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Saint Kitts and Nevis: Brimstone Hill Fortress

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Brimstone Hill Fortress | Saint Kitts and Nevis | Americas

[Visited: September 2011]

The prime attraction of St Kitts undoubtedly is Brimstone Hill Fortress, and this is where we headed as soon as we had arranged transportation from Basseterre. We had seen a huge cruise ship dock in Basseterre, and could almost feel the tour buses behind us - we knew we had to stay ahead of them. Driving the attractive road on the west coast of St Kitts, our eyes were fixed on the hills to our right, and when we finally spotted a sturdy fortification on top of a hill, there was no doubt we were close. Once called the Gibraltar of the West Indies because of its height and apparent invulnerability, Brimstone Hill was built on a steep hill on the northwest coast of St Kitts, with a direct view of St Eustatius. The difficult location posed a challenge for the British who designed the fortress, as well as the African slaves who were forced to build it with black volcanic stone called brimstone. Consequently, it took around 100 years to finish the complex in the late 18th century. It was put to the test when the French besieged it in 1782; despite its location, the British had to surrender after a month, but regained Brimstone Hill when St Kitts and Nevis were handed back in the Treaty of Paris. The British further strengthened the fort, and it was never again conquered.

Picture of Brimstone Hill Fortress (Saint Kitts and Nevis): Thick defensive walls topped by cannons on the Fort George citadel

A steep, narrow, winding road leads up to Brimstone Hill fortress, at times offering dramatic views of Fort George perched on the highest point of the hill. Passing several smaller defensive bastions at lower altitudes, you pass an arched gateway before entering the main grounds of the Brimstone Hill Fortress complex. We parked our car here; a perfect place from which you can visit all the places of interest in these extensive grounds. While a strong wind was trying to blow us away, we headed to the star attraction of Brimstone Hill: pentagonal Fort George, which is the highest point of the complex. Thick defensive walls, protected by a moat, and cannons that are still lined up pointing at the sea, impressed us by their sheer appearance, but also because they seemed very well maintained. The views over the island and the sea from this 240 metres high vantage point were great, as was exploring the ramparts of the fort, the cannons on top of it, the small museum telling the story of the battles for this fort, and the small courtyard. When we finally walked down, we saw the first groups of cruise ship passengers arrive, and walked to the ruins of the Artillery Officers Quarters, the cook house, the parade, grassy Monkey hill, and the catch of the Green Tank, a huge cistern that provided the fortification water. Some of the buildings were still in ruins.

Picture of Brimstone Hill Fortress (Saint Kitts and Nevis): Courtyard of the Fort George citadel

From the Green Tank, we walked down to the remains of an old hospital, Orillion bastion, and a small cemetery where old, worn tombstones are testimonies of the remains of old inhabitants of Brimstone Hill. A lovely corner of Brimstone Hill, we noted that the visitors that were now swarming over Fort George would not come down this far - apparently, they simply did not have enough time. We walked up on the road, where several cannons are planted vertically in the ground, to enter the complex again through the arched gateway. It was time to walk in Prince of Wales bastion, the biggest bastion with well-preserved plateau with cannons. Not only were the views great from this advanced spot on the hill, it also offers great views of Fort George and much of the Brimstone Hill complex. We walked the parade ground again for another view of the arched portico of the ruins of the Infantry Officers Quarters, destroyed by a hurricane. The strong wind was blowing dark clouds through the sky, and the view of the changing light on the complex was a fantastic sight. After a thoroughly enjoyable visit to an impressive sight, where we spent much more time than anticipated, we decided it was time to move on and leave the crowds that had now taken possession of Brimstone Hill behind.

Picture of Brimstone Hill Fortress (Saint Kitts and Nevis): The ruins of the Infantry Officers Quarters with the Fort George citadel in the background
Picture of Brimstone Hill Fortress (Saint Kitts and Nevis): Black steps leading up to the Fort George citadel, the highest point of the Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park
Picture of Brimstone Hill Fortress (Saint Kitts and Nevis): One of the old tombstones on the cemetery of Brimstone Hill fortress
Picture of Brimstone Hill Fortress (Saint Kitts and Nevis): Arched gateway to Brimstone Hill fortress
Picture of Brimstone Hill Fortress (Saint Kitts and Nevis): Old English cannon with markings of the monarch on top of Fort George
Picture of Brimstone Hill Fortress (Saint Kitts and Nevis): The well-preserved Prince of Wales bastion seen from above
Picture of Brimstone Hill Fortress (Saint Kitts and Nevis): Bell of Fort George with sea and Artillery Offices in the background
Picture of Brimstone Hill Fortress (Saint Kitts and Nevis): View of Brimstone Hill fortress from a corner of the Prince of Wales bastion
Picture of Brimstone Hill Fortress (Saint Kitts and Nevis): Line of cannons on top of the Fort George citadel
Picture of Brimstone Hill Fortress (Saint Kitts and Nevis): Side view of one of the edges of Fort George with dry moat
Picture of Brimstone Hill Fortress (Saint Kitts and Nevis): Arched portal inside Fort George, the highest point of the impressive Brimstone Hill complex
Picture of Brimstone Hill Fortress (Saint Kitts and Nevis): Arched ruins of the Artillery Offices and the Cook house
Picture of Brimstone Hill Fortress (Saint Kitts and Nevis): Looking up the entrance to Fort George citadel with the flag of St Kitts and Nevis

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