The pass was named after John Montagu, Colonial Secretary of the Cape in the 1840s, whose enthusiasm for good roads resulted in the first ambitious program of construction in Southern Africa. Driving time of about one hour will take one over the Outeniqua Mountains, through the village of Herold to the N9, and from there a short distance back to the N12.
The Montagu Pass is cradled by some of the most majestic mountain scenery in the country on the N12 Treasure Route. There were few bridges across the rivers and travel via the majestic Outeniqua Mountains was dangerous. In 1843 Major Mitchell, Surveyor General of the Cape, suggested that convict labour be used to build a good road over the Outeniqua Mountains, to be called the Montagu Pass. The engineer in charge of the construction work was Henry Fancourt White, an experienced road engineer from Australia. His name is preserved in the lovely estate, Fancourt (his mother’s surname) and in the village Blanco, originally known as White’s Village. This was later changed to the more euphonious Latin word for ‘White’ – Blanco.
The Montagu Pass starts at the village of Blanco in the south and ends in the north at the little hamlet of Herold. Herold Wines can also be accessed via the scenic and historic Montagu Pass
The construction work on the Pass was carried out by convicts, and on average 250 convicts were employed at any given time. They were trained to trim stones and lay them to form the high, dry-packed walls. The opening of the Montagu Pass in 1848 made travel over the Outeniqua Mountains easier. Tolls had to be paid to use mountain passes. The Montagu Pass revolutionised travel and transport over the Outeniqua Mountains. While it was still a hard journey, a loaded ox-wagon could traverse the pass in a day.
The Montagu Pass is a tangible part of South Africa’s travel heritage to be admired and appreciated and preserved unspoilt for future generations.
The little hamlet of Herold lies almost halfway between George and Oudtshoorn offering not only peaceful tranquillity and serene contemplation, but access to both the coastal and inland attractions of the Klein Karoo. The area overflows with outdoor activities such as bird watching, hiking, fishing, camping and mountain biking and there are also guided hikes up the nearby Cradock and George mountain peaks. Some of the original village buildings of Herold are now incorporated in the Herold Meander, whilst the remains of what was once the blacksmith’s shop, which dates back to the 1860s, is visible from the Montagu Pass.