Barbados: a special place in the sun
Barbados was once famous for the three “W”s: Frank Worrell, Everton Weekes and Clyde Walcott, the fabulous 1950s cricketers. More recently, the three “R”s have taken over: relaxation, rum and rib ticklers.
It is where the hammock was discovered and cricketers past and present come here to temporarily banish the stresses of life – despite their harrowing experiences on the field, where Barbadian fast bowlers have long served an unrelenting diet of searing deliveries into a visiting batsman’s ribcage.
From the days of the first England cricket tours to Barbados in the late 19th century, and particularly since England’s first test in the West Indies, which was played in Barbados in 1930, increasing numbers of Britons have sought winter refuge on the island. Back then, it was a two week voyage from Southampton followed by a stay in the Marine Hotel Hastings, or the Crane Hotel, and a ball at Queen’s House, before making the long journey home alongside precious cargo of rum, tobacco, cotton and sugar.
When Barbados celebrated independence in 1966, tourism was just beginning to challenge sugar cane as the mainstay of the economy, helped by the opening of the Sandy Lane hotel▼ in 1961. The resort in St James quickly became a magnet for the jet set as everyone from Maria Callas and T S Eliot to Jacqueline Kennedy and Aristotle Onassis checked in.Before long package holiday companies began adding the Caribbean island to their ever-expanding brochures and new luxury hotels were popping up along what would be later dubbed the “Platinum Coast”.Barbados moved even closer for Britons – at least, those with deep pockets – when Concorde first touched down in 1977 to great fanfare (before whisking the visiting Queen Elizabeth home on the four-hour flight to London). One of the few remaining Concordes has been given its final resting place on the island.These days, the flight is still relatively short (8 hours) and visitors go for the perfect climate – not too hot, just right – the balmy, tranquil sea, the good food and the easy-going people who all speak English, love cricket and drive on the left. (Except for the odd wayward bus, anyway.)
Their routine rarely involved much sleep. Garner typically needed only four hours. Even before his famous demolition of England in the 1979 World Cup final at Lord’s (he took 5-38), he had been up drinking until the small hours.Later, I meet Garfield Sobers in the verdant surroundings of the Sandy Lane golf▼ club. He tells me about the time he put on 399 with Frank Worrell in Bridgetown against England. The partnership spanned three days’ play. “Frank and I were rooming together at the Marine Hotel and I would wait at the bar til two or three o’clock in the morning until Frank got in. Then we’d have a drink and go to bed about four. If he got in before me, he’d wait for me. It never worked for me going to bed at, say, 10 o’clock. The thought of [England’s] Trueman and Statham bowling at me kept me awake all night. If I went to bed late, I slept and I forgot all about cricket until I arrived at the ground.”
CORAL REEF CLUB
Run by the O’Hara family since the 1950s, the Coral Reef Club has the atmosphere of a country house hotel. It has a loyal, largely British following.
GOOD LITTLE HARBOUR HOTEL
A collection of cottages arranged round a pool in lush gardens on the quiet north west coast. Think white shuttered windows, bright fabrics and rattan furniture.
This intimate, salmon-pink, hacienda-style hotel, in a cul-de-sac on the edge of Oistins, fosters a chilled-out atmosphere. Tourist-free Enterprise Beach is on the doorstep.
EAT OUT AT…
LONE STAR RESTAURANT
Set on a spectacular stretch of beachfront this Barbados fixture has recently undergone a major refurbishment. Sir Michael Winner dubbed it “The Ivy of the Caribbean”.
Seafood with Asian touches is what this elegant restaurant in Holetown does best. The oceanfront setting, with trees growing through the roof of the building, is magical.
Award-winning Caribbean cookbook writer LaurelAnn Morley conjures up memorable lunchtime feasts in her charming east-coast home.
OISTINS FISH FRY
Every Friday evening, this ﬁshing village on the south shore comes alive with a big street party. Think sizzling swordﬁsh, booming reggae and strong rum.
With over 1500 shacks across the island, rum is a fundamental part of the nation’s culture. St Johns is possibly the most idyllically located while Earner Blackman’s on Enterprise beach gets Joel Garner’s vote.
This chic cocktail bar in a chattel house on the west coast has scarlet and black décor and pop art of Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy.
ST NICHOLAS ABBEY
The oldest of Barbados’ Jacobean plantation houses (dating back to 1660) is one of four remaining rum producers on the island. You can enjoy tastings and tours of its distillery.
THE LEGENDS OF BARBADOS CRICKET MUSEUM
Relive the golden age of West Indian Cricket with this tribute to Barbadian finest. Housed within Herbert House and just a stone’s throw from the Kensington Oval.
ANDROMEDA BOTANIC GARDENS
These glorious gardens overlook the east coast and include an astonishingly vast Bearded Fig Tree, with aerial roots everywhere. You may see green monkeys, too, if you’re there early or late.
PLAY GOLF AT…
Dominated by its grand white colonial clubhouse, Robert Trent Jones believes this to be the purest and most rewarding of any course he has created.
Set high up on a 1,000ft hill its lush landscaping, coral stone outcrops, wooded ravines and sparkling lakes have seen some of its holes been favourably compared to Augusta National.
There are three courses but it is the Green Monkey that’s really special. It zig-zags across a tabletop landscape before plunging into a man-made for a dramatic back nine that lives long in the memory.
This long curve of white sand is one of the liveliest, and finest, strands on the south coast. There’s some surf but the water stays shallow a long way out, making it great for children.
This 300-yard tranche of soft golden sand is, with good reason, one of the most popular beaches on the west coast. Mullins Beach Bar and Restaurant, right above the beach, is a great spot for sundowners.