#TravelTuesday: Discover the Midlands Meander from Nottingham Road

The sprawling hills of the Natal Midlands offers the perfect backdrop for the Midlands Meander.
The sprawling hills of the Natal Midlands offers the perfect backdrop for the Midlands Meander.
Image: Wikipedia Commons

Known as the heart of the Midlands Meander, the picturesque Nottingham Road in KwaZulu-Natal invites visitors with open arms and warm hospitality. A trip to this quaint town can be two-fold: use it to fully escape into the charms of small town life or make it your base as you explore the sights and sounds of the Midlands Meander.

A collection of five routes highlighting artisanal goods and arts and crafts dotted around 80 kilometres of the beautiful KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, the Midlands Meander has existed for more than 30 years in an attempt to showcase local craftsmanship.

When to travel

If you are in search of good weather, it might be wise to plan your trip around seasons. While KwaZulu-Natal generally experiences warm temperatures year-long, the Midlands’ proximity to the Drakensberg may mean it can get quite cold during winter.  The area may even experience snowfall during winter months, making it an attractive destination for those who wish to experience the magic of snow.

If this sounds too cold for you, opt to visit during the summer months, filled with sun-kissed days interrupted occasionally by a summer rainstorm.

The Mandela Day Marathon at the Nelson Mandela capture site in Howick takes place annually in August. Unless you are planning a trip to participate specifically in the marathon, you might want to avoid the region at this time if you are in search of less crowds and more peace.

Grad a picnic basket prepared with a selection of cheeses from Swissland Cheese.
Grad a picnic basket prepared with a selection of cheeses from Swissland Cheese.
Image: Supplied

How to get there

The best way to experience a slow tour of the Midlands Meander is by driving. Nottingham Road is a one hour drive from Durban and a four and a half hour drive from Johannesburg on the N3.

The Pietermaritzburg Airport is less than an hour’s driver from Nottingham Road and King Shaka International Airport is just under 2 hours’ drive. The nearest location where busses travel to is Howick, about half an hour from Nottingham Road.

Highlights you shouldn’t miss

1. Experience the true spirit of the Midlands Meander and immerse yourself in the art and crafts on offer in the Midlands Meander. The longest standing member of the Midlands Meander, Dargle Valley Pottery is most famous for their intricate Mexican fireplaces, Morrocan tagines and pizza ovens. Listen to the tranquil sounds of wind chimes at Culamoya Chimes or take a course at Aladdin’s-de-Light in Nottingham Road and learn how to make your own stained glass, ceramics or Raku. The options are endless and best explored on a leisurely exploration of the surrounds.

The Nelson Mandela Capture Site Sculpture.
The Nelson Mandela Capture Site Sculpture.
Image: Supplied

2. The Nelson Mandela Capture Site commemorates the moment in history when Nelson Mandela was arrested outside of Howick. The Capture Site Sculpture and Exhibition can be viewed daily between 9:00 and 16:00 and entrance is free.

3. Slightly off the leisurely Midlands Meander track, Karkloof Canopy Tours offers something a little more exciting for adrenaline junkies or nature lovers. Make your way through the forest canopy as you glide from tree to tree with views of the surrounding forest, a waterfall and the Kafkloof valley that lies stretched out below.

4. A favourite stop on the Meander, Swissland Cheese offers visitors the opportunity to sample a wide variety of cheeses, from their ash-coated, white mould Drakensberg cheese to their Brie, Pecorino or a variety of goat’s cheeses, amongst others. Every first Sunday of the month, they host garden picnics with live music. The shop is open from Fridays to Mondays and public holidays from 9:30 to 16:30.

An adventurer souring above the tree tops at Karkloof Canopy Tours.
An adventurer souring above the tree tops at Karkloof Canopy Tours.
Image: Supplied

5. Located on the Midlands Meander and in the heart of Nottingham Road, Nottingham Road Brewing Company is KwaZulu-Natal’s oldest independently owned craft brewery. Offering their eight staple beers that have made their way onto any craft beer lover’s radar over the past 23 years, they have now included a range of craft distilled gins to tickle the fancy of G&T lovers.

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