Antigua, Monk’s Hill (Fort George)
I have long looked at the series of hills and aerials behind Falmouth Harbour and thought “one of these days I have to get up there” Then in the December 2012 Compass, Devi Sharp wrote instructions of how to hike there, and included a description of the hidden fort George, which made it irresistible. I am more a biker than hiker, but from the description most of it was on road so I cycled from English Harbour , Devi’s instructions in my bag. Given that there is a huge aerial at the top I figured there had to be a road all the way up. As I cycled by an Antiguan cyclist (he was taking a break), I asked him if there was a road up there. He said “yes”, and not only that, he cycled up and showed me the road, which turned out (I think) to be the same one Devi took.
I found out there is in fact a real road of sorts all the way, it starts in Liberta. I mention it because if you don’t like hiking and you can find a taxi driver whose pressing need for cash triumphs over his need for functioning shock absorbers, you could get a ride up there. Cycling up by the real road is on my list for my next visit.
If anyone can take a wrong turn, I can, so I am re- writing the instructions for dummies, and in light of changes that may have taken place. If you are hiking the closest place to start is the Cat Club. On the main road turn left for St. Johns. Pass St. Paul’s Anglican Church. Devi mentions a green
bar plastered with Heineken logos. That is still there. Shortly afterwards there is a road on your left that goes downhill, almost opposite and just a little beyond is a paved road on your right. That is the road I took, and it remains paved, more or less to the top. I would say it is the first road on your right after the green bar.
The road climbs through an area of massive houses and pretty gardens, very quiet if you exclude the barking of all the guard dogs along the way.. The road is exceptionally steep in places. I pushed my bike both up and down much of it. As you get up high you will come to almost a t junction with a ” Private Road, No Trespassing” sign where there is a big driveway on the right. I ignored this and continued up (turning left). You already get some great views along the way. The road reaches the top of the hill, turns to dirt and then then a path.
Continue on the path for a short distance and you find yourself at a pretty grouping of century plants which marks the fork in the path where you want to turn left. There are plenty of acacia trees for locking the bike to. The path to the fort is quite clear with occasional marks. However you arrive at the wrong end of the fort, and getting round it is not that easy. Do not, when you see the fort, head towards it. (I did, and attempted to go round the right side of the fort where there was a clear path, was bought up short by a fallen wall and precipice, considered trying some rock climbing, then thought better of it, which was very wise). Continue along the same path you came on, which goes along the left side of the fort but some way from it. It will slowly bring you closer to the fort wall not far from where you should see a grave yard. At this point there is no clear trail, there are lots of thorny and prickly plants most of which are in your way, there are hints of paths but really it is bushwhacking, and for some of the time you are really close to the fort wall. Eventually you just follow round the structure till you cross some fallen stones and there is the road. The road takes you up through the arch into the fort which must have been massive. It is a big area all overgrown with bush. However follow the road which takes you to the aerial and then the rocky outer edge, which has totally spectacular views in several directions but particularly over Falmouth Harbour. Devi gives the time of one hour from the Cat Club, which seems right to me.