Travel Destinations

Last year nearly 100,000 Britons visited the Caribbean country of the Dominican Republic. That’s a small number compared to the total of millions that come each year. Since it has been a staple feature in the holiday brochures of major tour operators for decades why don’t more of us visit a country that combines the prospect of beach holidays, trekking, desert landscapes, and rainforest?
So here is a quick potted guide to what the Dominican Republic has to offer the holidaymaker and traveler.

This is the place where Christopher Columbus landed in 1492. The Spanish influence has lasted to this day although the country has been independent for nearly 170 years. It attracts the fourth largest number of tourists in Latin America each year after Mexico, Brazil and Argentina and those visitor dollars mean that nearly 8% of the economy is due entirely to tourism. 4.6 million people visited the country with 1.6 million from the USA alone. This means that US dollars are freely available even though the peso is the official currency with about 68 pesos to the pound. It also means that the country works hard to attract visitors with a continuous upgrading of services and the introduction of new ones.

Take the opening of Los Delfines Water & Amusement Park last week. Los Delfines, the Caribbean’s biggest amusement park was created to gather the family, around a wholesome and enjoyable activity overlooking the sea. A second stage to increase its size by two-thirds is already planned.

 

Whilst you probably won’t holiday in the capital, chances are that you will be offered an excursion there. The capital is Santo Domingo – the oldest city in the Americas – which is also where the bulk of the population of the country lives. Although a modern city in most respects, it has an area known as the colonial zone which is largely a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is here that you’ll find Catedral Santa María La Menor, the oldest cathedral in the Americas, the Casa de Bastidas ( a military complex dating back to 1512)and El Alcazar – a palace built for the Spanish leaders. Less than a week ago, the tourism ministry announced that funds would be made available to restore and renovate the historic facades of individuals homes in a dilapidated state within the Zone.

Golfing is a major attraction for the country having twenty-seven golf clubs including five in Casa de Campo’s where there are the “teeth of the Dog” course which is reputed to be not only the best in the Caribbean but one of the top fifty courses in the world. It may be given a run for its money by a Jack Nicklaus course at Punta Espada which is proving popular with visitors.

Like most Caribbean destinations, it is to the beaches and the sea that visitors are attracted. In the south, there tend to be more beaches catering for the visitor whilst in the north, they are less developed in some areas although more money for development is being considered. Inland there is mountaineering, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, paragliding, driving in 4×4 vehicles, tubing, cascading, canyoning and rappelling.

Punta Cana is probably the leading tourist destination with over 35,000 hotel rooms, golf courses and miles of beaches. Here you’ll also find the Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park which has exotic plants on trails that take you through via eleven natural lagoons and one of the country’s largest caves, Fun Fun Cave which has a 4.5-mile long river flowing inside it. From here you can join one of the many jeep safaris, that will take you through a tropical jungle but you’ll still be never too far away from a deserted beach where you can stop for a swim before re-joining the safari.

And where there are beaches, there is skin-diving but this is the Caribbean. Here there are tales of Spanish galleons laden with treasure that foundered on the reefs. In August it was announced that divers from Anchor Research and Salvage working with the Punta Cana Foundation discovered a 450-year-old wreck. The cargo found contains the single largest cache of 16th-century pewter tableware ever discovered as well as some extremely rare Spanish silver coins from the late 1400′s. Is it any wonder that divers come in their thousands in the hope of seeing something like this or just to admire the seabed and the corals.

They also come for the turtles as do many other visitors. The government operates a nest-vigilance programme to monitor, count and protect one the great tourist draws. This year, 1,317 births of various sea turtle species – hawksbills, greens, and leatherbacks -from May to September were recorded on the beaches of the National District.

On the northern coast is Puerto Plata with 62 miles of beaches, coastal villages and hotels This is where you’ll find the remains of the first European settlement in the Americas are located. The three ships of Columbus made landfall here in 1492 and called it La Isabela. Nicknamed the “Amber Coast” because of the amber deposits this is the most developed are in the north. Incidentally, amber is one of the major tourist souvenirs but bring back only amber that has been worked as its export in the raw is forbidden.

If there is evidence of colonial influence here, then Pedernales in the south-west is where you will find indigenous influence. The province also features a high number of caves, many with evidence of pre-historic cave paintings, such as pictographs made with red paint. Among the most notable are La Altagracia, Trou Nicolás, and La Colmena.
Eco and adventure tourism majors strongly in the Dominican Republic. In fact, there are nine distinct ecological zones including a desert area in the south-west. It certainly wouldn’t like to be known as just another Caribbean beach destination.

Getting there:
British Airways has direct flights from Gatwick Airport. Thomas Cook has flights from Gatwick and Manchester and Thomson Airlines links the country from Birmingham, East Midlands, Gatwick and Manchester with seasonal services from Glasgow and Newcastle. Air Europa has flights via Madrid from Gatwick; Air France via Paris from over 20 different British and Irish airports.

You will require a visa which costs $10 and this can be obtained on arrival. Check with your travel agency to see whether this is included in your bill from them. Returning from the country there is a departure tax but this is often rolled into you airfare or your holiday package.

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Travel Destinations

Tiny Grenada will soon be back on the map when Sandals opens later this year, but the fragrant island has more to offer (or is it less) than large all-inclusive resorts

The drive from my house in West London to Gatwick airport to board the flight to the Caribbean was longer than the drive across the full length of Grenada. At 21 miles long, the island is small but packs in all the essentials we expect from this part of the world, great year-round weather, lovely beaches, colonial architecture and Oh! That heavenly smell

Known as the Spice Island because of the smells of nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove that fill the air, Grenada has a quaint old-fashioned feel. Despite that, it has established itself as one of the Caribbean’s premier diving and sailing destinations. Verdant rainforests, vibrant spice markets, historic forts and plantations and activities such as river tubing – where one rides on top of an inner tube on the water – and hiking are some of the attractions. A hike through the Grand Etang rainforest affords a glimpse of the country’s Mona monkey. Several troops of Mona monkeys roam the forests of Grenada. Mona monkeys are not native to the Western Hemisphere but instead were introduced from Africa.

Travel GrenadaAbove all; the island’s tranquillity and unspoiled character reveal the authentic Caribbean, although in many people’s minds the island will always be remembered for the brief US invasion in 1983 after the country’s takeover by the socialist People’s Revolutionary Government. These days Grenada is quiet and sedate and, although independent from the UK since 1974, it still carries the names of the four British patron saints in its parishes and village names.
I returned to Grenada this year ten years since my last trip in 2003. Twelve months afterward, in 2004, Hurricane Ivan had paid a visit and flattened much of this pretty Caribbean island. Although tenacious little Grenada has recovered most of its old verve and energy, it was still sad to walk around the capital, St George’s, the other week. Once hailed as having the ‘prettiest harbor in the Caribbean’ many of the capital’s churches and fine old Georgian buildings are still left roofless. The Grenadians have found it difficult to finance the repairs needed following the disaster. But although tourism has been in decline for some years, that is set to change later this year with the opening of Sandals which has taken over the old La Source hotel. Not everyone welcomes the move – Grenada has for many years been one of the Caribbean islands that have resisted the all-inclusive chains. On the other hand, the opening will herald increased airlift and much-needed publicity to put Grenada back on the map.

Top things to do in Grenada

SPICE UP YOUR LIFE

Grenada is the second largest producer of nutmegs in the world, accounting for about a third of the world’s supply. Visit one of the processing plants such as Grenville, or visit the historic Belmont estate which is a real eco-adventure. The River Antoine Rum Distillery is the oldest water propelled functioning rum distillery in this part of the world, using methods little changed since the 1800s.

DIVE IN

While I was relaxing at the boutique True Blue bay hotel, my husband, a keen Scuba diver, was under the Grenadian water. Here lies the former luxury liner Bianca C, one of the world’s most famous shipwrecks, a 600-foot long cruise ship which sank in 1961. The Moliere Underwater sculpture park serves a double function as an underwater art gallery and artificial reef. Other famous dives include Shakem, another wreck which sank in 2001: Shark Reef which is teeming with sharks, turtles and other marine life and Purple Rain Reef which gets its name from the large schools of Creole Wrasses and purple vase sponges which live here.

ST GEORGE’S

Above the water, this former British colony offers charming architecture, and St George’s, despite the roofless buildings, still has 300-year-old Fort George the oldest structure in the country with a maze of tunnels and ramparts. The National Museum is another worthwhile stop which occupies an area first used as a garrison. A few steps away is the 340-foot Sendall Tunnel, constructed by former governor Walter Sendall after he observes the plight of porters and horse-drawn carriages slipping on the unpaved streets. I strolled around on Saturday morning when the colorful spice market is in full swing. At sundown, keep your eyes peeled for Grenada’s famous ‘green flash’ – an optical illusion best experienced with a local rum sundowner in hand.

TURTLE WATCHING

The high spot of my recent trip was a nighttime excursion to see turtles nesting. Gigantic female leatherback turtles lumber ashore Levera Beach in the north of the island to the same spot where they hatched themselves some years before. They then dig a hole where they lay their eggs. We watched one female lay 96 eggs before covering her tracks and heading back into the ocean. This fascinating activity usually occurs between March and May each year, and six weeks afterward the golf-ball like eggs hatch. The tiny hatchlings then start their perilous journey to the sea. It is possible for visitors to return to see the hatchlings, but few of them survive, sadly. When I visited researchers from the local university were on hand to monitor and document the proceedings.

GET OUT

Not to be missed is a trip to Grenada’s Out islands of Carriacou and Petit Martinique known for their sleepy island charm. In August the regatta on Carriacou celebrates the indigenous art of boat building handed down by Scottish and Irish ancestors and racing focuses on these locally built workboats.
From the UK, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic service Grenada weekly with direct flights from London’s Gatwick Airport.

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Travel Destinations

The signs are unmistakable. It’s wet, windy and dark at four o clock so it must be time to head abroad and bask in some winter sun. If the daily grind is getting you down and you need to recharge your batteries in a tropical paradise, may we suggest Barbados?

When in Britain the sky is the color of porridge, the leaves are falling and everyone is succumbing to the cough-ice, in Barbados it’s hot. Not sweltering sunstroke hot you understand, but blue skies, the smattering of clouds, top up the tan hot.

Only a handful of places on earth are more seductive and beautiful in the flesh than on the postcard but, in my mind, Barbados is one of them. Even better: it doesn’t require a string of vaccinations to get there and you’re guaranteed sun and spoken English.

The majority of Brits make a beeline for Barbados’ fabled west coast which is nicknamed the Platinum coast for nothing: this lap of luxury is where the jet set (think leggy models, real estate gurus, playboys, and socialites) hang out. For people watching at its most intoxicating, look no further than Lime Grove – a new, overdraft shattering shopping mall packed with people who look like they are living in an Armani holiday advert.

Yes, the west coast is good at showing off, but sometimes less is more right? So if, like me, you can survive a holiday without bumping into Simon Cowell and co, head south where you’ll find pockets of paradise that have not yet been lost.There’s no such thing as a bad beach in Barbados, but Browne"s beach, Miami beach, and Accra beach – all on the sun-kissed south coast – are exceptionally fine spots to toast on a sun lounger and then spend longer in the paint box turquoise water than a dolphin. From a distance, the ocean appears a tantalizingly unnatural aqua but, up close, it’s as clear as if poured from a tap.

The three S’s – sun, sand, and sea – are invariably Barbados’ biggest headline grabbers but, while undeniably beautiful, they tend to divert from the island’s equally enticing interior. Here you’ll find rolling hills, traditional chattel houses the color of mint ice cream, beautiful botanical gardens, magnificent plantation houses (step forward St Nicholas Abbey) and the spectacular subterranean attraction that is Harrison’s Cave. This massive underground cave stream system, which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, is the place to gaze in awe at caverns and crystallized formations.

But it’s the island’s east coast that excites me most, being that little bit more colorful, curious, courageous and crazy than the rest of the Barbados. Sequestered by sugar canes and thick fields, this is the Caribbean in its rawest, most real estate. I’m staying in the eastern parish of St Philip where on a patch of grass, a makeshift wicket is set up and a tattered ball hurled at a well-worn bat while ladies in their best outfits gather at the church next door; where rural roads are lined with homegrown produce stands and cows and goats wander into the road, while the blue-green sea glistens in the sun and the vegetation has a lush brilliance.

By contrast, Bridgetown – Barbados’ bustling capital – is a lively place to stroll overflowing with fruit sellers and souvenir shops targeting cruise ship passengers in search of an ‘I heart Barbados’ t-shirt and Tortuga rum cake. On Broad Street – the Bajan capital’s main thoroughfare – you can also window shop for tax-free Rolexes and Ray Bans.

When you’ve had your retail therapy fix, make for the George Washington House (the only house outside of America where the great man resided), followed by the Barbados Museum. The latter is hardly the V&A but does give you a flavor of the colonial period of life. It’s perfectly possible to ‘do’ Bridgetown in an afternoon, although admittedly that goes against the chilled out nature of the island.

After ambling around town, chances are you’ll have worked up an appetite. Fortunately, Barbados has a thriving local gastronomic scene and restaurants such as the Roundhouse and The Cliff have earned a reputation for quality – as well as their arresting views. But if you’re not happily cashed up, panic not – you won’t go hungry in Barbados. Choose from food stalls, then sit and feast with locals eating street nosh like flying fish, cou cou (a cornmeal and okra staple), cutters (meat or fish sandwiches in salt bread) and, of course, jerk chicken with rice and peas. Whatever delicacy you plump for, it must be sprinkled with the fiery yellow Bajan sauce which sits on every tabletop.

In the evening, aim to watch the sunset from Ramshackle or Dippers – two friendly beachside bars where you can drink rum punch (be warned the ubiquitous Bajan cocktail often includes enough rum to fell an ox) from glasses the size of goldfish bowls while watching the wavelets tiptoe up the shore. Then dance away the calories at Harbour Lights – the kind of club your Mother warned you about: think hormones, hedonism, and a whole lotta fun! The cover charge can hit B$50 on Friday nights but, to paraphrase Bob Marley, when it includes rum punches aplenty, “everything is going to be all right”.

Similarly, St Lawrence Gap – Barbados’ infamous bar strip – is another good time place: a hang out for the young and hedonistic, with a lust for life. You will stay up all night (despite good intentions I never made it to bed before midnight) until the dawn of another cloudless day for there’s always one last rum and coke, to be consumed.

But there’s more to Bajan nightlife than sipping cocktails with pretty young things, to fresh DJ spun tunes. If you’re in Barbados on a Friday night, don’t miss the legendary Oistins Fish Fry. The small fishing village opens it doors to tourists and locals alike, all of whom flock here for the barbecue fish and rum drinking, to a backdrop of reggae, pop and country music. Yet as fantastic as events like the Friday night fish fry are, without a doubt one of the island’s greatest assets is its people. Charming and hospitable, they always have time to talk and help make Barbados one of the most welcoming countries in the Caribbean.

Of course, all these costs. It’s safe to say that Barbados has never been a cheap destination and prices for accommodation can be shockingly high. Then there remains the matter of the journey: the biggest headache with Barbados, is the usually exorbitant cost of getting there. However even if the island leaves you lighter in the pocket,  trust CD-Traveller when we say that you’ll leave with a heavy heart. All in all, this is one of the Caribbean’s top treats: I’m going back next year.

Need to know

Getting around
Transport is a doddle compared to other Caribbean countries. Local buses and mini-vans are safe, cheap and frequent although they are not a quiet experience. Buses blare out Rihanna – the local girl done good – and reggae at full volume, and it can take forever to get from A-B because the drivers keep stopping to pick up friends and relatives!

Don’t miss excursions 
Two unforgettable day trips include a Tiami catamaran cruise (a five-hour cruise with lunch, snorkeling, and giant turtle viewing opportunities) and a trip to the Mount Gay rum distillery. Rum is the drink of Barbados be it by itself, with coke or in a cocktail. At Mount Gay Rum visitors center, you can take a tour of a working distillery and learn a little more about the world-famous rum (the darker the drink, the older the rum but note that unlike scotch, older doesn’t necessarily mean better). On Tuesdays and Thursdays, an excellent West Indian buffet that includes macaroni pie, flying fish and Bajan rum cake is offered at the end of the tour.

To book a Tiami catamaran cruise, visit www.tallshipcruises.com. To book a Mount Gay Rum tour, check out www.mountgayrum.com. For more information on Barbados, log onto www.visitbarbados.org

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Travel Destinations

Craving surf, sand and sun? The Caribbean has it covered. However consisting as it does of over 7,000 islands and islets, attempting to pick the best beach can present something of a challenge. Fortunately, we’ve done the legwork for you and selected 10 top spots; those who get trapped in front of their computers at home only have themselves to blame

1. Dickenson Bay, Antigua

The murder of the Mullanys – a young British couple shot dead in their hotel room on their honeymoon – showed that paradise does have a ‘dark side.’ But the Antigua authorities reacted quickly, stepping up security, and two years on there’s absolutely no reason not to visit.

The island is blessed with an abundance of bounty advert beaches but most of the action is to be found at Dickenson Bay where you can swim, snorkel, sail, fish, and dive – or simply soak up the sun. Beyond the beach, cricket fans will want to try and take in a Test match at the St Vivian Richards Stadium – the Caribbean is crazy about cricket and Antigua especially so.
Perfect for:
 cricket lovers

2. Eleuthera, Bahamas
The basic ingredients – lapis lazuli waters and powder fine sands – are here in spades making Eleuthera the perfect place to slumber in the sun. If, however, lounging doesn’t satisfy, there are other options. Wreck divers can explore the Devil’s Backbone – a superb dive site off Harbour Island – while the kite surfers amongst you can skip across the waves of the eastern shores.
Perfect for: 
beach bums

 

3. West Coast, Barbados
Barbados’ most famous export (after rum), Rhianna, hangs out here when she’s not collecting a Grammy, while Simon Cowell, Mick Jagger, Tiger Woods, oh and Michael Winner also frequently flock to the West Coast – or the ‘Platinum coast’ as locals like to call it – to laze on beaches of icing sugar sand and swim in crystal clear azure waters. On the West Coast, the toughest decision you’ll make every day is where to eat.
Perfect for:
 celeb spotting

4. Horseshoe Bay, Bermuda
Bermudians are at pains to point out that their island isn’t actually in the Caribbean. Still, their beaches are of a Caribbean quality – none more so than Horseshoe Bay whose pinks sands are, as the name suggests, shaped like a horseshoe.
Horseshoe Bay has a lifeguard on duty from May- September (Bermudians won’t venture into the sea before Bermuda Day on May 24), a cafe and changing facilities –making it fab for families. Other attractions for ankle biters include an annual sand castle competition.
Perfect for:
 families

5. Seven Mile Beach, Cayman Islands
You could visit Grand Cayman and never leave stunning Seven Mile Beach (SMB), so seductive is its stretch of unbroken white sand. Popular with beachgoers of all ages, it’s also a great place to people watch; expect to see couples strolling hand in hand and 50 something women, their flesh spilling over their bikinis, power strut past hardcore surfer dudes. Of course, no visit to Cayman is complete without seeing some stingrays: at Stingray City, the island’s most famous residents sweep across white sand flats in the shallows.
Perfect for:
 foodies; Cayman has an exception eating out scene

6. Varadero, Cuba

Boasting 21km – that’s 13 miles – of beautiful, white, soft, sandy beaches shaded by palms, it’s little wonder that Varadero is Cuba’s most popular beach. Can’t bear lying on a beach all day? The sea, with its unsurpassable shades of blue, is too enticing to pass up and chances are you’ll spend longer in the water than a dolphin. When night falls, learn to salsa up a storm at one of Varadero’s numerous all-inclusive resorts. Note: this is not the place for those who object to having to wear a colored bracelet to breakfast.
Perfect for:
 beachgoers of all ages

7. Las Galeras, Dominican Republic
Found at the furthest point of the Samana Peninsula, Las Galeras is often overlooked owing to it"s off the beaten track’ location. But don’t be deterred; the area boasts some of the best beaches in the Dominican Republic making it well worth any extra effort involved.
Playa Rincon is particularly captivating, managing to stun even the most jaded of traveler. You can rent beach chairs, refuel in one of the restaurants and then work off the calories by saddling up and going on a horse ride, snorkeling or diving.
Perfect for:
 privacy – mass tourism and overdevelopment have yet to hit

 

8. Rum Point, Grand Cayman
We’re not going to mince words. Rum Point – at the top of North Side – can’t compete with Cayman’s iconic Seven Mile Beach. Nonetheless, it’s still a not to be missed morning; locals drive from all over the island for a snorkel session and to swing in hammocks at the week-end. At the Wreck Bar, you can enjoy a lazy lunch washed down by a famous Cayman mudslide or stay on and watch the sunset at next door Rum Point restaurant.
Perfect for:
 relaxing

9. Keyhole Pinnacles, St Lucia
If you’ve never snorkeled or dived on a Caribbean coral reef, you’re missing out and when it comes to places to take the plunge, the Keyhole Pinnacles – voted one of the ‘10 Best Dive Sites’ by Travel & Life are up there with the best of them. The four underwater sea mountains that rise dramatically from the depths to within a few feet from the surface are coated in colorful corals. Why not dive right in and see for yourself?
Perfect for:
 budding Jacques Cousteau

 

10. Long Bay, Jamaica
Want to hit the beach and bars? Then Long Bay (a gorgeous 11km long stretch of sand also known as Seven Mile Beach) is the name you need to know.
The sun-splashed shores are a powerful lure for most during the day – including the hawkers and hustlers who patrol the beach selling their wares. Nights meanwhile, are for enjoying the tropical party lifestyle; as the sun sets, reggae (well you are in Bob Marley country) and rum, rule.
Perfect for:
 making merry

Featured, Travel Destinations

Insider tips about the Caribbean’s most exciting island from the people who really know – those that live there

Name: Karen Rollins
Age: 34
Occupation: Journalist

Are you a local girl? 
No. I was born in England but have been in Barbados for a year and a half now and love it: the natural warmth and friendliness of the Bajans cannot be matched.

What’s it like to live in Barbados? 
The best thing about Barbados is without a doubt the weather: the sun is almost always shining. Barbados’ other two main selling points are the sand and the sea: the sand is wonderfully powdery while the blue of the sea can’t actually be described in words. Another major plus is the low crime rate.

The downside, however, is that the cost of living is very high. Food and bills are especially pricey and as wages are low it makes it hard to save for anything at all: big purchases such as a house and a car are out of reach of most people.

What is your favorite thing about Barbados? 
Barbados is so much more than a tropical island but the palm trees, white sand, and turquoise water are what I love most.

Why should we visit Barbados? 
Because Barbados has so much going on for a country that’s just 166 square miles in size!

Beyond the beaches, there’s a whole host of landscapes to explore from caves (Harrison’s Caves are one of the island’s great wonders) to gardens and the beautiful Welchman Hall Gully.
After something more active? You can go horse riding, hiking, fishing, golfing, get wet learning to dive, surf, sail and so on or watch a major cricket or polo match.
There’s plenty of nightlife too – especially in St Lawrence Gap or Oistins which hosts the weekly Fish Fry every Friday: it’s an opportunity to try authentic Bajan cuisine in a lively yet relaxed environment.

All told there are many, many reasons to visit Barbados and chances are the island will become for you, as it did for me, a home from home: Barbados has the highest rate of repeat visitors of any major tourist destination in the world.

How long do we, ideally, need?
I would say 10 – 14 days would be optimum.

Best bites? 
Barbados has an array of amazing restaurants but arguably the most fabulous ones are in St Lawrence Gap or in St James – I personally like the Ship Inn which is a great place to admire the colors in your cocktail. I’ve heard Tides restaurant is pretty special but I haven’t been – yet!

Top shops? 
The best shops are on Broad Street in Bridgetown – the buzzy, busy capital of Barbados. Names worth knowing include Cave Shepherds (the island’s answer to Debenhams) but there are other stores springing up like Limegrove in St James or Speightstown in St Peter that repay a visit. They are also building a new shopping complex in Christchurch not far from Worthing beach. Sheraton Mall has some cute shops too.

Where should we stay?
You can find a Bajan break to suit all budgets. Near the top end of the scale, The Crane Resort in St Philip is simply gorgeous. The hotel is set on a cliff overlooking the famous Crane Beach (there’s a lift down to the sea) although you can’t go in the water as it’s on the Atlantic side of the island meaning that the sea is rough.

If you’re dreaming of relaxing on a sun-kissed beach and then cooling off in the sea (the number one reason for most people visiting Barbados) then St James is a good spot: the sea is calm as this is the Caribbean side of the island. The area has some charming hotels but can be pricey. The Gap is also popular with tourists owing to its glorious beaches, luxury hotels, fine dining restaurants, not to mention the lively nightlife.

Any insider tips for our readers?
I would just say be wary of anyone offering you something for nothing. Although the crime rate is enviably low, hawkers do exist and will want to befriend you and show you the ‘real Barbados’ in exchange for money.

Anything else you want to add? 
I think that overall Barbados is the most intriguing and rewarding island in the Caribbean as well as the safest –it doesn’t have the crime problems of other islands like Trinidad and Tobago or Jamaica. That said, all of the islands in the Caribbean are unique and worth visiting but it’s not easy to do so: St Vincent is only a 45-minute flight from Barbados but it costs a lot of money to fly there. Hopefully traveling between islands will become cheaper.

Thanks, Karen! To find out more about Barbados visit www.visitbarbados.org

Travel Destinations

Caldicot Castle, Buccaneers & Smugglers

Bank holidays are made for children. But do you ever get tired of taking them to the same thing? At Caldicot Castle in Monmouthshire, there is something different set against a stunnning backdrop of the castle.

Visitors to Caldicot Castle on the weekend of Sunday 2nd and Bank Holiday Monday 3rd May can experience the drama and tension as they travel back in time to 1674 and meet the famous buccaneer, Sir Henry Morgan and a crew of his most ferocious comrades from his notorious pirate vessel The Dolphin, newly returned from the pirate haunts of the Caribbean.

The deserted Castle of Caldicot sets the stage for a Secret Rendezvous for Morgan and his infamous crew to discuss terms of a Royal pardon over a jug or two of rum. Visitors can discover tales of piracy, and first hand accounts of raiding at will upon the Spanish Main, from Maracaibo to Panama. Unbeknownst to the crew the local authorities have heard of these scurrilous sea dogs lurking in the ruins. The constable and his town militia are poised to strike!

SCENARIO
The year is 1674 and Sir Henry Morgan is busy making plans for his return to the Caribbean but news has reached him that could be beneficial. One of his old Buccaneer ships and its crew (the “Port Royal” a 12 Gun sloop commanded by Captain James Delliat) has sent him a missive. Having heard of his appointment as Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica they are keen to buy themselves a pardon & take the Kings Peace, although the Buccaneers wish to curry favour with the new LT Governor, they are however untrusting of the navy and will only deal with Morgan direct.

Morgan decides to travel to old homeland of Monmouthshire in Wales to meet with the crew. If he can come to a bargain over this, not only will he profit by it (as will the Royal Treasury!) It may also set an example & assist in convincing some of the other buccaneer commanders out in the Caribbean to change their ways. Morgan arranges to meet the pirates at the old ruins of Caldicot Castle where the crew of the ship have set up a careening camp (to clean the bottom of their ship) he arranges for food, rum and entertainments to assist in his bargaining.

Morgan meets up with the crew and they soon take to drinking and reminiscing on their old times on the Spanish Main. The Buccaneers then hold a council of war to vote on Morgan’s deal.

Unknown to them however a local militia captain (who has NOT been informed of this clandestine meeting) has been alarmed of the strange goings on at the ruined castle, He gathers his men and makes his way there to investigate and just as the deal is about to be sealed between Morgan and the crew, the militia stumble in on the scene. The Buccaneers immediately think they have been double crossed and in their stupor attack the militia, a fire fight, Pyros and some fearsome and deadly sword play ensues as the militia fight their way into the camp only to be outfought and eventually are will all be killed, captured or if they are lucky escape. However Morgan’s plans will have been scuppered and the pirates leave for their ship and back to the old pirating ways!

Historical Background
In the 17th century, buccaneers lived on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola and its tiny turtle-shaped neighbour, Tortuga. At first, they lived as hunters, and shot wild pigs with their long-barrelled muskets. Their name came from the special wooden huts called boucans where they smoked their meat.

Later, the governors of Caribbean islands such as Jamaica paid the buccaneers to attack Spanish treasure ships and ports. Some of the largest scale raids were led by the Welsh captain, Sir Henry Morgan. Although raids began in this way, with official backing, the buccaneers gradually became more and more out of control, eventually attacking any ship they thought carried valuable cargo, whether it belonged to an enemy country or not. The buccaneers had become true pirates.

Celebrated in ballads as the greatest of the buccaneers, Morgan was the leader of a motley band of pirates, privateers and soldiers from Port Royal in the late 17th Century. His bold exploits involved taking and sacking the wealthiest settlements of the New World. In 1668, Morgan quickly captured Puerto in an extraordinarily daring move–stormed and sacked the well-fortified city of Porto Bello on the Isthmus of Panama. In 1669 he made a successful raid on wealthy Spanish settlements around Lake Maracaibo on the coast of Venezuela. Finally, in August 1670 with 36 ships and nearly 2,000 buccaneers, he set out to capture Panama, one of the chief cities of Spain’s American empire. Crossing the Isthmus of Panama, he defeated a large Spanish force and entered the city, which burned to the ground while his men were looting it. These were the real pirates of the Caribbean sacking towns, cities and harassing shipping of all foreign nations for loot and plunder!

Because Morgan’s raid on Panama; had taken place after the conclusion of a peace between England and Spain, he was arrested and transported to London (April 1672). Nevertheless, relations with Spain quickly deteriorated, and in 1674 King Charles II knighted Morgan and sent him out again as deputy governor of Jamaica, where he lived as a wealthy and respected planter until his death. The event is set just before his return to Jamaica in 1674.

Now if children- and adults of all ages- don’t enjoy that, the spirit of adventure is lost!