“There surely cannot be many short walks, that match this one for its unique blend of fascinating architecture, history and of course, sublime views.”
Park in Kalk Bay and meander via Main Road to Muizenberg and back along the seaside walkway, just below the railway line.
Adapted and abridged from article by SJ de Klerk.
Start at St James Station, Main Road, Kalk Bay. To the Muizenberg Station it is just 3.4kms return but is a moderately challenging walk taking about 40 minutes.
It became known as the ‘Millionaire’s Mile’, since wealthy mining magnates and prominent businessmen alike, were soon attracted to this stretch of road with its cool sea breezes and scenic views.
World famous literary figures such as Rudyard Kipling and Agatha Christie, who both spent some time here, paid tribute in their work.
Jacob’s Ladder. See in Walks
The St. James Beach and Bathing Boxes
Oral tradition says this tidal pool was originally constructed by the Khoi as a fish trap. In 1911 local advocate Bill Schreiner, son of W. P. Schreiner, erstwhile Premier of the Cape Colony, persuaded the Municipality to build a concrete wall thus creating a proper bathing tidal pool at St James.
The bathing boxes originally were built as private dressing booths for families, and there used to be many more in earlier days.
Carisbrooke 2 Main Road.
A symmetrical Victorian house with high slate roof, it was built in 1879 for Mrs Sophia Jamison, daughter of William Hiddingh, the jurist and benefactor.
Hans Fransen claims its present appearance seems to date more from 1890 and possibly it was slightly refashioned thereabouts.
Ceolnamara 20 Main Road
Ceolnamara, Gaelic for ‘music of the sea’, was designed by Charles Smith (1863 – 1930) for William Robb in 1920, in the Cape Dutch Revival architecture style popularised by Herbert Baker.
Stonehenge 34 Main Road
This property was named after a group of rocks in the sea off the St James beach opposite the house.
This Italianate villa built circa 1930, belonged to H. P. Rudd of Kimberley fame, who apparently had a private railway siding near the St James station. The Greek Royal Family lived here, courtesy of the Union Government when, following the invasion of the German Wehrmacht, they fled Greece during the Second World War.
The Posthuys 182 Main Road
Initially thought to have been erected in 1673 and since this would have made the Posthuys the oldest surviving dwelling in South Africa, it was generously restored by the Anglo-American Corporation in 1982-83. Subsequent research indicated that it may not be quite that old and is now thought to have been built between 1730 and 1740.
It was built from stone on the site and served as a lookout post for the Dutch East India Company. After 1806, it served for a while as quarters for the British troop commander at Muizenberg.
Casa Labia 190/194 Main Road
The palatial Casa Labia, also known as ‘The Fort’, was designed in 1929 by Fred Glennie for Count Labia, then the Italian First Minister Plenipotentiary in South Africa.
Glennie was co-founder of Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.
All the furnishings and decorations were imported as Count Labia wished to reflect the style and elegance of 18th century Venice, bearing in mind the Labia’s ancestral home, Palazzo Labia in Venice.
To complement the architecture, the Venetian designer Angelo Zaniol was brought to South Africa to oversee the interior design. He commissioned most of the interior furnishings; ornate ceiling panels, chandeliers, carpets and wall coverings made by Italian master craftsmen, both locally and in Italy. These furnishings provide this house with its Italian ambience.
Knight’s Villa 198 Main Road
George Ransome, responsible for designing the attractive and highly unusual Knight’s Villa, was considered one of the most outstanding architects of his time. He arrived in Cape Town in 1880 and worked in the Public Works Department in Cape Town, as the Chief Architect on the Houses of Parliament project in Government Avenue.
Knight’s Villa, originally known as Stone House, was based on a Venetian palazzo with the ground floor at the would-be water level. The owner was Clifford Knight, a partner in the local shipping firm Thomson Watson & Co.
Rust-en-Vrede 244 Main Road
Herbert Baker had completed some sketches for a summer house for Cecil Rhodes above Main Road. Rhodes had planned to build ‘near his little cottage but higher up the hill in better air, and I raised for him a terrace with a high retaining wall overlooking the surf …’. Rhodes never built this house because of the South African War and his desire to save money for the endowment of his Oxford scholarships. This site and the plans completed in detail by Masey were later taken over by Abe Bailey.
On that terrace wrote Baker, ‘…. we built a deep arched and white columned stoep so that the road below was hidden, and nothing marred the view of the waves breaking on the rocks and the blue sea beyond’. From this fabulous site ‘the view stretches over the wide expanse of False bay to the high-cliffed promontories of Cape Point …., the far distant outpost of the bay’.
This plastered house completed in 1905 is H-shaped to which are added various projections, each ending in a narrow Flemish-looking gable. Because of the nature of the site, the main entrance is on the Muizenberg side.
Burial Plot of Sir Abe Bailey.
High above Rust -en-Vrede lies the burial plot of Sir Abe Bailey and his immediate family. One reaches this burial spot with its exquisite views via a long stone staircase, descending from Boyes Drive. A plaque simply states, ‘The grave site of Sir Abe Bailey, Bt, KCMG, 1864 – 1940. Soldier, Farmer, Sportsman, Philanthropist and Pioneer in the development of the South African mining industry’.
A nice touch is the placement of a stone bench on either side of the staircase allowing the visitor to enjoy the wonderful views before commencing the steep walk back to Boyes Drive.
Rhodes Cottage 246 Main Road
Rhodes bought this cottage in 1899 from the widow of the late James Robertson Reid. It was one of the early landmarks on the road to Simon’s Town, and built circa 1870. Originally built with a thatched roof this had been changed to corrugated iron prior to Rhodes’ purchase. Here Rhodes died on 26 March 1902 and the cottage was left untouched until 1904, when the corrugated roof was removed, the gables raised and the roof re-thatched.
Long Cottage 248 Main Road
Hans Fransen: ‘the most impressive of several thatched houses along the Muizenberg-Kalk Bay coastal stretch’. Apparently, various periods, materials and details are represented in the interior woodwork, some beams possibly taken from wrecked ships.
The oldest part of the house is thought to have been built in 1856 as a fisherman’s cottage. During the early 1870’s the house was used by Governor Sir Henry Barkly as a seaside cottage.
The house and much of the adjoining land was later owned by merchant John Garlick, who built the beautiful neighbouring mansion, Graceland.
Graceland 250-252 Main Road
Graceland, originally called Watergate was designed in 1914 by William Grant for the department store owner John Garlick.
One of the most magnificent mansions on this coastline, it introduced what became known as Cape Mediterranean architecture. It consisted of a mixture of Cape features (twirly chimneys, half-shutter sash windows and plaster mouldings) with Italian/Spanish elements (clay tile roofs, arches, loggias, pergolas on columns, etc.).
Grant was also responsible for converting a modest villa into the beautiful home for Margaret Kerr in 1916, also in the Cape Mediterranean style, namely The Breakers at 266 Main Road.
Print this out to aid you as you walk.