8 reasons to break away from the beach in Barbados
Think Barbados and your mind will no doubt blissfully ease into dreamy images of white sands, impossibly blue waters and serious holiday decadence. There is far more, though, to this Caribbean island nation than just world famous beaches.
Getting to Barbados: choose from direct routes with Virgin Atlantic* from both London Heathrow and Manchester.
1. Get wet & wild
Haul yourself off the beach and into, or just onto, the water. Myriad boats of all shapes and sizes are waiting to whisk you off for seafood feast cruises, fishing adventures or exhilarating speedboat rides. Then there is the world-class surfing - not for nothing are surf championships staged around the island, which has the most consistent conditions in the Caribbean.
For the experienced surfer, Bathsheba and the infamous Soup Bowl reef break awaits. To explore what lies beneath the surface just pop on a snorkel mask and enjoy a swim with the colourful marine life, or get more serious and go scuba diving with barracudas and turtles at Dottins Reef. If you have kids in tow, a fun-filled trip on the Atlantis submarine will have their wee eyes and minds boggling.
2. Go golfing
It is fitting that Tiger Woods, one of the greatest players ever to swing a golf club, chose Barbados as the venue for his wedding back in 2004. Numerous championship tournaments have graced the island and its sprinkling of excellent golf courses, and the epicentre of golf in Barbados is Sandy Lane.
The most renowned of its trio of courses is the Country Club Course, designed by Tom Fazio, a challenging 7,060 yard par-71 gem. Beyond the famous icon of Sandy Lane are another two other championship golf courses in the shape of Royal Westmoreland and Barbados Golf Club. A less serious round can be enjoyed at the nine-hole course at Rockley Golf Club.
3. Explore Bridgetown
If you are into history - especially Britain's colonial past and its impact on the 'New World' - then a trip to the island capital of Bridgetown is essential. The epicentre of this UNESCO World Heritage site is National Heroes Square, formerly known as Trafalgar Square (it was renamed as recently as 1999), which is still home to a statue of Lord Nelson.
Then there is the grandeur of St Michael's Cathedral and the imposing Parliament Buildings. They are the physical embodiment of the third oldest parliamentary body in the English-speaking world after the mother nation of Britain, and Bermuda further to the north in the Atlantic.
4. Go green
If you crave some verdant tropical lushness then there are a brace of ideal escapes for you. First up is the glorious Hunte's Gardens. It is set in a rich patch of Caribbean rainforest. Think the sort of jungles you dreamt of exploring as a kid! An easy trail weaves its way around this magical hideaway.
Meanwhile, Andromeda Botanic Gardens comprise a six-acre oasis that overflows with tropical flora. The gardens were established by Iris Bannochie (who went on to become Barbados' foremost horticulturalist) and her husband Dr Harry Bayley at her home in St Joseph, and includes plants which she herself collected or were given to her as gifts.
5. Savour a rum punch
Barbados is synonymous with rum and there are a number of producers dotted around the island. The best one to visit for rum fans is the Mount Gay Visitor Experience. Remarkably ,rum production here began as far back as 1703.
Their tours are lively affairs that take you right to the heart of both production and also the part rum has played in the story of Barbados. You get the chance, of course, to enjoy a tasting of the good stuff and there is a restaurant on hand too. You don't have to - but we have a sneaky suspicion you will want to - buy a bottle to take back home from their well stocked shop.
6. Step aboard Concorde
Yes, you read that right - get aboard Concorde! The Barbados Concorde Experience offers exactly what it says on the supersonic tin. One of the last remaining Concordes - which back in the day were the only way for glamorous jetsetters to get to Barbados from London at speeds of 1,350mph - resides here.
The exhibits fill you in on the story of this enchanting aircraft before the chance to walk down the red carpet and ease aboard this aviation and design icon.
7. Meet the local wildlife
The Barbados Wildlife Reserve is at pains to stress that it is a reserve and not just a zoo, whose setting is charming in an old mahogany wood. There are all sorts of exotic fauna here, from parrots and flamingos, through to snakes, iguanas and alligator-like caimans.
Look out for the Barbados Green Monkeys, which came to the island from Africa. Yes, you can see them elsewhere around the island, but here there is a real chance to get up close to them and learn all about how they live. One of the nicest things about the reserve is that is made just to stroll through on its network of trails.
8. Experience colonial decadence
Sunbury Plantation House dates from the mid-seventeenth century, when Britain ruled the waves and Barbados was one of her star colonies - not to mention a leader in the Atlantic slave trade. Although the house was badly damaged in a serious fire in 1995, this grand old dame has been painstakingly restored.
The best way to really get a feel for the place and how the house fits into the island's colonial history is on a guided tour. Afterwards enjoy a literal taste of the colonial years by dining at Sunbury's 200 year-old mahogany dining table.
Ready to book your holiday to Barbados? Don't miss the latest offers on return flights with Virgin Atlantic, direct either from London Heathrow or Manchester.
As for the weather, it's a fabulous destination to visit almost all year round, although you will find conditions at their absolute finest from December to May.
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