Built on the orders of King George II in the wake of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, Fort George is still in use as army barracks today. It is one of the largest and best preserved forts in Europe, a spectacular complex of fortifications and garrison buildings set on a spit of land jutting into the Moray Firth. It’s approached along a scenic road that takes you through sandstone tunnels and over the white wooden bridges that span the moats. Once there, you’re rewarded with magnificent coastal views from the ramparts, from where you can often spot dolphins in the sea.
A short (12min) film recounting the Fort George story is a good starting point for a tour, and a ninety-minute multilingual audio tour is available to guide you around the extensive site. The Historic Barrack Rooms vividly recreate the living conditions of the eighteenth-century soldiers who lived here. Other highlights include the Grand Magazine, which once held thousands of gunpowder barrels and now stores a vast collection of eighteenth-century arms; the garrison chapel; a dog cemetery; and the Camp Cinema with its short film of a nineteenth century battle re-enactment. There’s a special quiz sheet for children, and summertime family events – though the shiny weapons, towering buildings and vast space to run around in provide ample enjoyment for younger visitors.
Though built to be impregnable, the fort is very accessible today. From the car park it’s around two hundred yards to the visitor centre and main entrance, mostly across level ground, but with two short stretches of cobbles to cross. You can borrow powered scooters at the visitor centre, as well as some manual wheelchairs. The site is largely wheelchair accessible, though assistance may be needed up one of the six grassy ramps (twenty degrees) onto the ramparts or up the slight step into the Barrack Rooms. The Regimental Museum is spread across three floors of the former Lieutenant Governor’s house with a stair lift allowing access from the ground to the middle floor, but not up to the top floor. There are two sets of accessible toilets: one in the main garrison area, the other in the café. An induction loop is available in the audio-visual theatre and in the shop and main reception area.
Food & drink: The Fort George Café sells homemade, locally sourced food such as soup and sandwich lunches, and has level access and disabled toilets. The fort’s Red Hackle Restaurant is primarily for soldiers, but is also open to the public at lunchtime – it may be closed if the troops are away. There is one step at its rear entrance, more at the front.