Stunning views amidst the canons
This review is especially helpful for those who have or use the following: Powerchair
Thinking that Fort George was a great idea but the notion that it was built to keep people out didn’t register on my radar. So here I was, trying to get in and around as a powerchair user! For something so seemingly incompatible the day was fantastic!
Transport & Parking
Getting to Fort George was fairly straightforward as we arrived by WAV (wheelchair accessible vehicle) and pulled up in the gravel surfaced car park near to the entrance path. There are a few accessible parking bays by the start of the entrance path but these aren’t obvious as they have quite small signs. The other point of note is that the bays aren’t marked out with lines are clear demarcation so beware of vehicles parking too close to you if you need wheelchair access to the doors of your vehicle. I think it fair to warn people that Fort George is a place that does involve being able to walk or wheel some significant distances albeit with places to stop, rest a while and take in the view. The options for public transport appeared limited as the Fort is set out on a peninsula jutting out in to the sea.
The notion that here was a Fortress built to keep people out did make us wonder what it might be like trying to get around. Then seeing the layout and the design we began to realise this might be really good - if they built it to roll big cannons and guns around then sure it might be pretty good for powerchairs! The trickiest or perhaps more accurately the most uncomfortable bit came when crossing over the drawbridge like bridge and then through the short tunnels. Each of the tunnelled pieces, on a few metres in length, were set with cobbles. Slow and gentle was the order of the day but once you got over these the rest was relatively easy. You can meander amongst the barrack buildings and explore the various exhibitions and the museum. It’s a bit like move through a close knit village going from block to block or street to street. It’s a great place as it has a curious combination of working military base, old fort and museum. The touches like the red phone boxes, the unexpected chapel, the cosy cafe all combined to give the place character and feeling. The village like area is surrounded by high ramparts and canon topped walls. From wheelchair height these looked impressive but it was hard to get a feel for what they overlooked or any sense of what was beyond. Taking a leap of faith I decided to wheel up one of the wide access ramps. It was a fair gradient but looked worse than it actually was. The surface from a distance looked like grass but on closer encounter it was actually reinforced with a concrete like surface which was surprisingly easy to wheel on - great for canons! Once at the top I had one of those rare ‘wow’ moments realising that up at that new height there was a whole new world. A grass covered area stretched for some distance and at the far side were gaps in the wall where canon would have been deployed to defend the fort. Going closer I could wheel up and touch the canon and peer out to imagine the targets of years gone by. Many of these were point out across the water and ready to take on the invading ships. Others aimed at the hinterland to take on an land bound rebels who planned an attack. Turning you then had a great view over the village like layout of the Fort. The views were a high spot of the visit and the fact you are actually up on the ramparts under the flutter fags and by the canons of old was fabulous. Back in the village, most of the building were good for wheeling in and having a poke around. The old cinema, the exhibition with the canon balls, the old dormitory, and more. It’s certainly a visit that soaks up the time before you know it.
The Fort does have accessible toilets and these can be found in the centre of the main mass of barrack like buildings. They are on the main seaward side, northern side, of the building so it’s easy to walk along past the build row that they are in. If you do glance along the building line they are easier to spot as you will see the large concrete ramp leading up to the entrance to the accessible loos. They are sandwiched between the conventional male and female facilities which both have their own separate entrances. Opening the door at the top of the ramp you go in to a spacious lobby. Great spot to shelter from the driving rain by the way! Off the lobby are two accessible loos and a baby changing room. The loos themselves were spacious, light and well equipped.
We met staff at several points during out walk about. Everyone was friendly and welcoming as well as being keen to explain what there was to see and do. Particular mention has to be made of the two ladies we met in the cafe. They helped take things to our table, move chairs, and were cheerful and chatty.
Anything else you wish to tell us?
A great place to visit and one where the imagination and expectation of the visit were, for us, overtaken by the enjoyment of what we found and what we could do and see.