Hogsback, Eastern Cape
Did you know?
Most of the older Hogsback gardens are inspired by the gardens of England.
Driving up into the dreamy winter mists of the Amathole Mountains from Alice towards the Eastern Cape village of Hogsback, you find yourself in another realm.
There are numerous theories as to why many people seem to connect South Africa-born author JRR Tolkien's fantasy world, Middle-earth (the setting of The Lord of the Rings and other works), with this little village deep in the Eastern Cape forests.
Some say his son was a British air force officer in these parts, and that he sketched scenes from Hogsback and sent them home to his father.
It doesn't really matter. Within an hour of arriving up here, you just know there have to be fairies, trolls, elves and wizards lurking about in these woods.
And when you go looking for lodgings, you come across charmingly named places called Arminel, Away with the Fairies, the Eco-Shrine, Camelot, Lothlorien, King's Lodge and Nutwoods.
Like any enchanted forest, the walks are legendary. They vary from easy strolls to longer, more challenging adventures – all usefully graded.
It's the custom to buy a walking stick – a traveller's memento – from one of the crafters in the village.
When you visit the Eco-Shrine, greet the angels at the gate, walk the Labyrinth and the 400m garden meander called the Fairy Realm, look out for the rare Cape parrot, and feel the magic.
Hogsback was named, it is said, for the three ridges on the Amathole Mountains that resemble the outlines of a hog's back. These mountains are the spiritual domain of the Xhosa people, who call this area Qabimbola (after the red clay from the area they adorn their faces with).
And when the mountain mists clear, you're left with an astounding view of waterfalls, valleys and one of South Africa's most prized forest strongholds.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Hogsback Information Centre
Tel: +27 (0)45 962 1245
Tel: +27 (0)45 962 1136
How to get here
Head for the Amathole Mountains, approx. 30km north of Alice on the R345. Hogsback is approx. 180km west of East London.
Best time to visit
In its forest setting, Hogsback is good throughout the year. Each season has its own features.
Tours to do
Hogsback garden tours are a great feature of the village. The Hogsback Arts and Crafts Trail will also keep you busy for a couple of days.
It's best to drive yourself to Hogsback. Once you're in the village, most of the attractions are within walking distance of your accommodation.
What will it cost
Accommodation will cost you anything from about R400 pp (self-catering) to R800 pp for bed and breakfast, though rates vary seasonally.
Length of stay
If you're a casual hiker, it's a two-day destination. If you're serious about walking in the woods, go for four days or more.
What to pack
Your most comfortable walking gear.
Where to stay
Backpackers: Away with the Fairies; leisure travellers: a wide selection of self-catering establishments, B&Bs and a few country hotels.
What to eat
You will find good pub grub at Happy Hogs (very popular with the locals), the Arminel and Hogsback Inn, and fine dining at Nutwoods and the Lighthouse Ranch.
Hogsback stages a Christmas in July festival in late July, and a spring festival in the first week of October.
The craft displays and shops in Hogsback are legendary. Buy your walking stick locally.