Star Fort in Matara was built in the shape of a six-pointed star in order that its battery of 12 big canons could command both the sea and landside approaches.
Visitors cross a drawbridge over a deep (and, according to legend, once a crocodile-infested) moat into garrison quarters that would have stored enough food and supplies to survive a short siege.
This last major bastion to be built by the Dutch was never used as such. The British turned it into a library and residence for minor government officials, and it now houses a small museum. This latter glimpse into Matara’s past is well worth the short detour off the beaten tourist track.