Hogsback was the mountain stronghold of Xhosa chiefs during the time of conflict between the white settlers and the Xhosa but in 1839, the first white settlement was built at Fort Mitchell on the slopes of Tor Doone.
The Xhosa name for the area is Qabimbola (meaning red clay on the face), from the pits from which people sourced traditional cosmetic red clay. The indigenous name for the three peaks of the Hogsback range is Belekazama as it looks like a woman carrying a child on her back. Opinion is divided on how the Hogsback got its “settler” name. Some believe it is due to the fact that the Hogsback peaks look like the back of a hog while others say the area was named after a Captain Hogg of Fort Mitchell.
The highest of the three peaks, Gaika’s Kop, is 1 963m, and is where Ngqika, the father of the great warrior chief, Sandile, is believed to have based himself.
After the frontier wars, farmers started settling in the area and produced market gardens. One of these farmers was Thomas Summerton, who introduced pears, apples and berries to Hogsback. The tiny village was a popular stopping point for ox wagons travelling between Queenstown the coast and in the 1880s, a farmer by the name of H Collins opened the Hogsback Inn, where oxen could be outspanned.
When rail replaced transport riding in South Africa, Hogsback became a popular place for well-to-do Eastern Cape families to build holiday homes to which they could escape from the heat of the lowlands. In 1932, a road was built to Hogsback and it began to attract weekend and day trippers as the village took on its distinctive English country atmosphere.
The King’s Lodge was built in the 1960s by S Galbraith and was originally called the Ambleside Hotel and Health Resort. In the bar, you can see a poster for the Ambleside with a price list, including 80c for a baby sitter! In 1999, there was much excitement at the King’s Lodge when the newly inaugurated president, Thabo Mbeki, his wife, Zanele, and his most trusted minister, Essop Pahad, came to stay. Accompanied by bodyguards, they arrived and departed in a helicopter on the hotel’s lawns. Look out for the framed page of the visitor’s book signed by South Africa’s second democratically elected president and Pahad.