As contrasts go, the wilds of Northumberland and the calm sophistication of Barbados are all too apparent.
Shared pleasures of expansive beaches are where similarities end but Barbara Snaith enviably enjoys a life of both.
She and husband Warren have gradually made Barbados their second home and now share their time between the two very different locations.
Barbara takes up their story.
We first arrived in Barbados to celebrate my big 4-0 and we knew immediately that we were destined to enjoy a long and meaningful relationship with this beautiful Isle.
Our home on the Island is in the Parish of St. James on the West Coast, perched on a ridge overlooking the aquamarine hues of the Caribbean Sea (or Big River as I call it).
A five-minute walk to the beach. We believe it’s the closest thing to heaven. The Platinum West Coast is the perfect place to holiday on Barbados – private villas for rent, and luxury hotels hidden beyond the palms and bougainvillea – but the rest of this tiny paradise island has a bounty of hidden gems to explore.
Friends often visit and we love helping them explore the island – so here’s an insider-guide Snaith-style!
Barbados is divided into 11 different “parishes” with each one having its own individuality and unique attractions so it’s difficult to leave the Island with just
To get a real flavour of Barbados you must hire a car to uncover its secret treasures. The Island itself covers only 166 square miles with a population of just over 267,000 so do get out and explore some of it even if just for a day. Copy our whistle-stop tour or, if you can break down the sightseeing into several days, then spend more time at each location to savour the sights, gossip with the locals (Barbadians are known informally as Bajans), savour the food and bask in the ambiance that saturates the Island.
After a few lazy days baking by the pool then wandering down to our local rum bar (JuJu’s) for “sundowners” time to pile in the car and do some exploring. Arm yourself with bare necessities: camera, sunglasses and beach towels and head up the West Coast on Highway One to first stop at North Point.
This is where the wild waves of the Atlantic collide with the warm Caribbean Sea. From the rugged clifftops you get to wonder at the weathered cliffs pounded over the years by the fierce Atlantic swells and if the weather permits visit the Animal Flower Cave – a large sea cave with beautiful rock formations and sea anemones. An informal bar/restaurant on the clifftop is ideal for grabbing a Banks’ beer before moving on.
Head south through some of the least developed areas of the island to Cherry Tree Hill. A tunnel of mahogany trees signals your approach and at the peak of the hill soak in the views.
This part of the Island is a photographer’s paradise with views stretching across the East coast and over the area known as the Scottish District. As you head down the hillside watch out for the Morgan Lewis Windmill – the largest complete windmill in the Caribbean – built circa 1776, it has been lovingly restored by the Barbados National Trust.
The Eastern side of Barbados is distinguished by its dramatic and rugged coastline and lush hillside villages.
Tourists are few and far between here! The scenic drive along the East coast highway is fascinating and the temptation to stop and explore is irresistible – the sharp contrast to the other coasts will make you curious. Stop off at Barclays Park and walk along the deserted sands collecting driftwood and seashells washed up by the pounding waves. Cool your feet off as you walk but don’t be tempted to swim as the currents are way too dangerous.
Regular visitors often come to these beaches (very) early morning to experience the sunrise. Friends of ours who spent Christmas on the Island had their Christmas lunch here – champagne and a picnic in the 30 degree sunshine!
If you have time the nearby Edgewater Hotel serves cocktails and some of the best rum punch on the Island and the views overlooking Bathsheba are the perfect backdrop to enjoy them.
Bathsheba itself was a historic seaside spa that boomed over a century ago before the West coast elbowed in on the tourist trade. The centre of the beach is known locally as the Soup Bowl and attracts surfers from around the world.
Head to Cutters close to The Crane. Cutters Bajan deli sells quality products and Roger and his team serve up a great lunch of flying fish sandwiches washed down with a Banks or rum punch.
The beaches, bays and coves of the south east coast are too numerous to mention – explore as many as you have time for – but my two favourites are Bottom Bay and Foul Bay for their open expanses of perfect tropical beaches. Don’t be put off by their names they truly are unspoilt. Take note there are no facilities here as such and the swimming can be dangerous but they are often deserted and the cliffs, palms, soft white sand and sparkling turquoise sea make them ideal for a romantic stroll or a few pages of your chosen holiday read.
Head past Grantley Adams Airport (named after the Island’s first Prime Minister) through the built up areas of the south coast to Enterprise Beach (known locally as Miami Beach).
Here you will find all the facilities you need: parking, food, showers, chairs for rent and shaded areas if the Caribbean climate is taking its toll. The water here is crystal clear and swimming is a must to appreciate its beauty. It can get busy however, especially at weekends when the locals have time to enjoy it. Whichever coast you swim on be cautious the Bajans have a famous saying – “de sea ain’t got no back door”.
Last stop Rockley Beach where the recently constructed boardwalk begins and trails its way along the coast through to Hastings. Several bars line the boardwalk to enable you to stop for refreshments and a spot of people-watching.
The island has much more to offer: museums and historic plantation houses, churches, wildlife reserves, collections of indigenous and exotic flowers and plants, and of course the majestic underwater world. Perhaps some of the greatest memories people take away from Barbados are those they stumble upon rather than seek out:
The elderly ladies dressed in suits and hats for Saturday’s church service.
The schoolchildren heading home in colourful uniforms and pristine white shirts.
The overloaded “reggae buses” pulsating with people and pounding rhythms.