Somerset West is perfectly situated on the slopes of the Helderberg in the Hottentots Holland area and only a 30 minute drive from Cape Town along the N2. The town of Somerset West is a popular residential area for people working in Cape Town as it continues to maintain a village atmosphere while thriving as the commercial and residential capital of the Helderberg Basin.
The town is only 20 km’s from Stellenbosch and is only a 35 minute drive to Paarl, Franschoek and Wellington therefore providing a central base for tourists visiting the Winelands Region. Somerset West is itself home to the very popular Vergelegen Wine Farm, with its elegant 18th Century Cape Dutch Style Farmhouse, where it continues to produce some of the country’s finest wines.
The entire region is known for its scenic beauty, wine and fruit and its flora and fauna. One of the first things that will catch your eye is the wonderful view over False Bay.
There are plenty of sporting activities in the area, with three golf courses, a pistol shooting range, hiking trails and a Country Club offering various sporting activities. The town is close to several beautiful beaches that border the Atlantic Ocean, the closest being the beach at the Strand only 6 km’s away.
The town offers a host of accommodation from hotels and luxury Guest Lodges to affordable self-catering and camping, but it is the friendly hospitality of the town that keeps its’ visitors coming back for another stay.
The area receives most of its rainfall during winter with June being the wettest month and January the driest.
Summer months, November to March will have average temperatures of between 14˚C and 28˚C.
Winter months, May to August will have average temperatures of between 5˚C and 21˚C.
There are daily domestic and international flights into Cape Town International Airport. Car rental companies are located at the Airport.
December – Helderberg Festival of Lights: Main Road of Somerset West is lit up with Christmas Lights and resident businesses put up craft stalls for visitors.
The region was first visited by Europeans in 1657. They encountered a small Hottentot clan, who grazed their livestock in the basin. The natives so praised their homeland to the pioneer Europeans that the visitors, half jocularly, half nostalgically for their own homeland, named the area the Tottentots-Holland. The mountain range still bears this name although the Hottentots have long vanished from the scene.
Beautiful farms were created in the basin. Parelvallei ('pear valley') and Vergelegen ('far away') were the homes of two of the sons of Governor Simon van der Stel. One of the sons, Wilhelm, succeeded his father as governor but devoted so much time to his farm and the making of his private fortune that he was accused of neglecting his duties. The Van der Stel brothers were ordered away from the Cape in disgrace and their farms were broken up. A community of farmers replaced the Van der Stel’s and the basin is today covered with vineyards, orchards, timber plantations, vegetable fields and meadows.
In 1817 a church was built and the town established. In 1820 the town was named in honour of the British governor, Lord Charles Somerset. With another town carrying the same name in the Eastern Cape, the name Somerset West came into use.
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