Barbados, Newsletter, North America, The Caribbean, Trip Reviews

Insider Guide to Barbados

13/06/2023 by .
Guide To Barbados

Rupert Parker drags himself away from the beaches for his guide to Barbados to explore this wonderful Caribbean Island.

Barbados is a favourite winter destination with pristine beaches that stretch for miles, and crystal-clear waters but it also has a rich cultural history. Sugarcane was first introduced here in 1640 and the crop quickly became popular among plantation owners.

By the early 18th century, Barbados was one of the leading producers of sugar in the world. The industry brought immense wealth to the island, leading to the construction of grand mansions and the development of a distinct Barbadian culture. Tourism, though, is now the island’s main source of income yet doesn’t overwhelm the island. Even better, locals seem remarkably tolerant, not to say laid back, which gives their gentle way of life a positive vibe.

Guide To Barbados

You’ll find a range of accommodation but what really attracts are the high-end boutique hotels together with their accomplished gourmet dining. Away from the beaches there’s lots to do and see here. The island is large and diverse enough to merit exploring, either in a hire car, or as part of a group tour.

For ths guide to Barbados let’s start in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bridgetown, the capital. It was the richest port in the Caribbean and is small enough to be explored on foot. Start beside the Careenage, a natural harbour of a long finger of water that reaches the city centre. A plaque marks the space where the first slaves were landed.  Opposite are the Victorian Parliament Buildings, magnificent neo-Gothic structures which house the country’s government.

Slave Memorial Bridgetown

A short walk from here is National Heroes Square, formerly known as Trafalgar Square. This historic plaza pays tribute to Barbados‘ national heroes but the bronze statue of Lord Nelson has been relocated to the Museum. Just nearby is Cheapside Market, once the hub for the buying and selling of slaves. These days it bustles with stalls selling fresh produce, spices and local crafts.

The main thoroughfare is Broad Street lined by colourful colonial buildings. Don’t miss the historic Jewish Synagogue, one of the oldest synagogues in the Americas. Built in the mid-17th century, next to it is a museum which tells the history of Jewish Settlement on the island.

Nidhe Israel Synagogue Interior

On the outskirts of the city is the Mount Gay Rum Factory, although the distillery is now located elsewhere. It’s one of the longest-running rum producers in the world and was started in 1703 by Sir John Gay. A 45-minute tour starts with a short film and covers all stages of production. At the end, you’re rewarded with a tutored tasting of different blends and vintages of the rum.

Mount Gay Rum

But this guide to Barbados is not just about Bridgetown. One activity that’s almost a necessity is a catamaran cruise from Bridgetown, either at lunchtime or at sunset. You sail along Barbados’ calm, waters to a shallow shipwreck site. Here you don your snorkel and explore the wrecks, swimming among the fishes and even sighting sea turtles. Later the boat takes you to a secluded bay where you can swim to the deserted beach and walk on the pristine sand. Afterwards, enjoy a buffet lunch on board before making your way back to the city.

Guide To Barbados

In complete contrast to the sandy coastline is the Scotland District, a hilly region in the north of the island. The first settlers here were Scots, attracted by the craggy hills and mild climate that reminded them of home. It’s dotted with small settlements with brightly painted wooden shacks. Wild Mount Hillaby at 340m, is the highest point on the island and gives you a good idea of what the landscape was like before it was deforested.

For a real taste of Barbados and a chance to mingle with the locals, Oistins Fish Fry is the Friday night event. It’s held in Oistins Bay Gardens, which are packed with food stalls, bars, and music stages. You order whatever you fancy from the makeshift kitchens, grab a rum or beer and listen to the music. It’s usually loud and a vibrant mix of reggae, calypso and soca.

Scotland District Mount Hillaby Guide To Barbados

The food, though, is the main attraction, usually products from the sea including fish, shrimp, lobster, and crab. It’s all perfectly safe, with no sign of trouble, and there are plenty of families with young children. After you’ve eaten, if you’re feeling energetic, get on the dance floor and boogie with the locals. I wander to the oldies stage and watch couples demonstrating their best ballroom dancing. That’s more my speed.

Tell Me More About this Guide To Barbados

Virgin Atlantic flies direct to Barbados from London Gatwick

Cobblers Cove is a family owned boutique hotel on the island’s west coast. Rates from $420 (currently approx. £307) per room per night on B&B basis.

Visit Barbados has tourist information on the places Rupert highlights in this guide to Barbados and everything else on the island.

Mount Gay Rum Tour runs throughout the day.

Cool Runnings organises Catamaran snorkelling trips.

Local & Co is good for fresh fish.

Tapas Restaurant  serves small plates,

Oistins Fish Fry – try ‘Pat’s Place’

Champers Restaurant has fine dining.

La Cabane grills meat and fish on the beach.




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