Fort Henry Kingston, about 3 hours drive from Toronto, is the key part of the Kingston area World Heritage Site and, with its nearby Martello Towers, comprises an intact example of mid-eighteenth century military defences
The defences were there to protect Kingston, the harbor, and the entrance to the Rideau Canal, as well as command the junction between the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario.
The fort replaced the older 1812 War fortifications which were no longer practical with the advances in gunnery. And they were needed, even though there had been no 'official' invasion of Canada from the US after 1813, there were 'Fenian Raids, and other border disputes throughout the century.
Today, Fort Henry is carefully maintained by www.parks.on.ca on behalf of Canada and is a major visitor attraction. Being so complete, it's easy to feel you're seeing real soldiers and their wives going about their business as if it was 150 years ago. The people playing the inhabitants, mainly students working the summer, really get into their parts.
Fort Henry and the Fort Henry Guard put on regular shows during the summer season, starting in May, highlighting the kind of activities that were part of the life of the fort in those far-off times. Some examples are, soldiers drilling, military music (fifes and drums) from the 1800's, and artillery firing.
Entrance to the fort is through the original gatehouse, see their site (link below) for latest prices. Your ticket gets you in to view all the regular attractions. Special events are, for the most part, an additional cost so check ahead.
Most days there are guided tours running from the hour but special evenings include the Sunset Ceremonies and Military Tattoo (a show of military drills and music, not body decoration), in the warmer months.
There's so much to see in and around Fort Henry Kingston you should assume you will need at least a 2 to 4 hours depending on your level of interest, which means you'll want to be fed. Fortunately, the Soldiers' Canteen provides lunches and snacks throughout the season.
Another thing to consider is that, while there's plenty to see at ground level, the walls and upper storeys of the building are reached by steps and stairs so you need to be averagely fit to see everything. The buildings may look low in the photos but that's because their ground floor is below ground level so they had a low profile in the event of an attack.
As you'd expect from a fort guarding the harbor and docks, it has a great view out over Lake Ontario, the start of the St. Lawrence River, and the city of Kingston too.
Events that please most people, particularly boys, include any that involve firing guns and the Fort Guard has a number of such events.
One of the cannons on the wall, like the ones shown here, is fired at noon to mark the time, as it was 150 years ago, and displays of musketry by the 'soldiers', particularly at night, are fun to watch as well. Check out the fort's website for more details of dates and times at: www.forthenry.com
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