Bridgetown, Barbados cruise holidays
As the most easterly Caribbean island, Barbados was the beating heart of the colonial Atlantic trade route (having been colonised by English settlers in 1627). With British rule came shared English laws, political systems, architectural styles, customs and place names – all of which shaped the island’s past and resonate in its present. Take the capital, Bridgetown. This trove of architectural and cultural treasures was deemed to be of such historical significance that it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011. Highlights include the Georgian St Mary’s Church near Cheapside Market, the elegantly neo-Gothic Barbados Parliament and the Garrison (once home to up to 15,000 British troops). Largely intact, the barracks, canteens, hospitals, stables and forts still survive and are even still in use. The parade ground is a scenic horse-racing track, with football and rugby pitches in the middle.
Beyond Bridgetown, fascinating insights into the past dot the island, among them old plantation houses and signal stations. My favourite, the oddly named St Nicholas Abbey, is located in the hilly north of the island and is a rare example of a Jacobean plantation house. Explore rooms full of antique furniture, visit an artisan rum distillery and watch a riveting home movie of life on Barbados in the 1930s. New and lovely is the St Nicholas Abbey Heritage Railway – a steam train ride through the plantation fields and mahogany woods, with vistas over the island’s east coast.
Watching the Atlantic surf crash down on the rugged east coast of this richly diverse island and, for a moment, you may feel you could be on the Cornish coast but the moment you hear the waves of gospel singing emanating from a tiny local church you realise you could not be anywhere else but Barbados.
While, over on the sheltered west coast, the glorious beaches are pure Caribbean. And there are more beaches and a lot more bars, cafés, restaurants and clubs creating a vibrant 24/7 lifestyle on the south coast, too.
In the capital and cruise port, Bridgetown, there are intriguing signs of its British colonial past while, across the island, you are really spoilt for choice. You can enjoy every watersport under the sun; stunning nature walks and bike rides; or maybe a trip to the uniquely magnificent Harrisons Cave underground complex of caverns, waterfalls, stalactites and stalagmites.