Website Category: European Colonial Influences
Criteria: (vi) association with belief system
Location and Values: The coastline of present-day Ghana, from Keta in the east, to Beyin in the west, has the highest concentration of European-built forts and castles on the continent. There are 29 in total, some more than 500 years old. They were built and fought over by the major European powers, often changing hands after bloody battles. Their importance was closely tied to trade in local ‘products’ - most notably gold and slaves - which were exchanged for liquor, clothing and weaponry through local intermediaries who controlled trade routes into the West African interior.
Very few of the forts are actively managed for public viewing at present, most lying abandoned on the shore where they can be explored by any interested passer-by. Unfortunately, the three main castles in Accra are closed to the public as they are used for other government functions. But two of the most prominent castles, at Cape Coast and Elmina have undergone extensive renovation and are open to the public. Informed guides are available and some excellent displays, explaining the history of slaving and other aspects of the castles’ history have been developed.
Slideshow of the Forts And Castles, Volta, Greater Accra, Central And Western Regions: The slideshow features just five of the 29 forts and castles, selected to show the range of size and architectural styles used in their construction. The slideshow starts with Elmina castle, site of the first Portuguese-built fort of 1482. This was subsequently developed into a major castle, now extensively renovated and standing on a rocky promontory overlooking the busy local fishing port, with its colourful ocean-going canoes. From the ramparts of Elmina, the smaller Fort St Jago (1665-6) can be seen standing atop a nearby hill. The next featured castle is Cape Coast Castle, the only other major castle that is formally open to the public. It was built on the site of the previous wooden Swedish Fort Carolusbourg (1653). Further west, photos of the two small forts at Discove (Fort Metal Cross, 1692-96) and Beyin (Fort Apollonia, 1770) are included.
Slideshow of the Forts And Castles, Volta, Greater Accra, Central And Western Regions:
Comments and Impressions: Visiting at least one of the two major castles at Elmina and Cape Coast is an essential part of a visit to Ghana, made especially worthwhile by the excellent guide services and interpretation.
Google Earth View: To view satellite imagery of Cape Coast Castle on Google Earth, click here. This opens a new window, so when you are finished, just close the Google Earth page and you will be straight back here to continue browsing other world heritage sites around Africa. It is worth taking a few minutes to explore other castles further along the coast by panning in and out, and looking to left and right at different levels of resolution
Other Links: Official UNESCO Site Details