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I visited Fort George in May 2008 while on our first trip to Scotland and we were not disappointed! When I say 'we' I mean me and my significant other half.
Fort George can be found at Ardersier, which is a short drive from Inverness. It is around 14 miles from Inverness. We were stopping near Inverness and it was roughly a 30 minute drive from where we were stopping. It is easy to arrive at Fort George, as there are plenty of sign posts to keep you in the right direction.
Fort George was completed in 1769. It was built after the Battle of Culloden. George II built it in case there was another Jacobit rising. He certainly wasn't in the mood for another uprising when he planned Fort George!
We arrived at Fort George after visiting Culloden Battlefield, which was more of a coincidence on our part! We arrived at around 1pm and the car park was not overly full of cars, which surprised me.
As you pull into the car park you cannot really see any structure in front of you so we were a little bit bewildered as to what we would be visiting! We had not researched Fort George previously and just decided to go there on a whim, so we were not sure what to expect.
To reach the ticket office you walk through a short walkway that has high walls either side, so you can't see the surroundings above them! As soon as you come out of the walkway you are immediately hit with open space and a magnificent bridge that carries you over to the main part of the fort.
The ticket office is to your right before you cross the bridge. It also acts as a gift shop. As with most gift shops at historical places, the prices are a little high, but they do have some fantastic gifts in there. They have some beautiful swords which were being sold for £200 and if I had the spare cash I would have bought one!
We paid £7.00 each for a ticket, but having looked at their website, it now states that the tickets are £6.70 for adults, £3.35 for children and £5.20 for concessions. You can also have the option of taking an audio guide for your tour, which is always a good option.
As you cross the bridge to enter the fort you will come across some barracks from the 18th Century on both your right and left. The barracks are under an archway. You are able to go inside and take a look. The rooms have been filled with furniture from the period and gives you a fantastic insight into what life was like for these soldiers.
Once you leave the barracks you walk straight into the courtyard. The sheer size and scale of Fort George suddenly becomes apparent. We were amazed as to the size of the fort.
Once you enter the courtyard there is so much to explore. You can visit the prison and explore other buildings that have been storage rooms and educational rooms. There is also a short cinema film explaining the history of Fort George in one of the casements. The museum of the Queen's Own Highlanders is an extraordinary museum, which is encased in a beautiful building. The museum is situated in the courtyard opposite to where you enter. It is jam packed full of artifacts and does take a while to go around, but is well worth the time. The museum takes you through the full history of the regiment.
The grand magazine is also well worth the look. Again, there are artifacts on display within the magazine, but the history of the magazine is easily explained.
The walk around the battlements shows you just how large Fort George is. You can stand on the battlements and take in the full view of the fort, which is breathtaking. Fort George has a lot more to offer than what I first expected.
They is a cafe for you to have a drink and something to eat, and it is reasonably priced.
Fort George is still an active army base, which I did not know, and I found it a little strange in seeing the soldiers going about doing their daily duties. I felt as though I was intruding!!
Fort George has good disabled access, but some of the walks up to the top of the ramparts can be a little steep. Also, I did not notice a lift to reach other rooms in the Highlanders museum, but it might be worth checking this as it could have changed.
As the fort is so large you don't feel that it is overcrowded. When we were there the fort started to get busy from around 2.30pm, but you have so much space to move about in that it doesn't bother you!
The opening times for Fort George are 1st April-30th September 9.30am-5.30pm and 1st October-31st March 9.30am-4.30pm.
I wish that we had more time at Fort George and we have said that we will return there. There is such a lot to take in and absorb and it is well worth a second visit!
As many of you already know, Inverness is my home town and I am certainly very proud to hail from one of the most beautiful parts of the country. Fort George is situated just about 18 kilometres outside Inverness, the Capital of the Highlands of Scotland. Inverness is my home town and in my opinion, one of the best places in Scotland to visit.
Just as a point of interest for you all, Fort George is a working military garrison as well as a monument and museum.
Situated near the picturesque village of Ardersier, this Fort was built in the 18th Century, following the Jacobite uprising and the Battle of Culloden (the last battle to be fought on British soil).
Prior to the Highland Clearances, the then King decided that he needed to keep troops in the area to keep the Highlanders under control. To this end he commissioned that a garrison be built within Inverness itself, but the local council objected to this and demanded financial compensation if this were to proceed. So another site was sought, and a plot of land at Ardersier was deemed perfect for the location of the Fort.
As you look at the aerial photograph of the Fort, it is plain to see why this site is so perfect. It can only be approached in one direction on foot (as was the nature of attack in those days), and be sea the Fort is pretty far back from the actual water, but on an elevated position.
For more detailed information about the history of Fort George and its construction, I can recommend the following websites:
Fort George as a tourist attraction is run by Historic Scotland, but it should be remembered that this is also a working military camp, and as such, some areas are off-limits to the general public. These areas are very clearly marked and easy to spot. When you visit, you will see many soldiers going about their daily work and this is quite normal. The last time I visited, it was in July when I was home for a short visit to family and we took our children (aged 4 and 2) to see where their grandfather had worked many years ago. I have to say that the adults enjoyed the visit far more than the kids, but that was because of the day we visited, there were no displays on that day.
Opening Hours and Facilities
The Fort is open throughout the year (except Christmas Day and Boxing Day - 25th and 26th December). It is open on the 1st and 2nd of January, although the public are advised to phone the Fort beforehand to find out the opening hours.
From 1st April to 30 September, the opening hours are Monday to Sunday 9.30 am to 6.30 pm, with the last tickets being sold at 5.45 pm.
From 1st October to 31 March, the opening hours are shorter, Monday to Sunday 9.30 am to 4.30 pm with the last tickets sold at 3.45 pm.
There is a small cafe on the site, selling the usual snacks and drinks; this is open all day Monday to Sunday during the summer season, and in winter is open from 10 am to 2.30 pm Monday to Saturday. There is also a picnic area, should you wish to bring your own food. The fort also boasts a small gift shop, where mementoes can be purchased at reasonable prices. This is usually open although it is advisable to check with the staff at the entrance as to the opening times.
Parking is noted as being 182 metres from the entrance to the Fort. If you are driving, then this is the first car park you come upon after leaving the village. Visitors are not allowed to park in the second car park. There is always the temptation to carry on driving if the car park seems quite full. The second car park is for the military personnel who are working in the Fort. My advice is to park on the grass if the gravel spaces are full as you will not be allowed to park in the second car park.
From the car park to the entrance of the Fort is mainly gravel with some patches of grass. This is fine for all able bodied people, but may cause problems for those of us who have disabilities or parents with small children in prams and buggies. Most of the Fort is on level ground although there are a couple of areas where people in wheelchairs or with buggies may need some help.
There are toilet facilities and also disabled toilets are on site. Visitors with a disability will normally be asked what assistance they will require, and there are a couple of wheelchairs available if needed. There are no dedicated baby-changing facilities here, which was a bit of a burden, but as our youngest is in training pants, we did not find it to be too much of a problem, but those of you with younger children may want to do the nappy changes before going in!
During the summer there is a small train which goes on a circuit around the camp and gives a great way to have a look at the camp without having to walk around. This train is able to accommodate visitors who need wheelchairs and is a great method of seeing Fort George without getting sore feet! I can highly recommend this way of getting round as our kids really enjoyed it and we had to do the circuit a couple of times before they would get off! There are various pick up and drop off points on the route so it is possible to take the train to one part of the Fort, have a look around and then get back on the train and go on to another part of the site. Great for those of us who can only walk short distances!
There is an audio-visual presentation given in the casemate which is near to the camp cinema. I cannot really give any details on this as we did not stop to watch the presentation but I believe it is in French, German and Italian, as well as English of course!
The entrance fees are quite reasonable and these are for 2006:
Adults - £6.50
Children Under 16 - £2.50
Concessions - £5.00
For 3 adults and 2 children we paid a total of £23 and this was very reasonable I think, as the major part of this money will go back into Historic Scotland's coffers for the upkeep of all their buildings throughout Scotland.
What can I say? I love the place! It's where my dad was stationed when he met my mum and it's also where my hubby was stationed when we met (many moons ago!!!). I personally have been going to Fort George since I was a young child and I always find something new each and every time I visit.
My dad used to take me as a child to tell me about his experiences when he was stationed there, and, as a child I did not take much notice. But now as an adult, I can quite easily see how the soldiers of his generation would have lived.
Sometimes there are displays on show at the Fort from Historic Societies who perform re-enactments of life there, as well as battles, and these can be really interesting as well as very entertaining. I am just sorry that we missed them as there was one the day before we visited.
I would advise anyone wishing to visit Fort George of one main point - take a jacket with you! Even in the height of summer, the Fort is always quite a chilly place to go, mainly because of how near it is to the water. And plenty of sunscreen. Scottish weather is quite inclement and although it may seem cold, you could still get some quite bad sunburn there (as my poor hubby did get one year!).
Fort George is a really interesting piece of Scottish History and for me it is something that I would recommend that everyone visit. As it is a military camp, it is also of interest to military historians who would really enjoy the museum, architectural historians would enjoy the buildings, and it is a great place to go for a picnic!
If you are ever in Inverness, please go for a visit. Yes you may get cold (and eaten alive by the ever present Scottish midge!), but it is a beautiful place to visit, and the memories will linger long after you have warmed up!
This one gets 4 stars from me, but that's only because of the lack of baby-changing facilities and the certain areas where it may be difficult for disabled people to get around.
Thanks for reading.
Fort George is the only ancient monument in Scotland still functioning as intended a working army barracks - but still welcoming visitors. A gift shop and café (seasonal) are among the attractions. The Regimental Museum of the Queens Own Highlanders is found at the property, while dolphins can often be seen from the ramparts. There is also a summer events programme.