Brimstone Hill Fortress in Focus

Lauren Kania
Lauren Kania - Travel Editor 3 Min Read
A view out to sea across the ruins of Brimstone Hill Fort in St Kitts

At nearly 800 feet (ft) above sea level and perched on a steep, precipitous slope on the Western Caribbean coast, Brimstone Hill Fortress was considered impenetrable in its prime, having been renowned as “The Gibraltar of the Caribbean.”

Today, the imposing fortress stands as a prominent and well-preserved example of 17th and 18th century military architecture and a stark testament to European colonialism, the slave trade, and the birth of new societies in the Caribbean. To truly comprehend the magnitude and legacy of  Brimstone Hill Fortress, it is first important to understand the history of St Kitts. 

After Christopher Columbus landed on the island in the late 15th century, it became the first in the Caribbean to be officially settled upon by Europeans approximately 100 years later. Subsequently, the native Amerindians were virtually exterminated, and African people were brought in as slaves. The plantation system, primarily centred around sugar cane, came to result in great wealth for the island, thus making it a scene for many battles in the struggle for dominance. 

With the first military usage in 1690, Brimstone Hill Fortress was designed by the British and constructed by slave labour in order to protect the coastline from sea attack. 

The walls of the structure are predominately made of stone skilfully fashioned from the volcanic rock of which the hill is naturally composed, and the looming citadel inside is one of the earliest and finest surviving examples of the fortification style known as the “polygonal system”. 

The fortress was abandoned in 1853 before being restored in the early 20th century, and today, tours of buildings still standing alongside a variety of ruins are available to the public. 

The fortress was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, and in addition to sparking important conversations about the Caribbean’s complex history, the fortress’ physical location offers an unparalleled panoramic view of forested mountains, lush fields, the historical township of Sandy Point, and the glistening expanse of the coastline. 

This commanding structure is a true engineering feat, and when looking out at the stunning views from atop the thick stone walls, a sense of reverence and amazement is undeniable. The time capsule that is Brimstone Hill Fortress is a testament to the strength and perseverance of the Kittitian spirit and a necessity for any traveller venturing to the island.   

By Lauren Kania Travel Editor
Lauren Kania is an in-house travel writer for Outlook Travel Magazine, where she is responsible for crafting original travel features for the magazine, travel guides, and the digital platform.