset, an English governor of the Cape Colony during the 1800’s. The suffix ‘West’ was added after 1825 to differentiate it from Somerset East. In the 1830’s, Sir Lowry’s Pass was constructed to link Somerset West with outposts further east over the Hottentots-Holland mountains.
In December the street lights of Somerset West’s Main Road are decorated with Christmas lights accompanied with a flea market and a parade. Vergelegen Wine Farm also hosts and annual “Candles by Candlelight” where families are invited to bring a picnic basket, blanket and torch and celebrate the joy of Christmas on the sprawling lawns. Another of Somerset West’s attractions is the Helderberg Nature Reserve, a 363 hectare natural wildlife preserve opened in1964. The reserve contains a variety of smaller animals and outstanding specimens of indigenous flora such as protea and fynbos. There are also picnic areas, hiking trails, a restaurant and gift shop available at the reserve. Somerset West also contains various sporting facilities including several golf courses. Other activities available in the town include Horse Riding, Mountain Bike Trails and much more.
Somerset West lies in close proximity to several beaches bordering the Atlantic Ocean within False Bay. Strand is the nearest beach, lying about 6km from the centre of Somerset West. Strand is a popular beach for families and holidaymakers.
Somerset West has two heritage sites. The first is the old Dutch Reformed church building, which was rebuilt in 1863 and remained in use until 1941. The second is the bridge over the Lourens River, built in 1845 to complete the road from Cape Town to the interior via Sir Lowry’s Pass. Northwest of the town is Paardevlei, a small lake that attracts a variety of aquatic and other birds.