Questor Insurance Travel Features

Barbados - Colony Club

Date Created: 08 March 2015

BarbadosMeasuring out tots of Old Brigand rum in the Nigel Benn Auntie Bar, Barbadian national treasure Auntie Lucille is entertaining her customers.  ‘You ask what keeps me looking so young,’ laughs the gap toothed septuagenarian, ‘Rum, goat’s milk and loving everybody - white, black or blue!’  Auntie has worked behind the well worn counter of this rum shop (a Bajan bar) in the sleepy village of Shorney since it was established by her father in l956. The boxing glove hanging alongside shelves lined with bottles of rum, belongs to her nephew, former British world champion boxer, Nigel Benn. ‘What Nigel doing now?  He give up boxing for the Bible and living in Australia,’ says his Auntie, ‘but I’m happy here in Barbados picking fruit from the tree and serving up rum’.

Auntie’s legendary hostelry is one stop on a bespoke Rum Tour excursion organised by my hotel, the Colony Club.  Our tour began at the Mount Gay Visitor Centre where chirpy guide Darrio revealed, ‘Two things you’ll find in every village in Barbados, a church and a rum shop – and both have spirit!’ ‘The rum that invented rum’ began production in Barbados in 1703 by the inappropriately named Sober Family and now Mount Gay’s history is so inextricably linked with that of the island that its coat of arms features on the Barbados flag. Naturally, the tour culminates in an extensive rum tasting – the first of many. 

After lining our stomachs at Lemon Arbour, a restaurant serving barbecued pork and - yes, you’ve guessed it - rum cocktails, we’re in buoyant mood as Justin our driver, takes us via the wild Eastern coast towards St Nicholas Abbey.  One of the island’s oldest surviving plantations, it comprises 400 acres of rolling sugar cane fields and a well preserved Jacobean mansion built by the original owners in 1658. In the museum, an 1822 valuation lists the names of the slave population: Lucretia, Isaac, Benjy - a few among so many poignantly chronicled in a copperplate hand.   Saving this slice of Barbadian history, new owners have not only restored the buildings but started producing a pure unblended rum created in the boutique distillery using original equipment. Smoky, pure and insidiously strong, it’s a grand cru in the world of rum.    

Driving back, we pass a group of men hacking towering fronds of sugar cane by hand with machetes.  It could be a scene from centuries past except for the cool looking dude wearing long dreadlocks, shades and a cigarette dangling from his lips who’s nonchalantly splicing cane into lengths at potentially finger lopping speed.  Justin explains these cuttings will propagate more cane and, inevitably, more of the liquid gold which we’ve been sampling throughout the day.

The Rum Tour is just one of the Colony Club’s multiple attractions. Located on the West coast of Barbados, near Hole Town and some of best restaurants and shopping on the island, this tranquil resort, originally built in l948, has recently undergone an extensive refurbishment. Retaining the original colonial atmosphere, the infinitely comfortable rooms have been updated using what interior designers might call ‘natural earthy tones’ but now looks to me like various shades of rum.  

Some rooms overlook the beach but this is one hotel where the sea view option isn’t necessarily the most prestigious. Like mine, many of the 96 bedrooms enjoy secluded private access, via the balcony or terrace, to one of the four meandering, ingeniously designed lagoon style swimming pools embraced by carefully tended tropical gardens featuring tumbling waterfalls and exotic birdlife.  Sun loungers set in secluded corners ensure privacy and ‘Beach Ambassadors’ are constantly on hand to provide everything from sun screen to cocktails.  

The same attention to detail has been lavished on the cuisine served either at the beachside Sunset Bar or the redesigned Laguna restaurant serving local cuisine plus a new wellness menu and established favourites such as the extensive Sunday Brunch. For a change of scene, a complimentary water taxi takes Colony Club guests to experience the other four properties comprising the Elegant Hotel group, so there’s always an opportunity to sample an alternative dining experience.

Thankfully, to counteract increased waistlines and stimulate mind, body and soul, the Colony Club has devised a range of complimentary activities.  Vacating my sun lounger (except when enjoying a relaxing plein air massage) and staying away from the rum (well, before happy hour anyway), I vow to try everything on the wellness menu.  Every day offers a packed schedule from yoga, pilates and Zumba to hiking and walking tours - and that’s not counting the raft of water activities available at the beachside Aqua School.  For me, paddleboarding and water skiing turn out to be more comedy routine than water sport so I settle for a snorkel safari with Captain Ron who glamourously whisks us away in the hotel speed boat to catch a glimpe of the local turtles.

An entire family of turtles turn out to greet us during a day excursion on the Cool Running Catamaran.  During an idyllic cruise down the island’s beach lined West Coast, we snorkel in the pristine sea alongside massive leather backs and a host of kaleidoscopic tropical fish.  It’s like being an extra in a David Attenborough documentary, After a delicious on board buffet, we dive from the deck and swim to a classic picture postcard Bajan beach.  Fringed by gently waving palm trees, it is deserted.  Sitting on sable sand, the sun on my skin, my toes lapped by warm, clear water, I understand why Nigel Benn’s Auntie wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

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Written by Beverley Byrne.