From the outside, the great stone walls seem low and squat, but a sense of proportion returns when you approach the entrance archway, and the arrangement of buildings inside is impressive - although it can get terribly hot in the courtyards in the summer. The Castle of Good Hope was surveyed by Heinrich Lacus and the engineer Peter Dombaer, master mason Douwe Gerbrandtz Steyn and master carpenter Adriaan van Braekel.
The castle was a major feat of engineering for those early soldiers and sailors, as most material had to be brought in from afar. Many of the yellow stones (klompjes) were transported all the way from the Netherlands by ship. The timber came from the woods at Houts Bay, the lime from Robben Island, and yet more stone from quarries on the lower slopes of Table Mountain. The wretched builders were exhausted by the whole business, and mutinined on several occasions. It seems, though, that at one point, even the Governor and his wife joined in, carrying basketloads of soil to the construction site.
The entrance gateway is similar to those seen in Dutch towns, and is modelled on the actual gateway to the city of Dordrecht, to the east of Rotterdam. The route into the fortress twists sharply - a cunning way to prevent the front gates being rushed by a force - and is flanked by whitewashed sentry boxes just big enough to fit a soldier. Above the archway, is a small octagonal bell tower from 1684 holding the oldest bell in South Africa, cast in 1697, which was used to mark the time during the day. The chimes could be heard all over Cape Town, as the cliffs of Table Mountain echoes the sound.
The Castle of Good Hope is arguably the oldest fully intact building in southern Africa, dating from 1666 (the same year as the Great Fire of London) although it wasn?t completed until 1679. It replaced the mud and stockade fort that van Riebeeck had put up some fourteen years earlier nearby. The castle was largely complete, and used, from 1674, and from 1678 it was the seat of "government" of the Cape. Of course, there are many older indigenous structures in southern Africa, but none, apparently, still used. It did make me wonder though if any of the San-Bushmen cave shelters are technically still intact and usable, because some of them date back tens of thousands of years. Anyway, moving swiftly on.
The castle originally stood right on the beach and the main entrance was from the beach. The road running past the castle to the north is called Strand (the Dutch and Afrikaans word for beach), and on occasion high seas breached the front door. After some years, presumably because they were occasionally isolated by storms, the front entrance was made in the western wall, where it remains today. The original plan was on a star-form, a very traditional Dutch style of fortification (incidentally a perfect and almost identical castle can be seen from the air if you are approaching the runway at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport from the north -.just three minutes before landing), but it was originally perfected by the French (seen classically at Lille in northern France), and in particular, Sebastien de Vauban, the 17th Century military engineer and architect.
The Castle of Good Hope was built to replace the Post de Goed Hoop, hastily built by Jan van Riebeeck, on what is now the huge parking lot in front of the City Hall across from the castle. The castle is the permanent home to two major galleries, one of historical paintings and furniture and one of South Africa?s military history. Furthermore, the castle regularly holds temporary exhibitions and events (like Christmas Carols in mid-December). Among the rush of Cape Town?s east end, the Castle of Good Hope is a haven of tranquility. For some quaint reason, this bastion of almost medieval fortification remains a military establishment (actually the head of the military in the Western Cape) and soldiers can be seen relaxing under the trees and in their restaurant underneath the old Governor?s House.
R20 plus R5 for a fold-out guide leaflet. A more substantial historical book can be bought (R80) at the Military Museum shop to the left of the first courtyard. However, the excellent, discreet signboards all around the castle provide adequate information for all but the most hardened of military buffs or students of architecture.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this castle is the lengths with which the authorities have gone to return the castle to its earlier form, even going so far as to change some of the windows on the Governor?s residence because in a previous restoration they were slightly out of proportion. Recently, a stone building on the western wall has been rebuilt and they are recreating a herb garden that originally sat on the outer ramparts.
This old 17th century fort looks a bit like a dump from the outside, but when you walk into the compound there's actually quite a few things worth seeing. Part of it is still in use and we saw armed soldiers marching to and fro. Apart from the charming little museum we found the tea shop very pleasing.
All along the walls of the castle you will find the canons still in their place watching over the adjacent areas
These cells were used for military personell who did not behave. If they drank too much they were locked up, same thing if they had a fight in the local pubs.
A well was made in the castle grounds in order to provide fresh water to the people living there and can still be seen today with its water pump displayed on the opposite wall.
You will find uniforms here from the various times that the castle was occupied and an exhibition from the Boere war.
The fort is still there plus there is a museum and shop here.
I do not know why they did not think to use the mountain to build the fort on instead!
Here is very easy to see this cute and noisy animal. The Chacma Baboon are the only protected population of this animal in Africa. They can be dangerous and there´s a fine if you feed them.
The cape park is a good day trip out of cape town where you can spot animals see the Cape of good hope and take some penguin pics.