Fort George near Inverness: A Tourist's Guide
Fort George is a massive fortress located on the Moray Firth just east of Inverness. When I say massive, I mean it; Fort George is bigger than any castle in the entire British Isles!
King George II built the fort following the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie at Culloden in 1746, and it remains one of the most impressive examples of military architecture in Europe.
Even though the fort was never attacked, it has a fascinating history and many stories from more recent history as well as the daily life of the soldiers stationed there today.
The fort is a must-visit destination for tourists who want to experience Scotland's rich history and culture. I hope this article will make you want to visit this fantastic fort!
Our visit to Fort George
I had visited Fort George only once before as a very small child, so it was a bit of a treat for me to walk down memory lane with my own young family. We visited in early April, just as it reopened for the new tourist season, and it was a lovely sunny day with bright blue skies, perfect!
We were returning from a short holiday in Aviemore and decided to return home via Inverness and stop in by Fort George so I could get content for this website. We pulled into the large car park; it was fairly quiet at around 10.30 am.
My childhood memories didn't do the fort justice; all I could really remember was tall walls and large grassy areas with cannons... but wow, as an adult, the place is so much more impressive when you consider this engineering project was undertaken in the mid-1700s.
The size of this fort is just off the scale. The walls are enormous; it's hard to see how any attacker of the time could feasibly take this fort even if they had cannons of their own. The defensive wall is epic even by today's standards; it would cost £1 billion to construct a similar fort today; it's no wonder it is still an active army base.
Entering Fort George
A path brought us into the main fort, past the first layer of battlements and over a short bridge. The next area has a ticket office/gift shop/visitor centre where you can pay for your entrance fee. The staff were really nice here and offered our kids the chance to take part in their easter quiz; this kept them entertained throughout the day.
Outside the gift shop is a brilliant model of the fort with some information. The model overviews this epic military base's design and sheer scale.
Within the fort
Another bridge takes you through the "Principal Gate" and into the central area of the fort. The area called the "Parade" was before us, and behind that, we could see many buildings in rows in the central area.
We first checked out the guardrooms and prison, which had interesting informational boards. Following that, we followed the slope to the right of the entrance up onto the south battlements above the entrance.
Following the battlements, we checked out many interesting features, including two types of cannons, small watch towers and views back towards the car park. There were information boards everywhere, all very interesting.
Returning to the Parade, we made our way to the many historic barrack rooms (Casemates) built into the north perimeter wall. Fifty-four of these casemates provided blast-proof accommodation in the event of a siege; each could hold forty men. The entire garrison could seek shelter here from artillery fire.
A couple of these casemates are still in their original condition to show what they were once like, but many here have now been modernised for visitors. One is set up as a makeshift cinema, and others are full of exhibits for tourists, some with puzzles to complete.
The Highlanders' Museum
Directly next to the casemates was the Highlanders' Museum; wow, it had some amazing things to see inside. Everything from machine guns to Japanese samurai swords, racks and racks of medals and even items personally owned by Hitler. It cost nothing to enter the museum, and frankly, after seeing what was inside, I would have easily paid for a separate entry fee.
The regimental museum at Fort George is a must-see for anyone interested in military history. It houses various artefacts and exhibits, including weapons, uniforms, and equipment. Visitors can learn about the fort's history and its role in various conflicts throughout the years. The museum also has interactive displays that are great for kids.
When we visited, there was a treasure hunt on for the kids where they had to find a toy camel in each room, they really enjoyed this, and it gave them something to do while I gawped in amazement at all of the military artefacts. If you enjoy this museum, I highly recommend Inverness Museum, just a short journey to the west in central Inverness.
We left the museum and walked through the central blocks of modernised barracks. There didn't seem to be any obviously accessible for visitors, but perhaps they are all in active use by the military personnel.
The Barracks at Fort George are some of the most impressive in Europe. They were designed to house over 2,000 troops and provide them with all the necessary amenities.
Passing the Barracks, we came to the Garrison Chapel and stables. The Chapel at Fort George is a beautiful example of Georgian architecture. It was built in 1769 and has been well-preserved over the years. We admired the intricate details of the chapel, including the stained glass windows and the ornate altar. The chapel is still used for religious services and is a popular wedding venue.
Leaving the peaceful serenity of the chapel, we climbed up the now familiar ramp to reach the Point Battery, the most westerly section of the fort. From here, we found more cannons as we did in the other areas of the fort, but the views here over the inlet of the Moray Firth are spectacular.
From the fort's walls, I saw Chanonry Point, a lighthouse on the tip of a peninsula near Fortrose. This lighthouse is famous for being one of the best places to see dolphins in Scotland. We weren't lucky enough to spot them on this occasion, but the views were a fantastic consolation prize.
Following the north perimeter wall, I noticed the officer's dog's cemetery, one of only two military dog cemeteries in Scotland, a beautiful resting place for these beloved animals.
We retraced our steps to the fort's entrance and reported back with our completed easter quizzes. My girls were thrilled to receive a chocolate egg each for their hard work!
History of Fort George
Construction of Fort George
The fort was built between 1748 and 1769, following the Jacobite Rising of 1745, to prevent any further attacks from Jacobite rebels. The fort was designed by The King's military engineer William Skinner and constructed by the British Army's Royal Engineers as a base for King George II's army.
The construction of Fort George was a massive undertaking and cost more than £200,000, which was a huge sum of money at the time. The fort was designed to be self-sufficient and could house up to 1,600 soldiers, with its own water supply, bakery, and brewery. The fort also had a chapel, a hospital, and a prison.
As seen from the entrance, Fort George is hardly visible, adding to its strategic design. The grassy slopes were designed to absorb artillery shells and hide the extent of the fort from attackers.
The grand magazine is designed to hold 2672 barrels of gunpowder! George II created the ultimate fort against further Jacobite unrest.
Significance of Fort George in Scottish History
Fort George is a significant part of Scottish history. The fort was never used in battle, but it was important in maintaining peace and order in the Highlands. The fort was used as a base for the British Army in Scotland for over 200 years and was the primary training centre for the Highland regiments.
Today, Fort George is a popular tourist attraction, and visitors can explore the fort's many features, including the barracks, the magazine, and the gun batteries. The fort also has a museum showcasing the Highland regiments' history and their role in British military history. Overall, Fort George is a fascinating part of Scottish history and a must-visit destination for anyone interested in military history or Scottish culture.
Events and Activities at Fort George
Fort George offers a range of events and activities throughout the year, providing visitors with a unique and immersive experience of Scottish history. Whether you're interested in guided tours, reenactments, or special events, there's something for everyone at Fort George.
Reenactments and Demonstrations
Throughout the year, Fort George hosts a range of reenactments and demonstrations, bringing the fort's history to life in a unique and exciting way. These events offer a thrilling glimpse into the past, from musket-firing displays to mock battles.
Visitors can watch as soldiers in period costume march and drill, demonstrating the tactics and techniques used in battle. There are also demonstrations of traditional crafts and skills, such as blacksmithing and basket weaving, providing an insight into the daily life of soldiers stationed at the fort.
Fort George hosts several special events throughout the year, including concerts, theatre performances, and historical celebrations. These events provide a unique opportunity to experience the fort in a new and exciting way.
One particular event I fancy myself is the "Celebration of the Centuries" due to be held on the 12th and 13th of August. There will be a reenactment of 2000 years of Scottish history, including the Picts and Romans. Stunt horse riders from the Outlander TV show will also be present.
There's always something happening at Fort George. These events are a great way to learn more about Scottish history and culture while enjoying a fun and memorable day with family and friends.
Visitors should allow at least 2-3 hours to explore the fort and its exhibits. Guided tours are available for an additional fee and are highly recommended for those who want to learn more about the history of the fort and its significance.
There is a gift shop on site where visitors can purchase entry tickets, souvenirs and gifts related to the fort and its history. There is also a cafe serving light refreshments and snacks.
Opening Hours and Admission Fees
Fort George is open daily:
1 Apr to 30 Sept: Daily, 9.30 am to 5.30 pm, Last entry 4.30 pm.
1 Oct to 31 Mar: Daily, 10 am to 4 pm, Last entry 3 pm.
The fort is closed on December 25th and 26th.
Admission fees are as follows:
Adult - £10.00
Concession (senior citizens, students, disabled visitors) - £8.00
Child (7-15 years old) - £6.00
Family ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children) - £34.00
Members of the armed forces get free entry.
How to Get to Fort George
Fort George is located approximately 8 miles northeast of Inverness, near the village of Ardersier. Visitors can reach the fort by car, bus, or taxi.
From Inverness/travelling east:
Head east on the A96, following signs for Aberdeen/Nairn.
After approximately 10 miles (16 km), take a left to the B9006 exit toward Ardersier/Fort George.
Stay on the B9006 road, passing through Ardersier until you arrive at Fort George.
The tourist car park is on your right.
From Forres/travelling west:
Head west on the A96, following signs for Inverness.
After approximately 16 miles (35.4 km), take the B9006 exit toward Ardersier/Fort George.
Follow step 3 above.
Facilities and Amenities
Fort George offers a variety of facilities and amenities for visitors:
The Café at Fort George serves a range of hot and cold drinks, snacks, and light meals.
The Gift Shop at Fort George sells a range of souvenirs, gifts, and books.
Toilets: Toilets are located throughout the fort, including disabled toilets and baby changing facilities.
Accessibility: Fort George is accessible to wheelchair users and visitors with mobility issues. Wheelchairs are available to borrow free of charge.
Parking: Free parking is available on-site.
Fort George FAQ
Here are a few frequently asked questions about Fort George.
Is Fort George safe?
It generally is, but if you have small children who have a habit of running off, be very careful, as there are many sheer drops all around the fort. There are signs everywhere warning of the drops, but it would be easy for a child not to realise and tumble over the side. It goes without saying, too; you shouldn't climb on the perimeter wall.
What is Fort George famous for?
It is colossal, the largest and most outstanding fortification in the UK.
Its construction following the battle of Culloden.
Its length of active service is over 250 years.
Do you have to pay to go to Fort George?
Yes, you have to pay to enter Fort George, the general fees are £10 per adult and £6 per child.
Are dogs allowed at Fort George?
Dogs are permitted but not in roofed areas, and dogs must also be kept on a lead at all times and never left unattended.
Can you see dolphins from Fort George?
Yes, one of the best places to see dolphins in Scotland is Chanonry Point Lighthouse, which is directly across the water from Fort George. This makes it an ideal place to spot the dolphins from the fort's high walls.
Which regiment is stationed at Fort George, Scotland?
Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 SCOTS) is based at Fort George.
Who owns Fort George?
It is owned by the Ministry of Defence and operated by the British Army. However, the fort is expected to close as an active military base, possibly by 2032, so ownership may change eventually.
Historic Environment Scotland handles all tourist activities on the site.
Is there anything else worth seeing near Fort George?
Yes, here are my top picks for places to visit near Fort George:
Culloden Battlefield - The place where the Jacobites were decisively defeated, and a visit here would tie in well with a visit to the fort considering their shared history.
Clava Cairns - The site of 4000-year-old burial cairns and standing stones, this is an absolutely fantastic site and costs nothing to visit.
Culloden Viaduct - A lovely Victorian-era railway viaduct, an excellent spot for photography and only a short walk from Clava Cairns.
Key Information on Fort George
Built on a peninsula jutting into the Moray Firth around 12 miles east of Inverness.
Built by King George II between 1748 - 1769 after the Jacobite's defeat at Culloden.
The fort was built in case of future Jacobite uprisings but was never attacked.
Designed by military engineer William Skinner and constructed by the British Army's Royal Engineers.
The original construction budget was £90,000 but ballooned to £200,000, a vast sum of money at that time.
It would cost around £1 billion to construct Fort George today.
Five football pitches could fit within the walls of the fort.
Fort George Videos
Here is a selection of videos from our visit to Fort George.
Fort George is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in Scottish history or military architecture. The fort is an impressive structure, with its towering walls and imposing cannons, and the exhibits inside provide a fascinating glimpse into life as a soldier in the 18th century.
Visitors can easily spend several hours exploring the fort and its grounds, and there is something to interest everyone, from military enthusiasts to families with young children. The fort's location on the coast also provides stunning views of the Moray Firth and the chance to spot dolphins and other marine life.
Whether you are a local or a visitor from overseas, Fort George is a must-see attraction that will leave a lasting impression. So why not plan a visit today and discover for yourself the wonders of this incredible fort?
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