Touring Northern Barbados
Northern Barbados is perhaps the least developed area of the island and in some ways the most beautiful. Dramatic steep, weathered cliffs being pounded by Atlantic swells, quiet fishing villages, private bays and dramatic coastal views are just some of the treats in store as you follow this self-guided tour.
— St. James Church
— Barbados Wildlife Reserve
— Grenade Hall Signal Station, Forest and Nature Trail
— Farley Hill Park
— Morgan Lewis Windmill
— Cherry Tree Hill
— St.Nicholas Abbey
— Little Bay
— River Bay
— Animal Flower Cave
— Six Men’s Bay
Begin your tour in Holetown on the west coast. This is the place where Captain John Powell landed in the ship “Olive” on May 14,1625 and laid claim to the island in the name of England. 1st and 2nd Streets have some very good restaurants for future plans.
Head eastwards from Holetown Methodist Church along Highway 1A and take the short climb up Seaview Road where you will be rewarded with an unexpected vista of the Caribbean Sea as you arrive at Brocklands, the studio and gallery of Janice Sylvia Brock. (Viewings are by prior appointment.) Head back down to the coast road and turn right.
Drive north along the west coast road towards Speightstown. St.James Church, one of the oldest churches in Barbados, will be on your left along the way. The church was originally a modest wooden structure built in 1628 that was rebuilt in local coral limestone around 1680.
Badly damaged by the great hurricane of 1780 with the present-day church being built in the 1800’s. The old baptismal font is inscribed 1684, and the church bell – which now sits on a coral stone pedestal in the northern porch of the building – is dated 1696 and reads “God Bless King William.” Unfortunately it fell down after 200 years, was badly cracked and damaged. Although “repaired”, it is not playable.
Also unique are the large stone pillars found at the southern door and within the church itself, which some claim date back to the original stone structure of the 17th century. But perhaps the most beautiful feature of the church is the eastern stained glass window of the alter.
Depicting “The Ascension of Our Lord”. Records show that it was purchased for $400, collected through public donations, and was dedicated on November 11th, 1924 to the memory of the men who lost their lives in World War I. The church is open daily to visitors, sometimes with conducted guided tours.
Leaving St.James Church turn left to get back on the main road. Turn left across from Bajan Services, you are now entering Speightstown, a thriving port when shipping was the life line of the island, with several British Military forts. Named after William Speight, it was once known as Little Bristol because of trade with that British port.
Speightstown is a good candidate for restoration because of the quantity of surviving architecture, typified by overhanging balconies. The Barbados National Trust has launched a project to rescue the old commercial centre of Speightstown.
While driving along the main road, keep an eye out for the charming Gallery of Caribbean Art and Mango’s – a good place for dinner, with an adjoining art gallery. You might like to stop at the P.R.C. Bakery on Orange Street and pick up some traditional Bajan breads and pastries for the drive.
Leave Speightstown by driving along the main street and onto the coastal road that leads to the North (note: the sea will be on your left).
At the T-junction turn left passing Almond Beach Village and a little further on, Port St.Charles Marina on your left. Take the next right turn and make your way up the hill continuing to a junction where you will go straight signposted “Farley Hill Park/Morgan Lewis/Cherry Tree Hill“.
Further on you will also see an example of a “Chapel of Ease” on your right. These smaller churches were constructed during the 1800s to make it easier for rural people to get to a church.
Upon reaching a T-junction take the right turn onto Charles Duncan O’Neal Highway. A short while later you will come across some large signs indicating another right turn to go to the Wildlife Reserve and Grenade Hall. Follow these signs.
Soon you will come to Farley Hill National Park on your right, and you should be able to see the flag-pole on the tower of the signal station, up the hill and slightly to the left. Turn left into the entrance of the Wildlife Reserve and Grenade Hall Signal Station and Forest.
Directly across the road from the Wildlife Reserve is Farley Hill Park. This contains the ruins of a once grand plantation house and a superb collection of trees. The grounds make a good spot for picnics and is the site of a wonderful all day concert in the Jazz Festival every January.
Exit Farley Hill and turn right as you continue you will be entering St.Andrew. As you go over the brow of the hill you get your first glimpse of the rugged uplands and a magnificent view of the East Coast.
Going down the hill you will see what is left of an old windmill, once very common in this area. Continuing, take the first left into Shorey village at the bottom of the hill. Follow the road, which soon veers to the right and you will soon have a good view of the Morgan Lewis Windmill up on the hillside, slightly to your left.
Continue up the hill where the road winds its way through canefields and whitewood trees. This hill is named Cherry Tree Hill, just as you reach the crest you will see a beautiful avenue of mahogany trees directly ahead of you and a small parking area to the left. Stop your car and look back down to the coast.
This truly magnificent view deserves a camera and a clear day – I hope you have both!
When you can pull yourself away from the scenery you have the pleasure of driving through that delightful tunnel of mahogany trees until you reach St.Nicholas Abbey on your right. From Monday to Friday the house is open for viewing. It is a wonderful example of a Jacobean Mansion from the mid-1600s and it is full of interest.
It’s a right turn to get back on the road out of the Abbey and you wind your way past Diamond Corner cricket ground (recognized by the green pavilion dedicated to the memory of former Test Cricketer Keith Boyce) and onto a T-junction.
Turn right to head towards Castle and follow the road. Eventually you pass Gay’s cricket ground on the left as the road forks to the right, you will see St.Philip the Less Anglican Episcopal church with unusual architecture on your left and a ruined windmill just before.
Further down the hill you need to go left at the fork in the road and pass 7th day Adventist Church on your right. At the brow of the hill, turn right and around the corner you can see the extreme North-Eastern Coast. At the next T-junction with the sign welcoming you to St.Lucy turn right. You will wind your way through Cave Hill with views of the east coast.
When you come to a junction take a sharp right turn signposted “Cove Bay Little Bay” then follow the sign left towards Little Bay. Keep left as the road veers off and follow it to the end of the road. Park here and walk around to explore a beautiful bay of exposed reef. There is a sheltered pool of water where you can slip in for a dip at low tide. Climbing over the rocks will give you spectacular views down the east coast.
When it’s time to leave head back out the way you came turning a right at each of the two stop signs you come to. Back on the main road, small rectangular stone houses can be seen dotted throughout the villages. Many people refer to these as slave huts but they were actually built by peasants in the nineteenth century who were fortunate enough to own their land.
There are no known slave huts in existence today since they were made of organic material called wattle and daub with roofs made materials such as plantain leaves and cane trash. There is a fine example of a slave hut in the Heritage Village located at Tyrol Cot which is on the central tour route.
Turn right again signposted “River Bay / Animal Flower Cave / Connell Town / Archers Bay” after passing St.Clements Anglican Church up on the hill to your left. At the stop sign go left and then right at the sign posted “River Bay Animal Flower Cave Spring Garden” along a very rough road through canefields. At the next stop sign turn right and you will soon find the sign posted “Public Access to River Bay“, turn right here for another spectacular bay.
On leaving River Bay turn right to get back on the road. Continuing on this road you will come to the entrance to the Animal Flower Cave in the bend as the road veers sharply left. Turn in and follow the signs to the cave. The approach can be quite barren in the dry periods but the coastal scenery is still spectacular. This is the most Northerly point of Barbados, the very tip of the island.
The cave takes its name from the sea anemones found in its pools. They were first called “Animal Flowers” way back in 1750 by Griffith Hughes in his book “The Natural History of Barbados”. Take your swimwear and of course your camera, the view from within the cave, out to the sea is awesome. There is a little bar here serving sandwiches and drinks.
Head back out the way you came to the cave and when you reach the bend in the road you turned into turn right. When the road forks at St.Swithins’ Church, turn right and then left at the T-junction.
Follow the road towards Six Mens Bay and turn left again at the next T-junction with the stop sign. Soon you will notice the cement factory straight ahead. Sorry! It was built here so that our prevailing N.E. Trade Winds would carry any dust out to sea and away from the island.
Continue driving through a small village and on reaching the cross-roads turn right at the stop sign, do not follow the sign to Speightstown. You are not back on the Charles Duncan O’Neal Highway.
This route takes you along a lovely coastal road, dotted with fishing villages such as Half Moon Fort and boat building centers like the one at Shermans Village and Six Men’s Bay. The boat builders are usually friendly and willing to talk about the methods they use. You’ll see lots of mahogany logs strewn around. They use this wood to make the stays and ribs of the keel. Incidentally, on weekend nights there is a “Fish Fry” here. Keep this in mind for future plans.
At the next junction, turn right signposted “Bridgetown Six Mens via Speightstown”. The road you are on takes you back past Port St. Charles and Almond Beach Village to join the west coast road. At this point a sunset drink might be just the ticket. Any one of the many West Coast watering holes would welcome you.