Built in the 1870s, Fort Hamilton (Happy Valley Rd., off King St., tel. 441/292-1234, 8 a.m.–sunset daily, admission free), like Fort St. Catherine in St. George’s, remains one of the best-kept examples of the island’s ancient fortifications. It’s equally interesting to historians, gardeners, and sightseers, thanks to its awesome panorama of Hamilton and Pembroke, as well as the Paget shoreline.
Fort Hamilton served as the southern end of the Royal Navy’s Prospect defensive line—intended to halt an enemy attack on Spanish Point, and thereby protect the Royal Naval Dockyard and fleet anchored at Grassy Bay. Managed by the Corporation of Hamilton, Fort Hamilton is used today as a plant nursery, the reason for its meticulously landscaped gardens.
Mosaic pathways lead among vibrant flower gardens, and benches are positioned on lower lawns and atop the ramparts, where cannons point out over Hamilton’s corporate streets below. A wooden drawbridge leads into the fort, where a guardroom and tearoom (now closed) sit at the entrance. Inside, steps near the entrance lead down into the circular moat garden, planted with gorgeous varieties of ferns, waxy elephant ears, orchids, bromeliads, and other shade-loving species.
A skinny dirt path follows the moat completely around; despite the occasional mosquito, it is one of my favorite walks. Along the way, doorways lead into Fort Hamilton’s dungeons, which are worth exploring if you have time. The smell of thick, damp limestone permeates this network of subterranean galleries, which kids, especially, will find fascinating, though perhaps a little frightening if they’re very young. (Popular Halloween “Fright Nights” and “Haunted Playground” events are held here for adults and children.)
The catacomb is usually well lit, and there are various entrances and exits, including one set of stairs that must number in the hundreds. A caretaker’s cottage is situated on the main lawn, and there are well-maintained restrooms here. Every Monday at noontime throughout the November–March season, kilted dancers and drummers perform a bagpipe “skirling” ceremony at Fort Hamilton.
© Rosemary Jones from Moon Bermuda, 2nd Edition