If you want to explore small town South Africa, a visit to the Free State should top your road-trip agenda. With endless veld, impossibly blue skies and the ubiquitous lonely windmill every few kilometres, this is archetypal South African scenery in its purest form. Though this province has always drawn history-lovers due to its fascinating Boer past, it was once seen as a staid backwater left off any modern-day traveller’s must-see list. The Free State has come into its own over the past few years on the back of the growing yearning among city dwellers for a more simple way of life. Anthony Trollop wrote, after visiting Bloemfontein back in the 1870s, ‘The town is so quiet and seems to be so happy and contented, removed so far away from strife and want and disorder, that the beholder … is tempted to think the peace of such an abode is better than the excitement of Paris, London or New York.” Free State Highlights Bloemfontein – The City of Roses, birthplace of JRR Tolkien. Visit the National Women’s Monument and “Whispering Wall” – a memorial to the 26 370 women and children who died during the Boer War. Clarens – ‘Jewel of the Free State’ – go on the Artist Amble to various studios and galleries. For older art visit the caves in the area containing San rock paintings. Fouriesburg – Visit Surrender Hill, where the Free State soldiers capitulated to the British in 1900. Hike the Brandwater trail in the scenic Meiringskloof Nature Reserve. Harrismith – Location of Platberg (flat mountain) – the site of the annual Berg Marathon, a cross country event comprises a 605m climb over 5km, a run across the summit and a descent along an old bridle path that was once used by British pack animals in the Anglo Boer war. Springfontein – De Bome, where British welfare campaigner Emily Hobhouse stayed when visiting the Springfontein concentrations camps. Golden Gate National Park – picturesque Eastern Highlands on the Lesotho border Pink Flamingos – commonly seen in the wetlands of Goldfields. Pretty towns – Fouriesburg, Ficksburg, Smithfield and Ladybrand are unique, appealing Free State towns.