The colonial forts of Sri Lanka are a highlight for many tourists. The charming city of Galle Fort has been wonderfully restored while Jaffna’s fort sits in ruin, allowing visitors to haphazardly climb over stones. Having visited most of the forts in the country, my favorite is Fort Frederick in Trincomalee.
The Portuguese built this military encampment in 1624, at its completion it was known as the Fort of Triquillimale. Prior to building the fort, the Koneswaram temple was destroyed during Tamil New Year. The Dutch captured the fort in 1639, and it was transferred to the British in 1795.
Today the fort serves as a detachment for the Gajaba Regiment of the Sri Lanka Army. Visitors are allowed to enter the fort and visit the Gokana Temple and the rebuilt Koneswaram temple. When approaching the fort you can often spot deer running around the perimeter of the military camp. The entrance to the fort is a massive gateway that is crowned with British insignias. Upon entering the fort you can walk along the main road. There are many soldiers about, so ask before taking photos (all of the solders I asked allowed me to take their photos). After walking about twenty yards you can turn off to the Gokana Temple.
The most impressive part of this Temple is wandering around at the top of the Fort’s walls. The empty chambers below underneath the temple are gratified, and traces of the shrines that these rooms used to hold remain painted on the walls.
When you leave the Gokana Temple to head to the Koneswaram temple, take note of the Wellesley Lodge. This building is named after Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, and now serves as the officer’s mess hall.
After a long walk up a steep hill, you will arrive at the Koneswaram temple. This beautiful Shiva temple was reopened to pilgrims during the British rule. In 1950 the original relic of the Temple was recovered while digging a well near the site. Arthur C. Clarke, the famous author, discovered more ruins from the original shrine while scuba diving around the fort. The lingam he retrieved now sits inside the temple complex, which was rebuilt in 1963.
Standing at Swami Rock and staring out at the sea is an incredibly tranquil experience. Plan on arriving at the Fort around 5pm, so you can watch the sun set from the temple complex. After the sun has set you can walk out of the fort in the dark. The experience of strolling through a military camp in the dark is eerie, but memorable.