Dream destination: Barbados
Barbados lies in the blue seas of the Caribbean and is part of the Lesser Antilles island group, but there’s nothing lesser about the island as a winter break holiday destination. At over 400 km2, and a population roughly the same as the shire, it’s big enough to offer plenty of places to visit, without feeling like you’re missing out on many of the sights.
As it lies outside the hurricane belt, it’s a great year-round destination, with temperatures ranging from 28-31OC across the year, with rain more likely from July to October. Around 40% of travellers to the island are from the UK.
Bridgetown has UNESCO World Heritage Status for the historic old town and the garrison, reminders of a colonial past. It’s not always an easy history and the government has just removed a statue of Horatio Nelson which stood in the city centre. There’s the usual mix of cathedrals and churches, government buildings, museums and small shops to explore. Many of the less grand buildings are brightly painted. Grab a snack from a café and watch the yachts and small craft sail in and out of the Careenage canal which allows access to the harbour and marina. Normally, the deep harbour berths are filled with huge cruise ships, but this winter, Barbados may be less crowded, allowing more opportunities to discover your own special beach bar or secluded cove.
The Pelican Village and Craft Centre is worth a visit if you’re looking for local handicrafts, while cricket lovers can snooze gently through the sound of leather on willow at the Kensington Oval. You can even cheer on a winner or two at the Turf Club horse races every second Saturday. The Sandy Lane Cup is the Caribbean equivalent of the Grand National and takes place in early March.
Stay at the five star Coral Reef Club, which is part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World Group. It’s on the calm West Coast near the settlement of Holetown. It’s a beguiling mix of landscaped lush tropical planting and traditionally designed buildings with shutters and wooden balustrades. The food, service, atmosphere and sense of relaxation is unrivalled on the island. Limegrove offers upscale designer shopping and Holetown’s Chattel Village is a cute collection of pastel coloured shops each filled with local delights such as swimwear, jewellery, furniture or craftwork.
Spend your time snorkelling or taking a day trip out to the coral reefs, charter a yacht or simply spend your days on the beach. The island is family friendly and there’s lots for children to explore in safety. The botanic gardens are worth a visit, but keen horticulturalist should book tickets for Hunte’s Gardens, where the owner has created an amazing garden from a huge sinkhole. He also does a mean rum punch. Talking of which, it’s possible to take a tour which combines Hunte’s Gardens with Mount Gay Distillery. The distillery has been producing some of the finest rum in the Caribbean since 1703, and the guides are entertaining and have a passion for their product. Keen photographers and naturalists will enjoy one of the island’s wildlife tours, spotting everything from sea turtles to monkeys.
Barbados is one of those places you’ll visit and find yourself checking house prices in estate agents’ windows. It might be worth considering as Barbadian Prime Minister, Mia Mottley has suggested that people who worked remotely should take advantage of the island’s warm weather, sandy beaches, great food and enjoy an extended stay on the island. The ideal of being able to conduct Zoom meetings in the shade of swaying palms has its appeal!