You know I’m a sucker for English castles, Welsh castle ruins, French chateaux, Austrian forts and even American reconstructed castles, right? It’s the history buff in me as well as the die hard romantic. So when I heard there was a castle in Cape Town, we had to go visit.
The Castle was built by the Dutch East India Company as a rest stop in their travels in the late 17th century.
Why would a company build a castle? Who does that?? Well to give you an idea of the wealth and importance of the Dutch East India Company, this graphic shows that the company was worth $7.9 trillion in 1637 (adjusted for inflation). In their day, the Dutch East India Company was worth 20 of the world’s biggest companies today (including Amazon, Microsoft and Apple).
So money wasn’t an issue and the Castle of Good Hope was built well. It is the oldest surviving colonial building in South Africa. When the castle was first built, the Castle went right to the edge of the water as this diorama shows.
The moat for the castle is still intact.
Once you got past the moat, you were met with these nasty looking doors with nails.
The Dutch, however, were experts into building on water. They reclaimed the land in front the castle from the sea and now the Castle is quite far in the centre of town. Possibly the Dutch were just suckers for punishment because I don’t understand why they didn’t just build their settlement on the land side because there was an entire continent back there.
Perhaps they were just bored of the sea after having sailed all around Africa and wanted some extra time on land. This map shows the route the early explorers took to reach the Cape of Good Hope before they ventured further onwards to India.
The castle is shaped like a star for ease of defense in the old days. Nowadays, its fabulous for children who like to explore!
From the ramparts of the castle, there are fabulous views of Cape Town and Table Mountain.
The Castle was the centre of the old Dutch and English settlement. As such, it housed the governor and his family. The governor’s house is very nice and they even had their own swimming pool. Well, the Dutch had a swimming pool but the ever-practical English covered the pool up to use as a parade ground. The original pool has now been restored.
On the other side of the social ladder were the prisoners who were brought to the Castle to be interrogated. They were tortured until they confessed to their sins. Under Dutch law, people couldn’t be sentenced until they confessed. Checking out this nasty hook and the viewing window above it, I believe confessions did come about fairly readily. Post-confession, prisoners were transferred to another garrison or the prison at Robben Island. We were told no one made it more than 24 hours in the torture chamber.
Today the castle is the seat of the military in the Cape area as well as being used as a military museum.
The Castle of Good Hope is open 7 days a week except for Christmas and New Year’s Day. There are guided tours in English, except on Sundays. Admission is ZAR 30 for adults and ZAR 15 for children up to the age of 16 and under 5’s are free.