Mannar Island is part of Mannar District, Sri Lanka. It is linked to the main island of Sri Lanka by a causeway. It has an area of about 125 square kilometers, mainly covered with vegetation and sand. At entrance point where the current road over the causeway connects to the bridge lies the ancient Fort built by the Portuguese. The Portuguese chronicler and geographer António Bocarro who served as chronicler-general of the Portuguese State of India, has provided a map and a description of the Portuguese Fort as in 1635. It was built by Lopo Soares de Albergaria in the year 1518 and is square shaped, as can be seen in the plan which is an very rough drawing of the island and the fort (see below). The stretches of ramparts which run from one bastion to another between the three bastions, with which this fort is equipped are of little importance, being less than two fathoms (3.6 meters) in height, but with the parapets and the thickness of wall being six spans (1.4 meters) and each stretch of rampart being eight fathoms (14.6 meters) long and each of the two sheltered bastions being taller than the rampart and the bastion on the bay side being still lower than that facing the mainland.
Bocarro also states that the fort was at one time very wealthy and earned much revenue from the seed pearl fishery that used to be held within the area coming under it. With the depletion of the pearl oysters he states what then exists is only a relic of its old grandeur of the fort. The fort was captured by the Dutch in 1658 after much resistance from the Portuguese but other than reinforcing the fort, no significant change was done to the fort. This fort was inaccessible to the public for decades due the LTTE Terrorist activities in the area. Once the LTTE was destroyed in 2009 this area was opened to the public transport. Now the area surrounding the fort is used by the police department. But public are not restricted from visiting the fort.
The Mannar Fort has four bastions and it’s still in good condition although the buildings inside the fort have not been properly maintained. You can roam around the fort with no restrictions. Access to the top of the ramparts is on the left after entering the fort. From here you can walk all around the fort getting a birds eye view of the ruined buildings inside. On two ends of the building square, you will see two rooms with no door or windows. The top has been covered by a now broken slab on large iron bars. The only access to these rooms are some tiny steel steps mounted on one side of the wall. These two rooms might have been prison cells at one time. In addition you can see what looks like a church among the buildings. Two watch towers still stand tall on 2 edges. One is almost broken away form the fort and may drop in to the ocean very soon.