with Catherine Leech
This is what you would call your idyllic Caribbean beach and Barbados has them in spades. I’m at Bottom Bay which is on the south coast of Barbados and there’s lots more like this. Then on the west coast here are the calmer beaches as well all with this gorgeous powder white, very soft sand. But its not juts about beaches here in Barbados, there’s so much more to see, do and explore…
The most easterly of all the Caribbean islands, Barbados is relatively flat and easy to explore. As you drive around, street, town and parish names will seem familiar – plenty to remind us of the close links the island has long had with Britain.
You can of course hire a car and explore independently or you can join an Island Safari guided tour. Touring in small groups with an entertaining commentary from your driver is a great way to see and learn more
Whether you make your own way here or join one of the island safaris, you have to come to the east coast. Its spectacular. Its such a contrast from the more gentle and pristine west coast. Behind me now is probably the most famous spot and that’s Bathsheba. People will come down here for some surfing, just to walk along the lovely beaches, a really spectacular part of the island.
As well as scenery, there are lots of interesting places to visit for a half or full day excursion. The capital, Bridgetown for instance is a must for shopping and sightseeing. If you are interested in history there are plenty of museums and of course the impressive Parliament buildings.
Heading into the interior, there are famous view points to stop off at, nature reserves and lots of lovely gardens. My personal favourite is Huntes Garden – owner Anthony Hunte showed me round…
I set these up 4 ½ years ago, and basically the thing that took the time is getting the sixty steps down to the bottom and planning the trails.
Incredible – so all of these native bajan plants?
Oh no, I’ve been importing for years from all over the world. You can see these big Royal palms, they were here and some of the large fruit trees were here, so it was an ideal site, we just planned around the trees so we wouldn’t have to cut any down
Harrison’s Cave in the central uplands is another popular attraction. A guided tour by tram takes you through the crystallised limestone cavern - its very impressive especially when you learn these caves were only fully discovered and mapped in the mid seventies.
As well as the natural attractions there are places of amazing historical interest, none less than this – this is St Nicholas Abbey. It is the most fascinating place, its one of only 3 Jacobean mansions left in the western hemisphere. It was built in the 17th century, one of the last remaining plantations in Barbados and now, I have to say, making some amazing rum. Its well worth a visit and they’ve preserved the interior really nicely
Barbados is not a big island so everything is easily accessible wherever you stay. That said, there are some clear choices to be made when it comes to location, as Hamish Watson, General Manager at the Treasure Beach Hotel explains
Hamish: Well Barbados is essentially 2 islands in one. You’ve got the South Coast which is where it all started, you’ve got the smaller hotels and you’ve got what has actually become the place with all the energy and the action - it tends to attract the younger crowd. West coast you’ve got sophistication, you’ve got the fantastic restaurants. I should say amazing beaches in both places but totally different ambience and feel
Catherine: Now the west coast is packed with famous name hotels, Sandy Lane comes to mind for me…
Hamish: Indeed there are, there’s Coral Reef of course, there’s Sandpiper belonging to the same family, you’ve got Cobblers which is a member of Relais and Chateau and dare I say you’ve got Treasure Beach
The island has its fair share of all inclusives too and some of them are pretty classy affairs. I’m here at Turtle Beach on the south coast, it’s manager’s cocktail party here tonight, the atmosphere is lovely and there’s a choice of three restaurants here – one of them is an award winning one too…
When it comes to dining, in Caribbean terms Barbados is in a league of its own – from more casual, family style venues right through to world class, gourmet restaurants. One unmissable experience is lunch at Fisherpond Great House. This is actually a private home which owners Rain and John Chandler open to guests for an award winning Plantation Buffet every Sunday. Rain told me what inspired them…
We wanted to do something that would have been around when we were young people in the Caribbean so we decided to do this traditional West Indian Sunday lunch
I think what’s so special is the really beautiful pieces of china and the glassware, the atmosphere is amazing. Are you trying to recreate the whole Plantation era?…
Yes we certainly are, both John and I are avid collectors of antiques and we do use them. In other words, the plates that you eat off could be from when the British regiment were here, we’ve got all sorts of glass ware and so on
I think I must have tasted every one of the 40 dishes or so that you provide. It really is delicious…
As well as fine dining there are lots of less expensive options for both food and drink - rum shops for instance are a Bajan institution – where better to find out about the best local brand… (chat)
The logical place to end our island tour is back down on the beach, this is after all where most people will spend a big chunk of their holiday.
I’ve been to Barbados many times and every time I come, I find something new and this trip has been no exception. Its that kind of place. You know the beaches are the obvious attraction and they really are fantastic but there’s so much more to explore. It really is worth getting out and about and discovering some of the hidden secrets of this amazing place
Take a guided tour of Barbados with Caribbean travelguru Catherine Leech. Catherine makes it her mission to go beyond the beach and to discover a few secrets that even regular visitors to the island may have missed.
With its sophisticated tourism infrastructure, Barbados is popular not only with repeat visitors but also first timers to the Caribbean. After many years of catering to well-heeled tourists, Bajans certainly know how to tick the tourist boxes.
Often described as ‘two islands in one’, there is a distinct contrast between the South and West coasts. The South coast is generally livelier, ideal for families, the more budget conscious and those looking for nightlife beyond the hotels. The West coast, sometimes referred to as the Platinum coast is the playground of the rich and famous. Top end hotels stretch along the coastline, each jealously guarding their privacy and exclusive ambience.
Venture beyond your hotel and you’ll find a wealth of things to see and do and plenty of opportunities to mingle with Bajans who will be only too delighted to show you their gorgeous island.
For general information on holidays in Barbados click here Visit Barbados
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