- Free State
Kestell lies almost exactly halfway between Harrismith and Bethlehem within the foothills of the mountains of the Free State. It is a very small farming town, but boasts an interesting history worth taking a peek into.
Kestell may not be a popular tourist spot but it sure is an ideal destination for those wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. The Maluti and Rooiberg mountains are perfect for hiking and mountain biking and there is an abundance of bird life allows avid bird lovers hours of uninterrupted birdwatching.
The sandstone found in the area was used to construct most of the historical buildings, including the beautiful Dutch Reformed Church, that still stand today in the little town. The Basotho Village also close to Kestell also invites visitors to get a glimpse into the local culture.
Less than an hour away, perfect for day trips, lies the very popular town of Clarens which offers plenty of attractions including arts and crafts, quaint restaurants and coffee shops and Bethlehem, also an hour away, has a beautiful golf course for the golf enthusiasts!
Kestell offers a variety of accommodation including Guest Houses, B&B’s, Backpackers and camping facilities and a lovely, comfy and quaint country Hotel, the Kestell Hotel.
Things to do and see
- Kestell NG Church
- Basotho Cultural Village, Clarens
- Art & Wine Gallery on Main, Carens
- Bezuidenhout’s Pass, near Harrismith
- 4X4 Trails
- Tepelkop Hiking Trail, near Bethlehem
- Bethlehem Golf Course
Kestell receives approximately 693 mm of rain annually with most of its annual rainfall during Summer.
Summer months, November to March will have average temperatures of between 10˚C and 27˚C.
Winter months, May to August will have average temperatures of between -1˚C and 19˚C.
There are daily flights into O R Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, approximately 300 Km away via the N3 and into Bram Fischer Airport in Bloemfontein, approximately 299 Km’s away via the N5 and N1. Car hire facilities are available at the Airport.
In 1834 the emigrant Boers began their first plans to leave the Cape Colony. The first Voortrekkers traveled through what we today call the Free State and headed across the Vaal River. Another group of Voortrekkers set off for the northern Free State and in 1837 Piet Retief and Gert Maritz trekked eastwards.
Retief's route passed near to the present-day main road linking Bethlehem, Kestell and the district that is now known as Harrismith, following the Sandspruit. On the Farm Blydskap near a spring there is a rock with the letters P.R., V.K., 1837 believed to be presumed carved out by Piet Retief and standing for his name, Vooretrekker-kommandant, 1837.
Discussions about proclaiming a town halfway between Bethlehem and Harrismith had started in 1899 at a meeting held on the farm Mooiplaas but had been postponed during the war. After the war local farmers met again on the farm Tweefontein, and again in 1904 on the farm Helena when they decided to push ahead with the plan.
But as is often the case they could not reach agreement as to where exactly the town should be, but eventually they reached agreement on the farm Mooifontein, owned by the Bezuidenhout family. The town was officially founded in 1905 and it was Adriaan Bezuidenhout's wife, Sannie, that suggested the town be named after Rev. J D Kestell, the minister of the N G Congregation at Harrismith.
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