Our first visit to Barbados began in Sandals Royal Barbados, an all-inclusive resort overlooking the beautiful Caribbean Sea. The resort offers everything but it would be an injustice to the island if you didn’t venture beyond the gates and explore some of this historic country.
Whilst lazing on the sun loungers, Captain Larry approached us and recommended his laid back, no time limit island tours in a private vehicle with a knowledgeable guide. Too good to be true? No, because the tour was everything he said it would be.
Our driver was fiercely proud of his country's heritage and from the off was full of local knowledge that instantly brought more meaning to Barbados and Barbadians.
Driving through Dover and Worthing, we arrived at Hastings, where we toured the historic area that was full of military buildings dating back to the 17th century, many of them still in use and those that are not were preserved for future conservation.
Indeed this is worth noting because on first impressions some of the housing along the roadsides often looked neglected or derelict but this is because they are not allowed to be demolished because the Barbadian government wants to preserve as much as they can for future generations - a commendable legacy that perhaps other countries could follow.
From Hastings we travelled up the west coast to Carlisle Bay where a glass bottom boat was waiting to take us on a group snorkelling trip with the turtles and exploring two wrecks, both of which were very close to the shore. It was such an amazing experience with the turtles coming within reach. Back on board, we enjoyed a rum punch or three!
An hour later, back in the car where a litre of iced rum punch awaited, we headed to Bridgetown, with its vibrant street markets, malls, bars and restaurants. We paid homage to Kensington Oval with its statue of Gary Sobers and Big Bird Joel Garner, reminding all Brits how terrifying the West Indies cricket team was in its heyday.
Rhianna was born in Bridgetown and it seemed only right to drive up her road and pay a visit like so many others do. She wasn’t in but by all accounts when she does come home, nobody bothers her and she can relax and live a normal life... good on you Barbadians.
Then it was off to St Nicholas Abbey and its steam railway. This historic house, which isn’t actually an abbey at all, shows the life of a rum making plantation to its visitors. It is touristy and quite expensive and although its steam train and carriages are beautifully restored, the journey only lasts five minutes each way, which was rather disappointing.
So it was back to the car and some more homemade rum punch.
By this point, it was mid-afternoon - the rum was kicking in and we needed some food!
What better than the Fisherman’s Inn in Speightown, overlooking the wharf and fish market. Sandals has numerous à la carte restaurants but I tell you what the rice and chicken, the flying fish and mac 'n' cheese were to die for!
We then headed north to visit the local green monkey in the reserve which had been kept open for us as the driver knew the owner. A private feeding session with our little friends was very special.
Then we travelled to the most northern point where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean. Gone are the silver sand beaches to be replaced by the pounding waves on sheer cliffs and in that moment I was transported back to my homeland of Northern Ireland.
We had been out for eight hours and still had time for a quick shop at a local supermarket, buying well priced rum and two big bottles of Bajan hot sauce called one drop. When we arrived home we sampled it and it lived up to its name - one drop is all you need. We calculated that using it every day, it would last us 27 years and the second bottle the same!
After our shopping trip, we went on a tour of Oisins that was just coming alive in the early evening sun. We had only scratched the surface of this amazing island and will return and spend longer beyond the gates of our next resort.