You can live it large in luxury Bajan bolthole
Set on the island of Barbados in the West Indies, this hotel is an A-list favourite
Stepping off the plane in Barbados, I’m hit by the warmth. Not just the 30-degree heat, though that’s very welcome when you’ve flown in from rain-battered Britain; it’s the friendliness of the people that really stands out. Barbados — the easternmost isle of the Lesser Antilles in the West Indies — is beautiful from shore to shore, but many agree its west coast is best. I sample a taste of the A-list lifestyle when I stay at one of the island’s most famous and historic hotels, the Fairmont Royal Pavilion, which has recently undergone a refurbishment.
Perched right on the beach, in the parish of St James, it was redeveloped just before laws were introduced requiring hotels to be set further back from the shoreline and all 75 rooms face the sea. The hotel also has a secluded three-bed villa, where shy celebrities sometimes stay.
My room has a king-sized bed and wide balcony overlooking the ocean, along with a circular sofa and a tempting tray for cocktails. The service is exceptional, with friendly, efficient staff, plus a team of butlers to tend to your every need — from ironing your clothes, to bringing delicious canapes to your room every evening.
The hotel’s two main restaurants overlook the white sands and serve international cuisine and traditional local dishes. There’s also a beach club and a poolside bar overlooking the sea, where colourful cocktails are on offer.
The Fairmont offers complimentary activities, such as kayaking, paddleboarding and tennis; or indulge in one of the many spa treatments available, including massage and aromatherapy, in the privacy of your room.
If you want an active day out, take a catamaran cruise (around £75-£120 for a four-hour trip, including lunch and drinks). After being picked up from the beach, we sail along the coconut tree-lined coast, accompanied by flying fish. Using snorkels and masks provided, we swim in the clear turquoise water with turtles. Step outside the hotel and just a few minutes walk away, you’ ll find golf courses, bars and designer stores in Holetown, a trendy area for visitors attracted by restaurants like Nishi, which offers terrific Asian and Caribbean cuisine.
Or drive 10 minutes north to Speightstown, where the lovely beachside restaurant The Orange Street Grocer has its own pizza oven. Also close by to the hotel is Lancaster Great House, run by John and Rain Chandler, who entertain us with tales of island life and the celebrities they have hosted over the years. I try pan-seared flying fish with green banana puree and sweet potato mash for a main course, followed by a sublime coconut and pineapple creme brulee. Other attractions include St Nicholas Abbey, St Peter. This 350-year-old Jacobean plantation house is filled with original antique furniture. They still harvest sugar cane and make rum here. Try one of the richly-flavoured 20-year-old rums. There is also Hunte’s Gardens, St Joseph, and Harrison’s Cave, Allen View where you can hop on an underground tramway to see prehistoric stalactites and stalagmites, or climb deep into the cavernous caves, with an expert guide.