My visit to Spioenkop Battle Site on the KwaZulu Natal Battlefield Route included a stay as the guest of Raymond and Lynette Heron, owners of the lovely Spionkop Lodge. The Spionkop Lodge complex is an upgraded farm compound with its own historical significance in relation to the iconic Spioenkop battleground that it is named after, being that it was British Commander Sir Redvers Buller’s headquarters and command center for the conduct of the Spoenkop assault. The lodge is set on a working farm a few hundred meters off the main road between Ladysmith and Winterton in the heart of the KNZ Battlefield Route.
Visually the collection of buildings that represent the lodge and its detached accommodation represent the archetypical colonial style of the period, constructed out of local dressed stone in the somewhat monolithic, but also graceful pattern of the epoch, clad by the ubiquitous corrugated iron of the period and set upon expansive and manicured lawns carved out of the beautiful and ecologically rich indigenous bushveld.
In some ways Spionkop Lodge is quite typical of other hospitality establishments scattered around South Africa, serving specific areas of interest and local national parks. It is carefully styled to represent the authentic history of the area, is in keeping with the traditions of its particular locality and is extremely tastefully decorated in a manner suggestive of the British Drawing Room style of the time. At the same time there is something of the luxury bush lodge about it, with a wood floored dining room featuring rough wood pillars and expansive plate glass to showcase the lovely surroundings, all enhanced greatly by carefully managed gardens that do not in any way intrude on the natural beauty of the setting.
That all being said, this is the minimum standard one expects from the South African hospitality industry, and certainly an establishment of this pedigree, but what is probably most unique is the integration with, not only Spionkop itself, but the surrounding battlefield culture that is the cornerstone of cerebral travel to this area. Raymond Heron himself, an urbane, cultured and extremely erudite guide, offers a visitor the rare opportunity to learn the specifics of local history, in particular war history, against a finely constructed backdrop of more general South African history, all of which helps to locate individual episodes of local campaigning into the greater context. As such Spionkop Lodge is a venue unto itself, and an extremely valuable asset in the presentation, and indeed the preservation of South African Battlefield travel.
From the point of view of over fifties and boomer travel Spionkop Lodge offers the comfort, the history and the ambiance of the area in the most effective yet understated way. From here we are perfectly poised to access the key sites on the South African KZN Battlefield route, the Drakensberg Mountains and the Mhkuse Falls Game Reserve. All in all an absolute must visit on the South African Battlefield Route.