For many people, Barbados holidays are the very picture of paradise, conjuring up images of white sands, blue skies, catamaran trips and rum cocktails. And while this is very much the side of Barbados most people come for, there are more than a few sights to keep you busy away from the beaches.
The British ruled Barbados for centuries and the great white lion statue at Gun Hill is a potent symbol of that era. It is said that the artist carved it from a single block of stone, using the image on a book of matches as his guide. For a combination of the island’s past and present, try the Barbados Museum. Once used as a Detention Barracks, the renovated prison cells now house many beautiful paintings. The main natural attraction is arguably Harrison’s Cave, which was not fully explored until 1970 and opened up to the public 11 years later. The subterranean sights are breathtaking, including blue-green pools, 40-foot waterfalls and magical rock formations. Holidays to Barbados should include a visit the island’s lively markets too, where you can buy pretty ‘Baja’ jewellery, crafts and plenty of rum.
Barbados’s first inhabitants are thought to have been the Amerindians who arrived from Venezuela in around 400AD, followed by South American Sarawak’s and then the Carobs. After a spell of Portuguese rule, the island was left uninhabited until the British arrived in 1625. Initially the main crops were tobacco, cotton, ginger and indigo, but sugar soon eclipsed them all.
All of this wealth depended on the existence of the slave trade, and for a sense of this terrible period, a visit to the Palmer’s Plantation and Great House should be included on any holidays in Barbados. You can have lunch or drinks there, and while the ocean views and lush gardens filled with mahogany trees are stunning, it’s hard not to think of the property’s dark past. The slave trade ended within the British Empire in 1833, and Barbados finally became fully independent in 1966. As in most parts of the Caribbean, tourism is now hugely important to the island.