Fort George was built in 1746 in the wake of the Battle of Culloden and is recognised as being one of the most impressive fortifications in Europe.
The fort is still in use by the British Army but is open for tourists to explore thanks to Historic Environment Scotland who maintain the on-site museums.
Review of Fort George
The Battle of Culloden in 1746 marked the end of the Jacobite uprising and the attempt by Bonnie Prince Charlie to claim the throne of Britain for the Stuart monarchy. It was also the catalyst for the creation of one of the grandest fortifications in Europe – the magnificent Fort George near Inverness.
This mighty barracks took a full 22 years to build and was originally intended to be a secure base for the army of King George II after Culloden, but by the time the building works were completed the threat from the Jacobites had all but disappeared.
Even so, the fort remained an important defensive position for the British army for the following 250 years and it’s still in use as a British military base today.
This garrison fortress has barely changed since being built in the mid-1700s and it’s one of the few places in Scotland that’s open as a tourist attraction but is still being used just as it would have been over 200 hundred years ago.
It’s a great place to take a step back in time and offers visitors a unique insight into life as a British Redcoat in the years following the Jacobite uprising.
The military base is surprisingly big and within its 1-mile perimeter of enormous walls you’ll see defensive platforms bristling with cannon, collections of original weaponry, a regimental chapel containing battle flags, recreated barrack rooms and a museum dedicated to the Highlanders Batallion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.
Perhaps topping the list of these highlights though is Fort George’s location, nestled on the banks of the spectacular Moray Firth and looking out across the countryside of Inverness.
You’ll see loads of wildlife here (including dolphins) so be sure to take your camera and binoculars with you when you visit.
Read on to discover what else you can see during a visit to Fort George.
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Things to do at Fort George
It’s impossible not to be impressed by the scale of this historic attraction.
On entering the site you’re confronted with mammoth defensive walls that ring an exceptionally deep and wide trench that would have been almost impossible to breach by invading armies.
Amazingly, these defensive walls are over a mile in length and enclose an area the size of five football pitches. It’s quite a feat of engineering and just goes to show how much of an impact the Jacobites made on the British government.
Pass through the killing gates (where enemy soldiers would have been trapped and fired on from all angles) and you enter the main courtyard where a series of impossibly neat barrack blocks face a beautifully manicured lawn.
It’s all too easy to imagine the training and exercises that countless soldiers would have performed over the last 250 years (brought to life due to the fact you’ll see modern-day soldiers going about their duties) and walking between the regimental buildings will open up plenty of unexpected surprises.
To one side you’ll see the grand magazine, originally designed to hold nearly 3,000 gunpowder barrels but which is now home to one of the finest collections of weaponry in Scotland. To the other, you’ll find the Highlanders Museum, the second-largest regimental museum in Scotland after the National War Museum at Edinburgh Castle.
Continue exploring the fort and you’ll find the barrack rooms with their recreations of 200-year-old soldier’s quarters, while the far end of Fort George opens up to the garrison chapel and one of only two dog cemeteries in Scotland that was built as the final resting place for the regimental mascots.
It’s here at the ramparts surrounding the chapel where you’ll be able to take in some of the best views of your visit to Fort George, with the Moray Firth opening up before you – and if you’re lucky you’ll get to see pods of bottlenose dolphins swimming close to the shoreline.
There are plenty of opportunities to relax while you’re exploring the site thanks to the facilities installed by the fort’s managers, Historic Environment Scotland.
A picnic area and café allows tired feet to take a rest while the well-stocked gift shop offers plenty of opportunities to find the perfect souvenir of your visit.
As a top tip I recommend you take a visit to the nearby Battle of Culloden memorial where you can see for yourself where the Jacobites were finally defeated once and for all. You can read all about this attraction with my Guide to the Battle of Culloden Memorial.
Fort George is a first-class historic attraction and I was highly impressed with the amount of restoration that HES has carried out on the site. To my mind, it’s one of the best military attractions in Scotland and it gets close to rivalling Edinburgh and Stirling castles.
Discover more places to visit with my Scottish Highlands articles.
- The site is huge. There are plenty of activities to keep you busy especially if you’ve got children with you.
- The view across the Moray Firth is beautiful. Keep an eye open for dolphins.
- It’s a fascinating glimpse into Scotland’s military history.
- It’s a bit expensive if you’re not a Historic Environment Scotland member but you can save money by getting a membership pack before your visit.
- Take a pair of binoculars for wildlife spotting from the ramparts.
- There’s an army-run café in the grounds which is very good and much cheaper than the HES one.
Photo gallery and video
Things to do near Fort George
- Cawdor Castle. B9090, Cawdor, Nairn IV12 5RD. 17-minute drive. 14th-century castle with expansive grounds that is supposedly the inspiration for the story of Macbeth. Visitors can enjoy a nine-hole golf course, a walled garden and ‘the big wood’ – a remnant of an ancient Caledonian forest that has a number of footpaths running through it.
- Culloden Battlefield. Culloden Moor, Inverness IV2 5EU. 23-minute drive. The site of the last pitched battle to be fought on British soil when the Jacobite uprising was brought to a bloody finale by British government soldiers. The centrepiece is a large memorial and markers for each clan that died in the battle. There is a visitor centre with a museum, a café and gift shop on the site.
- Inverness Castle. Inverness IV2 3EG. 26-minute drive. A red sandstone castle that overlooks the River Ness in the city centre. The castle is not open to the public but the grounds can be visited for photo opportunities of Inverness from the elevated hilltop position.
- Clava Cairns. Inverness IV2 5EU. 22-minute drive. One of the oldest historic sites in Britain. Clava Cairns is a prehistoric burial cairn that is estimated to be 4,000 years old. There are a number of standing stones and the remains of an ancient cemetery.
- Nairn Beach. Nairn IV12 4EA. 19-minute drive. A wide golden sand beach that is several miles in length. Nairn beach opens up to a large estuary to the west which is a haven for waterfowl. The area towards Nairn offers easy access to cafés and public toilets.
More places to visit in The Highlands
- The Highland Wildlife Park – Highland: Complete Visitor GuideSitting in around 260 acres of beautifully managed parkland in the Cairngorms, the Highland Wildlife Park showcases some of the wildlife that can be found in the mountains and wilderness areas of Scotland, as well as several species that are currently endangered in mountainous regions all over the world.
- The Cairngorm Mountain Funicular – Highland: Complete Visitor GuideThe Cairngorm mountain is the UK’s sixth-highest and is well-known for being Scotland’s premier snowsports destination.
- The Glenfinnan Monument – Inverness-shire: Complete Visitor GuideThe Glenfinnan Monument sits at the north-east head of Loch Shiel where it has commanded spectacular views of the Highland landscape since its construction in 1815.
- The Complete Guide to Free Attractions in The HighlandsDiscover the best free attractions in Scotland with my list of free attractions in The Highlands