Galle Fort - A view from our expert author

lighthouse galle fort sri lanka by leoks shutterstockThe lighthouse of Galle Fort © leoks, Shutterstock

Recognised as a World Heritage Site, this fort is the best preserved colonial sea fortress in Asia.

The reason for going to Galle is to see the fort. It is easy to walk around its ramparts or along its streets, but don’t forget there can be cars and other traffic during the day. On the right after entering through the main archway is the clocktower  and various vaults and access up a slope to the ramparts. If you turn left you can walk to the Amangalla Hotel and to the cultural museum next to it. This was once part of the hotel and is a bit dull.

There is a Christian church at the other side of the hotel, built in 1775 on the site of a Portuguese Capuchin convent. Opposite stands a Dutch belltower whose bell was tolled hourly in the 18th century, timed by an hourglass. A walk down the road by the belfry will bring you to the original archway entrance leading up from the sea. A national maritime museum has been opened within the fort wall.

Opposite is the fort’s village green, now paved over, with the law courts and administration buildings around it. Hospital Street leads off it to the lighthouse that, if you meet the right caretaker in the right mood, you might be permitted to climb. From the top there is a splendid view of red-tiled roofs and purple bougainvillaea bursting from the concealed gardens of hidden courtyards. The rampart walls are riddled with a warren of cells, and gaps through the battlements to turrets, like pepper pots, protruding at strategic corners. Solid half-moons in the grass mark the foundations of gun emplacements.

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