We have been intending to visit FortGeorge for many years after seeing photographs of it. It was built after the Battle of Culloden to control the Highlands of Scotland and crush future Jacobite rebellions. Built on a promontory into the Moray Firth it could control the sea approaches to Inverness. The neck of the promontory was protected by the most amazing series of ditches which could be flooded with sea water and associated earthworks which included a ravelin and two lunettes. Canons mounted on bastions could cover all of the landward defences.
My review has turned out much longer than expected, so I’ve split it into four parts. This describes a walk around the ramparts. Part 1 covers the history of the site and has general information about visiting. Part 2 describes the buildings on the site. Part 4 covers the life of the soldiers and the reconstructed barrack blocks. I have also written a separate review for the Historic Scotland tea rooms.
We began our visit with a walk round the RAMPART WALLS, a distance of about a mile, to take photographs and to get a feel for the geography and layout of the site.
Steep grassed ramps lead up to the ramparts. These were made of earth and rubble and lined with bricks. They are very wide with steep drops and there is a series of small warning signs to remind you.
We began at PRINCE OF WALES BASTION which has excellent views of the ravelin and associated ditches. We began to understand just how clever the design was and how effective it would have been if attacked. Gun embrasures with small cannons covered the ditches , ravelin and outside walls. At the corner is a small round guard house.
The rampart continues above the casement to the PRINCE WILLIAM HENRY’S BASTION, named after the third grandson of George II. It over looks the pier which was used to bring stores ashore. A ferry to Chanonry Point on the Black Isle carried soldiers between the fort and the mainland.
At the base of the bastion is the GRAND MAGAZINE building, separated from the main fort by a wall with a small entry through it. The magazine has a small building at one end with square windows. This is locked. The main magazine is in the large rectangular stone building with copper shutters over the windows, which provide ventilation. The doors are wood and copper with sliding catches.
Inside it is a white vaulted room which could hold up to 2500 barrels of gunpowder. It also has a display of muskets, bayonets, swords and pikes; the Seafield Collection of Arms.
The LIVING HISTORY PRESENTATIONS are in here. There were four shows the day we visited, lasting about 20minutes. The presenter was excellent and they were informative and entertaining. (See part 4.)
The seaward tip of the fort is protected by three smaller bastions. On the south side is PRINCE FREDERICK WILLIAM’S DEMI-BASTION, named after the youngest grandson of GeorgeII. Along with Prince William Henry’s Bastion, it protects the pier.
In the Centre is the POINT BATTERY with DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH’S DEMI-BASTION to the north. These three bastions with their flanking guns, commanded the sea channel. This is a good place to watch for Bottlenose dolphins in the Moray Firth. Michael was lucky and saw about a dozen playing in the water. I was unlucky and missed them.
At their base and protected by a wall is a small powder magazine and casement for four 32pounder guns.
Continuing round the ramparts, next is PRINCE HENRY FREDERICK’S BASTION, named after the fourth grandson of George II. This was modified along with the adjacent Duke of Cumberland’s bastion in response to a threat of French invasion in 1859 after Emperor Napoleon III’s rapid build up of forces. Three large canon on swivel bases replaced the older and smaller canon. On either side of the rampart are doorways leading to the shot and shell recesses. Stone steps lead down to a magazine.
Below the bastion were the 1762 workshops which included a carpenter, blacksmith and wheelwright. There were shot pounds to store iron shot and shells. These now contain the Historic Scotland Fort Cafe.
Between Prince Henry Frederick’s and the Duke of Cumberland Bastion is the north casement. The Place of Arms outside the Sally Port is now the DOG’S CEMETERY, one of only two in Scotland, with graves marked by small carved headstones.
The DUKE OF CUMBERLAND’S BASTION where the original eight gun embrasures were replaced for use by heavier cannon in 1859. This was being used by the army during our visit and there were tents and camouflage netting over modern field guns.
It can be exposed on the ramparts, even on s sunny day, so take a sweater or jacket with you.
Also keep your eyes peeled for the Bottle nose dolphins in the firth. Michael saw about a dozen playing in the water. Unfortunately I was too slow and missed them.