This beautiful Caribbean island is where Sir Cliff escapes from the British winter. Here he explains why he loves it so much, and lists his favourite restaurants and the best hotels
I’ve been lucky enough to travel the length and breadth of the globe during the course of my music career but whenever I’m asked ‘what is your favourite place?’ Barbados definitely makes my shortlist.
I’ve owned my villa on Barbados for the best part of 10 years now and never grow tired of coming back to escape the British winter! I’d visited the island a few times in the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties and always loved it, so when the opportunity arose for me to have my own secret hideaway on this delightful Caribbean island, I jumped at the chance.
The location of my villa is simply breathtaking – its lofty position in the parish of St James means there are beautiful views across the ocean below, I can feel the ever present cool breeze and yet the beach is a small matter of about a quarter of a mile away. The nearest major town is Holetown, where the Brits first landed.
Of course everyone knows that the weather is beautiful on Barbados; even when it rains (and, believe me, it can rain!) the sun always manages to make its presence felt. It is only ever hot or hotter. It is a little more humid in the rainy season, but the combination of tropical downpours and sunshine means that the flora is sensational. Everything grows frantically. I planted some palm trees five years ago and they are now about 40ft high.
But the thing I also love about Barbados is the people. The Bajans have a genuine warmth towards all visitors to the island and the ‘Platinum’ west coast is filled with Brits and Americans who are all very generous with their hospitality. I’ve lost count of the number of parties I’ve been invited to and I’ve made a good number of new friends on the island.
As I mentioned, I love to visit Barbados during the British winter, usually between Christmas and Easter, which is the dry season and, in my view, the best time to go. I love the UK but the combination of the sunshine and the moist Caribbean air provides the perfect climate for a singer. Barbados is very rejuvenating and therapeutic, for both the mind and the body. Maybe that is why Tony Blair thought his holidays in Barbados were some of the most peaceful ones he ever had!
My favourite restaurants
There are lots of wonderful places to go here. The restaurant to go to for the total experience is The Cliff. Set in a stunning location, south of Sandy Lane Hotel, it has a wonderful atmosphere and a great menu, incorporating local and international dishes. If you can, you should book a waterside table so that you can hear the waves lapping in to the shore below you as you eat. As you would expect, given its quality and reputation, the prices are quite high, but the service is unbelievable and totally unobtrusive. It tends to be very popular so it’s a good idea to book a table well in advance.
If you have a slightly smaller budget, you should try a restaurant called Tides in Holetown. Once again, this is located within touching distance of the ocean and has a lovely open, airy feel to it. The atmosphere is wonderful and the food is great.
Another alternative place to eat is Scarlett, which is owned and operated by a lovely young couple, Sophie and Stefan. From the outside, it looks like one of those Bajan chattel houses, and is all red and black. The interior is red and black too, with two walls covered with Andy Warhol paintings. The food is excellent; I really love the locally-sourced fish, and the prices are really reasonable. Also recommended would be the Lone Star and Mullin's Beach Bar, both with very good food and ocean views.
I also like going to Zaccios in Holetown for a spot of lunch from time to time. You can get a burger or a fish cake or chicken with a Bajan curry feel to it – and you are sitting on a beach!
Exploring the island
All of those restaurants are located on the west coast of the island and it’s tempting to spend your entire stay there because it is so family-friendly and there is so much choice. But if you’re keen to explore the less-developed parts of the island then why not visit the east coast? The setting is wild and rugged and the waves crash in - it is really worth the trip. The Atlantic is very rocky and dangerous, and it is not as easy to swim there as on the golden beaches on the west coast, but the scenery is fabulous. And I’ve found a great place to eat there called The Roundhouse. You could be forgiven for walking past the place - it doesn’t look at all sophisticated; just a basic place with umbrellas over the tables, overlooking the beach. But they serve the best flying fish pate with breadfruit chips. You can sit there watching the world go by, eating pate and drinking a rum punch looking out at the ocean, it is just sensational.
The locals have worked really hard to make Barbados more and more inviting. The south coast is really buzzing now too and is becoming more of a tourist destination. St Lawrence Gap is very popular, with its great walkway, local shops and live music – if you can find the energy to wander round it’s definitely worth a day trip. You can get fast food and burgers there, and a great crab cake, while the nearby capital city Bridgetown is also buzzy in the evenings. They are developing the waterfront there, and if you really want to immerse yourself in the local history, go to The Waterfront Café, which overlooks the lively Carenage.
The best hotels
Although I obviously stay in my villa when I am on Barbados, there are lots of wonderful hotels on the island too. On the west coast, Sandy Lane is almost certainly the best–known hotel and has a long list of rich and famous guests but Cobbler’s Cove Hotel also has a great reputation. It’s really old-fashioned, while the Coral Reef Club is another good place, with a stately old feel to it and a gorgeous setting with the beach curving round the restaurant. It does an excellent Sunday brunch.
There are lots of glitzy places to stay and eat at on Barbados and the island is maturing into a holiday destination for all budgets. If you’re looking for clear warm water, tropical sunsets and fine dining, I can think of nowhere better.
The Cliff (+1 246.432.1922; www.thecliffbarbados.com)
Tides (+1 246.432.8356; www.tidesbarbados.com)
Scarlett (+1 246.432.3663)
Zaccios (+1 246.432.0134; www.zaccios.com)
The Roundhouse (+1 246.433.9678; www.roundhousebarbados.com)
The Waterfront Café (+1 246.427.0093; waterfrontcafe.com.bb)
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