You can tell you’re in for a treat when your taxi arrives at the gates to your hotel, you drive down a long, pretty lane to a delightful main building – and there you find three hotel staff are waiting to greet you.
And so we arrived in Barbados, probably my favourite Caribbean island because of its very British atmosphere, yet a million miles from actually being in Blighty.
My affection was only going to get stronger with a stay at the Coral Reef Club on the west coast. Quite simply, it turned out to be one of our best hotel experiences. The property has a superb setting, wonderful food and service, plus a lovely colonial charm. It is as luxurious a hotel as you will find here, apart from the world-famous Sandy Lane.
It was the start of a relaxing week away from it all in glorious weather, with Barbados generally warm and sunny all year round. A nine-hour flight is nothing to complain about when you know what’s waiting for you.
If you want the best beaches, head for the west coast , which is the side to stay on. If you want friendly people, you will find them everywhere on the island.
For those who prefer exploring a bit, the rugged east is well worth a drive around, including a stop at the attractive fishing village of Bathsheba. It boasts a dramatic coastline, nice restaurants and local rum shops.
Back on the west coast, Holetown is a short stroll from the Coral Reef Club and here you can enjoy a bite to eat and a little shopping, including some top-end designer names. I was firmly in Mrs Silver’s good books for arranging this holiday, but we skipped a page when browsing at those designer prices.
Barbados was a British colony up until 1966 and there are clues to this in numerous places. It’s always a bit odd spotting a red telephone box or post box when so far the UK; on the other hand, it can be somewhat comforting to be reminded of home.
If you really want to push the boat out, Sandy Lane is not far away, in the heart of the west coast. We had lunch there and a tour and I can confirm it is luxury personified. I particularly like the story of the guest who complained the view from his balcony was slightly obscured by branches from a tree. The next morning, you could hear the electric saw sorting out that issue.
Sandy Lane does not miss a trick, but obviously cannot afford to when you realise the number of celebrities who have stayed there over the years. The likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and David and Victoria Beckham are on that list. We were shown around the children’s club, which will keep your kids busy and trouble-free for hours. The spa was like something you’d imagine in heaven. Mrs Silver questioned why I was suddenly walking a bit faster as she tried to obtain a price list. That massage can wait, dear.
Good food is an important part of a holiday and another memorable dining experience as you head north can be found at the charming Cobblers Cove hotel.
Here, the Camelot Restaurant is quite rightly award-winning. Going south, but still on the west coast, you will not find a juicier steak than that served at the Grille at the Hilton, while the Asian fare at Accra Beach Hotel is excellent.
We spent the second half of our stay at the Radisson Aquatica Resort, which is also ideally located a few minutes’ walk from the Hilton, and really ticked all the boxes for what we needed next in our explorations.
It boasts one of the best beaches on the island and wonderful staff, whose friendliness was typical of what to expect in Barbados . The property is a great choice because it is not top dollar, but still allows you to have a marvellous time.
A short drive away is the Barbados capital, Bridgetown, and it’s worth spending a couple of hours walking off all that food. While my wife liked the duty-free shopping, I preferred the historical sites, such as the Parliament Buildings, which dates back to the early 1870s.
There is a small Jewish community these days in Barbados and its members are proud of their heritage. This is epitomised by their efforts to maintain a functioning shul – the Nidhe Israel Synagogue in Bridgetown, no ordinary place of worship, as it happens to be one of the oldest shuls in the Western Hemisphere and dates back to 1654.
A short distance away in the area known reasonably enough as Trafalgar Square is a bronze statue of Admiral Lord Nelson. I was fascinated to learn it was erected in 1813, nearly 30 years before Nelson’s Column in London.
The great man visited Barbados in 1805 (the year he died at the Battle of Trafalgar) and was a hero to many locals then for his battles against the French, who occupied some of the nearby Caribbean islands.
I earned plenty of Brownie points from Mrs Silver for our holiday. To paraphrase the great Nelson himself, every (married) man should do his duty… and book for Barbados.
Where to stay
Mark booked into the Coral Reef Club, where prices start from £370 per night, based on double occupancy in a garden room with breakfast included. For reservations, call 001 246 422 2372 or visit coralreefbarbados.com.