In 1505 a Portuguese fleet heading for the Maldives ran into a storm and was forced to find refuge in the harbor. The fanciful story goes that, upon hearing the town’s cocks (in Portuguese Galo) crowing in the dusk, they christened the town Punto de Gale, a name later corrupted by the British into Point de Galle, though it’s far more likely that the name was derived from the Sinhalese gala – meaning rock, which is a common component place of names in the island and a thing for which Galle has plenty. Either way, the cockerel has become the town’s de facto emblem, however suspect the etymology behind it.

It wasn’t until 1588-89 that the Portuguese renewed their interest in Galle, building a small fort in Santa Cruz, which they later extended with a series of bastions and walls. The Dutch captured Galle in 1640 after a four-day siege, and in 1663 expanded the original Dutch fortifications to enclose the whole of Galle’s sea facing promontory, establishing the street plans and system bastions which survive to this day.

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