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Fort Shirley Dominica Visitor Tips

Fort Shirley Dominica
Gun battery at Fort Shirley overlooks Prince Rupert Bay. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

Fort Shirley on Dominica is the island’s most important historical site and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

It joins a number of important New World forts built by European militaries throughout the Caribbean from the 1600s through the 1800s at the height of their colonization periods and military conflicts.

Shirley, which was built in a volcanic crater in 1765, was designed by the British to deter attacks by the French, who launched two invasions against the island. The fort once contained up to 600 soldiers.

The fort has historical significance because it is the location of an 1802 rebellion by slave soldiers of the 8th West India Regiment. They took control of the garrison for three days in protest over conditions there, according to UNESCO. The rebellion led to the freedom in 1807 of all slave soldiers in the British Empire.

The fort was abandoned in 1854, and restoration began in 1982. Restored sections include the ramparts, officers’ quarters, the soldiers’ barracks, powder magazine, guard house and ordnance store. The buildings are now being used for events in addition to a tourist destination.

Fort Shirley resides in Cabrits National Park, which has 1,313 acres protecting wetlands, tropical forests and coral reefs. The nearest town is Portsmouth.

Fort Shirley Map

Unfortunately for cruise visitors, driving there takes more than an hour from the Roseau cruise port. Roseau is on the southern tip and Fort Shirley on the northern tip of the island.

It is not a common excursion among major cruise lines, so anyone with an interest in visiting the site probably will have to arrange an excursion directly with a private operator or rent a car and drive there.

Private excursions usually include Fort Shirley with other options such as rafting, Purple Turtle Beach and a visit to the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Expect to pay more than $100 for the excursion.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
February 17, 2020

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