Getting to Know Barbados: St John Parish
Situated on the east coast of Barbados is the unspoilt parish of St John. This beautiful part of the island is a world away from the glitzy glamour of the west coast. There are no tourist resorts here, nor the accompanying shops, restaurants and other businesses. Instead, you have the real Barbados: blissful beaches, rugged coastlines, lush vegetation and quaint fishing villages. For those wanting to get away from the tourist track, it is certainly a place to visit and here are some of the parish’s little gems you should look out for.
Codrington College is the island’s theological college and has the honour of being the oldest in the New World. The estate and the money to set up the college was bequeathed to the Anglican Church in 1710 and the college opened in 1743.
The college and the grounds are magnificent. Set high on the hillside, you arrive via a majestic palm-lined driveway that leads to a triptych of archways from which there are spectacular views of the coastline and ocean. Nearby, you discover the college’s beautifully maintained lily pond that has become a popular place for wedding photos.
Although it is still a working college, it is open to the public and has become a popular picnic site for visitors to the parish.
Although its fortunes have demised since the turn of the century, during the 19th and 20th centuries, Villa Nova was one of the pre-eminent private residences on the island. During this period, its guests have included HM Queen Elizabeth II, Sir Winston Churchill, Noel Coward and Tony Blair. It was even owned, for a short period, by former Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden.
Built in 1834, by sugar cane baron, Edmund Haynes, Villa Nova is a classic example of a Palladian-style plantation house and is built out of hand-cut coral stone. This grand villa is set in 15 acres of lush, private estate with stunning views over the countryside and the east coast.
In 2004, the villa was transformed into a 5-star, luxury boutique hotel. However, this venture didn’t succeed. While you cannot currently go into the estate, it is worth a drive by to see its grand exterior and for its historical value.
Lemon Arbour – The Village Bar
Some restaurants’ food is so good that the locals like to keep it a secret. Lemon Arbour or The Village Bar, as it is officially known, is one such place – and perhaps the best place to indulge in some great Bajan food while in St John’s. Its Pudding and Souse (lime-pickled pork with grated and steamed sweet potato) comes highly recommended.
This is not upmarket fine dining; however, the food is exquisite and you get genuine Bajan dishes served with warm Barbadian hospitality. The best place to enjoy your meal is out on the shaded veranda, overlooking the beautiful surrounding countryside, sipping a delicious, ice cold rum-cocktail.
Lemon Arbour is open throughout the week but can get busy at the weekends, especially on Saturdays.
Consett Bay is a quaint fishing village nestled on the shore of a picturesque bay. Surrounded by cliffs and rocky outcrops, the sandy beach is a great place for taking a stroll to look at the fishing vessels out at sea and the large waves that break on their way in. Swimming, unfortunately, isn’t recommended because of the strong currents.
Instead, make your way into the village and enjoy some of the delicious and reasonably priced food on offer at the local shacks. If you’re a fish lover, you can even visit the fresh fish market and buy some of the locally caught varieties. The best time for this is in the late afternoon when the fishing boats arrive back with their new catches.
Perhaps the ideal time to visit Consett Bay is on Friday evenings when the market has its Friday Night Fish Fry. Smaller and less touristy than the Oistins Friday Fish Fry, you’ll still find plenty of locally prepared fish dishes and a great selection of drinks which you can enjoy while listening to some chilled, weekend, musical entertainment.
While the west coast of Barbados can provide all the luxury and high-class services that today’s discerning traveller requires, sometimes it’s great to get away from it all and see the real Barbados. This is mainly to be found on the east coast where the rugged seas make it less favourable for building beach resorts. St John’s stands out as one of the most unspoilt and beautiful of the parishes on the east coast and is a joy to visit.
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