Fort Margherita est AD 1880

One of the most interesting tourist attaraction that Kuching has to offer (and sadly very overlooked by the local authorities) is the fort across the river from the city centre.  Fort Margherita was constructed by Charles Brooks, that is the second of the three white Rajahs it was named after his wife.

Up close the fort is much bigger than you would expect from the other side of the river.

Up close the fort is much bigger than you would expect from the other side of the river.

The fort was built in AD 1880, at the time it had a great view of the growing town of Kuching and could protect the town and the shipping. Today it is maintained by the Sarawak Museum, to their credit the fort has been recently repainted and cleaned. There is no entrance fee, the fort however is nearly empty, there used to be a police museum here with many examples of the weapons used during the brooke times, now the buildings stand empty save a few cannons too heavy for anyone to try and spirit away ;).

To get to the fort you have to take a sampan boat from the waterfront. The normal fee is 40 sen, if you look like a tourist they may try to give you a different price, don’t pay it look at what all the other people pay and do the same.

One of the Sampans or the water taxis you can use to get across the river.

One of the Sampans or the water taxis you can use to get across the river.

Once you cross the river climb through the village to the fort, the path is not very path like, but it marked quite clearly never the less.  On the way to the fort as you get close you will see the new Sarawak state parlament building, it was started about 4 or 5 years ago, this year the outside is finaly finished, wven if the inside still requires some attention. Some people like the new construction, others do not, if someone speaks of “the monstrosity across the river” or “the umbrella building”  it is the state parliment building they are talking about.

Recently finished and opened by the king of Malaysia.

Recently finished and opened by the king of Malaysia.

Personaly I think the building in itself is not so bad looking, but it’s location between the old Brookes Astana and the fort is terrible. It dwarfs the other buildings and looks as out of place as a sky scraper would next to the colloseum.

The fort itself is a simple structure, it draws a little on the ancient design of tower castles, one central tower, with a circle of defensive walls, in this case the circle is moved over to the side so the main structure attaches onto it instead of being in the centre.

The curtain wall of the fort encompassing the courtyard, and the view of the city.

The curtain wall of the fort encompassing the courtyard, and the view of the city.


The inside room of the main building, the same size and shape on all abouve ground levels.

The inside room of the main building, the same size and shape on all above ground levels.


Main structure seen from the courtyard.

Main structure seen from the courtyard.


Jail cells.

Jail cells.


I am not sure the cannons inside the fort all belong here, some are old portugese pieces...

I am not sure the cannons inside the fort all belong here, some are old portugese pieces...


...others are much newer British ones.

...others are much newer British ones.

It is not as impressive as the forts the Portugese left behind in their colonies, but the Brookes, especialy Charles Brooke did leave a network of interesting Forts across Sarawak, most older towns have a fort somewhere, these are not usualy shown or advertised to the tourists, the reign of the white rajahs being a sensitive topic for the politicians here.

The fort is not entirely empty though, there is one smaller tower which has a skull painted on the door, and sure enough there are also skulls on the inside. Someone reffered to them as the laughing skulls, they didn’t seem to be loughing to me but maybe it’s the angle?

Heads in one of the smaller towers.

Heads in one of the smaller towers.


One more head, still no smile.

One more head, still no smile.

The view of Kuching is not as good as it used to be because a lot of trees had grown around the fort, but even today you can still see the downtown well. When you look towards the city you will also be able to se Mt. Serapi to the right and if you have your back to the city you may be able to see Mt. Santubong on a good day.

Next to the fort there is a small cemetry, it contains some of the graves of the Brook family as well as other people that worked for them, if not the three rajahs themselves who were all burried in England.

Graveyard by the fort.

Graveyard by the fort.

Some new construction and cleaning has been recently going on around the foot of the fort, and rumours of a botanical garden were heard, so perhaps by the time you get to the fort the area will look quite different.

As you get back to the boat jetty you will pass some new food places, and again the construction in itself is not bad but they block the view of the entire village behind them and look out of place on the waterfront.

The food courts by the river, the tent structure is quite nice, so it's a pity that it's placing is a nuisance to both tourists and the villagers.

The food courts by the river, the tent structure is quite nice, so it's a pity that it's placing is a nuisance to both tourists and the villagers.

If you are in Kuching it is an easy and short trip to take and the fort is definatelly worth the 2 hours of your time that it’s going to take to see it. Or one hour if you are in a hurry.

Heading back to the water the city side of the water front.

Heading back to the water the city side of the water front.

8 Responses

  1. “To get to the fort you have to take a sampan boat from the waterfront. The normal fee is 40 sen, if you look like a tourist they may try to give you a different price, don’t pay it look at what all the other people pay and do the same” i just like to add to the observation, and it would applies to everyone. Feel free to pay more if you are in the mood, what is 40 sen, when a bit more gets you a smile especially if it is coming from you 🙂 cheers

    • Actually I could not DISAGREE more with you. I know it does not seem like a lot, but these small tips quickly get out of control. I know of people who paid 20rm to get across the river and the boatman didnt say anything about it being too much. I also know of a taxi ride from the airport to Kuching which cost…wait for it… 500RM. The taxi driver demanded the money and threatened the passenger with police.

      The sad fact is that in Malaysia most people dealing with tourists, especially travel agents, taxis, buses and yes even sampans, take advantage of the tourists naivety any time they can. So I feel it is better to be very strict with prices and pay only what is right not get loose with the change.

      Ps: taxi’s in Kuching are my particular pet hate, I have lived here for years and know how much things should cost. In six years here I have only heard the correct (officially set) price on ONE occasion. On most occasions the price quoted is at least 3 times the normal price my wife (Malaysian) would be asked.

  2. I was named after this fort by my dad. Whenever people asked me about my name, they wondered why I have this Spanish/Italian name but look Southeast-Asian and I have to explain that I was named after Fort Margherita in Kuching. hahaha

    I went there for the first time when I was one-year-old and there are pictures taken by my dad. Then I went there once again when I was 15. Still looking good. I wish I can go and visit the fort again someday. 🙂

  3. I was searching in the net for the Brooke grave near Fort Mahagerita & came by this blog. Finally I get to see the picture. Though all 3 Rajahs were buried on England, the last Rajah Muda-Anthony Brooke’s ashes were interned here. He died in NZ, 2011& his ashes were buried in this graveyard in 2012.
    Thanks for a very interesting blog!

  4. This blog need to be updated as understand there is an interesting Brooke Gallery in this fort since 2016.

    • Yes, I have not been in the Fort for a long time now. But I only visit Kuching occasionally now, so I do not have a lot of time for sightseeing between seeing relatives and sorting out anything that has to be dealt with in ordinary life.

  5. what are the useful weapons found in the Fort Magherita Building and why do you think the fort is overlooked by local authorities?

    • Hi Chr,
      A long time ago, perhaps 10 years, the fort was a museum of weapons I think the Police were in charge of that collection. By the time I was looking at it it was empty, as in pictures posted here. Now I am hearing that it is again being used, but as I am not in Kuching I can not visit it and update the post. I will likely be able to visit in a few months. Either way, I always considered the building itself worth visiting. So if you are in Kuching please do.

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