Posted by Karen White on
Ghana has the greatest concentration of colonial-era forts of any country in Africa. The most visited destinations are the colonial fortresses at Cape Coast and Elmina, which were once major transshipment points for tens of thousands of slaves on their way to the New World.
There are also many smaller forts that may be visited as well. Some are in a state of ruin while others are maintained and provide basic tours. There are far fewer visitors to these smaller forts, which makes for an interesting contrast to the experience at Cape Coast or Elmina.
Cape Coast castle in Ghana
CAPE COAST CASTLE
Cape Coast Castle is the largest of the buildings which contains the legacy of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The best history tells us that the Dutch lost control of a fortification to Swedish adventurers in 1652, who name it Fort Carolusburg. Ownership changed numerous times, both among local peoples and various European powers, until finally, in 1664, after a four-day battle, the fort was captured by the British and re-named Cape Coast Castle. The Castle served as the seat of the British administration in the then Gold Coast (Ghana) until the administration was moved to Christianborg Castle in Accra on March 19,1877.
Like most ancient fortifications in Ghana, Cape Coast Castle played a significant role in the gold and slave trades. But also, two significant contributions were made here: the arrival of Christianity, and the establishment of the first formal education system through Castle Schools.
A guided tour of the Cape Coast Castle will acquaint you with its many interesting features including Dalzel Tower, the graves of Governor George Maclean and his wife Leticia Landon, the slave dungeons, Palaver Hall, and the cannons and mortars used in the Castle's defense. The West African Historical Museum is located inside Cape Coast Castle and contains a growing collection of art and cultural objects from various parts of West Africa, for example ceremonial drums, old muskets, shackles from the slave trade and ancient pottery.
The Cape Coast castle is the site visited by President Barack Obama on his first visit to Africa as President in 2009.
Fort William in Cape Coast
FORT WILLIAM & FORT VICTORIA (in Cape Coast)
Within walking distance in central Cape Coast are also Fort William and Fort Victoria. Located on the top of hills, these two forts have great historical touches. Walking around these forts and getting to know about the interesting environment of Cape Coast is an exciting adventure.
The abandoned Fort Victoria holds a lonesome atmosphere but a rich history. It is comprised of a square turret surrounding by a round wall. This venue is famous for the views it provides from its top.
Fort William originally served as a lighthouse, but today is home for many people who are employed at the Cape Coast Castle and is regarded as a tourist attraction in its own right. Visitors get to enjoy the amazing views of the surrounding town by climbing the top of the fort.
Elmina Castle is a well maintained site that offers very good historical tours.
Just 10km west of Cape Coast, Elmina is the earliest European structure in sub-Saharan Africa and recognized as first point of contact between the Europeans and the inhabitants of today's Ghana. In 1471, a Portuguese expedition arrived, led by Don Diego d' Azambuja. They called the area "Mina de Ouro" because of the vast amount of gold and ivory, they found.
A mere eleven years after their first contact, the Portuguese built St. George's Castle, commonly called Elmina Castle, in 1482. This vast rectangular 97,000sq ft fortification is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Ft. San Jago in Elmina
FORT St. JAGO
Within walking distance to Elmina Castle, Fort St Jago originated as a chapel built between 1555 and 1558 by the Portuguese, which was later converted into a lodge and watch tower. From the vantage point of this nearby hill, the Dutch launched their successful land attack on Elmina Castle.
Its primary purpose was to provide military protection to the Castle and to serve as a disciplinary institution for European convicts and malcontents. Enjoy this small hilltop fort, which provides an excellent view of Elmina and Elmina Castle.
Fort William in Anomabu
FORT WILLIAM (in Anomabu)
Fort William (not to be confused with Fort William in Cape Coast) is located in the beach village of Anomabu, just before reaching Cape Coast. The fort was originally built by the Dutch in 1640 and has a long and troubled history of capture and recapture by the Swedes, Danes, English, as well as attacks by the French and Ashanti's, and even occupation by local tribes during a time of abandonment. The present Fort William was built by the British, in 1753-56 and restored in 1954.
In addition to the fort, the village of Anomabu boasts a lovely beach resort, a fishing beach, ancient village and numerous sacred shrines.
Fort St Sebastian in Shama, Ghana
FORT St SEBASTIAN
Located in Shama is a unique and well maintained structure which is easily accessible from the coastal road. It was originally built as a Dutch lodge in 1526, with the Portuguese converting it into a fort in 1590. Abandoned in 1600, the Dutch returned and restored the fort in 1638. Temporally in English hands, it was again abandoned sometime before 1870 and was ceded to Britain in 1872.
Fort Prinsenstein is the only fort of note that is east of Accra. Located in the village of Keta on a sandbar between the ocean and the Keta lagoon, this fort was established in the early 1700's by the Dutch, about 200-300 yards from the sea. Danes began to build the present fort in 1784 and it was purchased by Britain in 1850.
Traveling east of Accra is a very different feel than traveling the coast west of Accra. Not just that the tribes and language are different, but there are fewer visitors to this area making for a relaxed visit with more interactions with locals possible.
The nearby Keta Lagoon is one of Ghana's most important marine birding locations, with a lookout platform and canoe rides available for bird watching.
Fort Metal Cross in Dixcove, Ghana
FORT METAL CROSS
Fort Metal Cross is a small fort about a 20 minute walk from Busua Beach. Built by the English in 1691-97, possibly on the site of an earlier post, this fort has the typical history of many occupiers and abandonment. The Dutch named it Metalen Kruis in 1868, and ceded it to Britain in 1872.
This fort was extensively restored in 1954-56.
Fort Gross Freidrichsburg
FORT GROSS FREIDRICHSBURG
Fort Gross Freidrichsburg in Prince's Town began as a Danish lodge in 1658, with the fort originally built in 1682 by the Brandenburg Africa Company, making this Ghana's only German fort. Abandoned in 1716 and occupied by a local chief, John Connie, in 1717, who remained in occupation until 1725 repelling European attacks. Eventually captured by the Dutch, it was renamed Fort Hollandia and remained in Dutch possession until 1872 when it was ceded to Britain.
Fort San Antonio in Ghana
FORT SAN ANTONIO
Fort San Antonio in Axim has a history like many forts, beginning as a Portuguese trading post in 1502, and changing hands many times among English, European and local powers over a long history, until its final ownership by the British was established in 1872. This fort has the distinction of being recognized as the second fortification built in today's Ghana by the Portuguese.
Axim is about a 6 hour drive west of Accra, on one of Ghana's most beautiful beaches with wonderful resorts, nearby forests and close enough to easily permit excursions to the stilt village of Nzulezu.
Fort Apollonia is the westernmost fort in Ghana, located in Beyin. Visiting this fort is easy when making an excursion to the Nzulezu stilt village or the Ankasa Protected Area. The beach at Beyin is an especially beautiful beach that is worthy of a night of relaxation with the sound of the waves after your trip to Nzulezu or Ankasa.