Situated in the scenic panorama of the Eastern Free State, along with the Highlands Route, Ficksburg nestles between the foot of the Imperani Mountain and the banks of the Caledon River, the border with Lesotho. Magnificent views of the majestic Maluti Mountains form a backdrop which changes with the seasons, from the purple haze of summer to the snow-clad slopes of winter.
Ficksburg was founded in 1883 and named after General Jan Fick, Commander-General of the old Orange Free State Republic. General Fick’s responsibility was to protect the border between the then Basotholand and the Orange Free State. The government encouraged settlers by offering them land, horses, guns and ammunition in return for settling along the border of the new territory. This discouraged the Basotho from crossing the border, burning farms and stealing cattle.
Today Ficksburg is known as the gateway to Lesotho and the Katse Dam and boasts a large cosmopolitan population. Ficksburg’s economy is based chiefly on mixed agriculture, concentrating mainly on asparagus, cherries and deciduous fruit. Other crops are farmed on a smaller scale. At present, there is renewed attention being paid to apples, with more farmers than ever planting apple trees.
The district is renowned for the breathtaking sandstone formations of the mountains here and many of the older buildings in and around the town were built of sandstone. Interestingly, the Union Buildings in Pretoria are built from sandstone quarried in the surrounding area.
Ficksburg boasts probably the prettiest town square in the Free State. Three sandstone buildings, all superb examples of sandstone architecture — the Town Hall, the Old Magistrates’ Court and the Old Post Office — are situated on the square. All of the buildings are national monuments.
Ficksburg is the Cherry Capital of the world, you can’t visit Ficksburg without going to the Ionia Cherry Farm and tasting the famous Ionia Cherry Liqueur. The highlight of the year is the world-class Cherry Festival, which takes place each November.
Ben Nevis is not only the second oldest cherry farm in South Africa but, in 1996, became the only farm in the area with its own licensed cellar. While some aficionados may have already sampled these unique alcoholic cherry beverages at food markets and cheese and wine festivals in other parts of the country, a visit to this farm is a must for most Ficksburg festival-goers.
Top quality cherries and novel cherry products are synonymous with the farm Constantia and a guided tour of the farm is a must for visitors to the Cherry Festival. During your visit, you can stroll around the cherry orchards and see how the cherries are sorted in the packing shed.
Other Ficksburg attractions are:
• The Gumtree – SA’s tallest sandstone building. Gumtree, a small settlement just outside Ficksburg, has the tallest sandstone structure in the world — an old mill which is sadly no longer in use. Although the number of craftsmen who are able to work in sandstone is dwindling rapidly, there remain a few people who still practise this unique craft. The Cherry Festival with which Ficksburg has become synonymous is the oldest crop festival in South Africa and is held annually during the third week in November.
• Organic industries at Green Goose Organics and Ember Down. The Green Goose offers a unique experience for anyone interested in organic produce and home-grown products ranging from exceptional cheeses to a beautiful selection of down duvets. Some 15 km outside Ficksburg on the easily accessible farm Uitkyk, you will be met by the friendly Sorour family who is renowned for their visionary organic farming methods as well as the superb products on offer under the brand name The Green Goose.
• Meqheleng Township in Ficksburg, where many Basotho from Lesotho come to shop.
• The Mc Kinley Chocolate Factory; Chocoholics — and anyone else who enjoys chocolates — will be forgiven for feeling as if they have died and gone to chocolate heaven when they visit the home factory where the deliciously decadent McKinley Chocolates are made.
• SANGOMA CAVES (Nkokomohi Heritage site)- Led by a call from their ancestors, traditional healers come here to learn the accumulated knowledge of the Sangomas. A short walk leads you down a beautiful valley with numerous cliff overhangs which serve different uses.
• FERTILITY CAVES (Motouleng Heritage Site) – Nestled in a narrow river valley with beautiful rock formations, it’s easy to see why this place is sacred ground. The area has the largest cliff overhang in the southern hemisphere which is spectacularly beautiful. The Sangomas live in traditional huts inside the cave.
• Pinedene Small Arms Museum is an accredited private museum, privately funded and located on the farm Kromdraai in the Ficksburg district of the Eastern Free State. It came into existence in 1992 when it was registered as an Institutional Member of the South African Museums Association.
• Another “treasure” not to be missed on any visit to Ficksburg is the S H Pellissier Gallery, originally built as a school hall, and now home not only to murals by Pierneef, one of this country’s “old masters”, but also a comprehensive collection of paintings by top South African artists.
• General Fick’s monument.
• The White Mischief Cruise boat.
Following the Free State’s southern border with Lesotho, the Eagle route runs from Ficksburg to Harrismith through some of the most picturesque landscape in the country. Activity highlights include cherry picking, seeing dinosaur fossils and rock paintings, arts & craft shopping, skiing in the winter slopes, horse riding and 4X4 trips.
Ficksburg is known as “The Gateway to the Mountain Kingdom Of Lesotho”. Lesotho is an enclaved country in the central part of South Africa. From Ficksburg you can depart to the Katse Dam in Lesotho. This dam is important to South Africa, because it annually provides hundreds of millions of litres of water to the industrial and commercial hub of Gauteng. The dam is also a very scenic area and is situated 3,000 m (9,842 ft) high up in the Maluti Mountains of Lesotho. The dam is very popular for boating and fishing and is visited by thousands of tourists every year which have to gain access to Lesotho through Ficksburg.
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