One of Ghana’s largest slave forts

1032 Reviews

Star Travel Rating

3/5

Review type

Things to do

Location

Date of travel

January, 2024

Product name

Cape Coast Castle

Product country

Ghana

Product city

Cape Coast

Travelled with

Couple

Reasons for trip

Culture/Sightseeing

Cape Coast Castle, a UNESCO site, is one of around forty slave castles, or large commercial forts, built on the Gold Coast, now Ghana, by European traders. From here slaves remained before being shipped, with this castle holding more enslaved Africans than any other in West Africa.

We were warned not to give our names to the youths who surrounded our vehicle on arrival, or we would find a bracelet with our name on it when we returned which they would expect us to buy.

We joined a group of 11 for an introduction to the history, followed by a 90-minute tour.

At the entrance to the Male Slave Dungeon a plaque commemorated President Barack Obama’s visit in 2019. The dungeon, divided into five sections, could hold 1,200 captives who would be held for between two weeks and three months. Due to a lack of sanitation, the dungeons would have been covered in human waste, which built up, with a white mark showing the depth it would have reached. In the first area, the floor had been cleaned back to the original bricks. The final section had the entrance to the underground tunnel leading to The Door of No Return, but this was now blocked off and the Tabiri Shrine had been created by local people. It was very dark, and the floor was uneven so when the guide unexpectedly turned off the lights to demonstrate the little lighting there would have been from two tiny windows, it was disconcerting.

The Female Slave Dungeon would have accommodated 300 women and off it was a cell where they would be put if they refused to satisfy the soldiers.

A courtyard contained the graves of three white people who all died in their thirties: C.B. Whitehead, a 38-year-old British soldier, George MacLean, the British governor of Cape Coast from 1830 to 1844, and his wife, Letitia Elizabeth Landon. There were various theories about her cause of death ranging from malaria to a jealous black lover. Slightly apart was the grave of Phillip Quarcoo, the first black Anglican pastor in the area, who died at the age of 75 which our guide said proved black people were stronger, more resilient than whites – this was not the only occasion where the guide had a dig at white people, particularly the British, and we felt slightly uncomfortable at times.

On the battlements, cannons pointed out to sea and cannon balls were stacked up. It was wonderful to feel the cool gusty breeze on what was a hot and humid day.

The Door of No Return led out to the harbour, and we could see fishing boats and how the castle was built on a natural rock. The original gates on the door would have been narrow, to accommodate one person at a time, but after slavery was abolished and the castle was used for trading, the gates were widened.

A steep flight of stairs took us along a walkway which overlooked the triangular inner courtyard, full of tourist stalls, to the Governor’s residence which had several rooms including bedroom, hall and circular airy sitting room where the breeze blew in through the open windows. It was a start contrast to the dungeons.

Helen Jackson

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