The perfect Caribbean holiday on the island of Nevis

Facebook
Facebook
Pinterest
Pinterest
LINKEDIN
Instagram

‘What did you do for your birthday?’ I was asked the other day.

‘Well,’ I said, trying to sound casual, ‘after a champagne breakfast in my luxury Caribbean condo, I went on a catamaran cruise along the coasts, snorkelled among tropical fish, trekked through a rainforest underneath a volcano and then ended up riding a horse along the beach at sunset.’

There was a pause. ‘And I drank a lot of rum punch,’ I added, just in case they thought it sounded all too much like hard work.

perfect caribbean holiday nevis
The tiny Caribbean island of Nevis was originally called ‘Land of Beautiful Waters’ by its inhabitants and it’s not hard to see why

As far as bragging rights go, spending your birthday on the spectacular island of Nevis, with its stunning turquoise waters and lush green rain forests, sets the bar pretty high.

Whether you are marking a special occasion or not, there a dozens of beautiful, sandy beaches to lounge on if you fancy doing very little, while there is everything from kayaking, horse-riding, catamaran cruises, hiking and snorkelling if you wanted to do something more active.

perfect caribbean holiday nevis
I enjoyed a sunset horse ride along the beach at Nevis

Nevis, a tiny atoll in the Caribbean twinned with St Kitts, came to the British public’s attention when Princess Diana stayed here 25 years ago with the young Princes William and Harry. To say that little seems to have changed in the meantime is a compliment, rather than a criticism of the tiny Caribbean island. Diana flew to Nevis (pronounced Nee-vis) for peace and solitude, and the 36-square mile island certainly still has that in abundance.

perfect caribbean holiday nevis
Nevis is relatively untouched by tourism and visitors can enjoy peace and quiet on the island

Few cruise ships and no long-haul flights stop here which has helped the island keep its charm and with just 12,000 inhabitants it certainly isn’t crowded – you will have the beaches all to yourself.

perfect caribbean holiday nevis
Nevis has some beautiful sandy beaches and, without mass tourism, you won’t find it hard to get a spot

With just one main road hugging the coastline (driving is on the left, as befits the oldest British colony in the Caribbean – St Kitts and Nevis became a fully-independent country in 1983) it doesn’t take long to drive round the lush, green island which is dotted with coconut palms, 19th century churches and disused sugar cane mills, the legacy of the once-massive industry here.

perfect caribbean holiday nevis
The lush green countryside is dotted with the ruins of sugar cane mills, a legacy from Nevis’ industrial and colonial past

The capital, Charlestown, is tiny both in population (just 1,500 people) and size: wandering through its narrow streets and the ferry port with its customs house and tiny central square feels like going back in time to a different era.

The local juice bar serves its drinks in a leafy garden where clucking chickens wander around, and even the journey to Nevis itself – on a tiny six-seater propeller plane from Antigua (you can also transfer from St Kitts by plane or boat) – felt as if I was really travelling way off the beaten track.

perfect caribbean holiday nevis
My transport to the island: a tiny six-seater plane

There are plenty of walking trails in the interior of the island in the shadow of the brooding volcano Nevis Peak. Our guide was able not only to take me through dense rainforest to some beautiful waterfalls but to point out every plant which had a practical use, from curing sore throats to producing the best bark for burning, or boat-building – and we saw a fair few monkeys too which roam the island and can be heard chattering from the trees.

Thankfully while Nevis doesn’t boast endless high-rise holiday apartment blocks or global hotel brands, it doesn’t mean visitors have to skimp on the essentials. While Diana stayed at the Montpelier Plantation, I stayed just down the road at the newly built and aptly-named Paradise Beach resort.

perfect Caribbean holiday Nevis
The villas at Paradise Beach Nevis are exquisite, with loungers, pools and shade if you need to escape the midday sun

My four-bedroom, four-bathroom villa not only had its own swimming pool, outdoor shower, fully-equipped kitchen and wi-fi, but was just a few steps from the beach, and most importantly, the beach bar.

Here rum punches were served pretty much constantly, with even a passing ship stopping to refresh its passengers, but I indulged in some healthier pursuits on the beach too, including jet-lag busting early-morning yoga, stand-up paddle-boarding and a luxurious alfresco massage, made even more relaxing by the sound of the nearby waves.

Continue reading The perfect Caribbean holiday on the island of Nevis

Facebook
Facebook
Pinterest
Pinterest
LINKEDIN
Instagram

River-rafting and zip-lining, boat trips and beach cocktails, my perfect Jamaica holiday

Facebook
Facebook
Pinterest
Pinterest
LINKEDIN
Instagram

The child in front of me hurled himself off the tree-top platform high off the forest floor and sped through the air. I couldn’t back out now.  While zip-lining had long been on my wish-list, dreaming about it and actually standing on the edge of a sheer drop preparing to fling myself into thin air were two very different things. Besides, I was in Jamaica. Shouldn’t the perfect Jamaica holiday involve lounging on a beach drinking rum cocktails instead of dicing with death?

perfect Jamaica holiday
The pool at my hotel, Hotel RIU Palace Jamaica. This was what I’m imagined I’d be doing all week instead of….
perfect Jamaica holiday
…trying to put a brave face on the fact I was about to hurtle myself across the roof of a forest attached to a metal rope…

The shout came from across the tree-tops. It was my turn. I took a deep breath and ran, like a cartoon character, right off the edge. It was as terrifying and exhilarating as I’d hoped. Landing turned out to be even more scary than taking off. Where were the brakes? In my panicked attempt to stop, I flung out out a hand ahead of the fast-moving metal clip connecting me to the wire. By pure luck, my thick glove got shredded, rather than my hand. Now where was that drink?

It was my first time in Jamaica and the trip turned out to be more action-packed than I’d expected. While there were inviting picture-perfect golden sandy beaches, a sparkling blue ocean and towering palm trees – we had a schedule to stick to. So hold onto your cocktails – here’s what to do in Jamaica when you haven’t got a lot of time to to do it in….

Rafting down the Martha Brae River

perfect Jamaica holiday
Being punted down the Martha Brae river – a highlight of the trip

Being punted down the Martha Brae river was one of the highlights of an amazing trip. For about an hour there was nothing to do but relax and enjoy drifting along the calm sun-dappled waters. On the banks are the occasional stall selling anything from clothes and ornaments to towels and marijuana or you can just lie back and let your guide lead you downstream towards a cooling beer. This was a definite highlight of my visit. Continue reading River-rafting and zip-lining, boat trips and beach cocktails, my perfect Jamaica holiday

Facebook
Facebook
Pinterest
Pinterest
LINKEDIN
Instagram

A timely jackpot at the Hippodrome casino, Leicester Square, London

Facebook
Facebook
Pinterest
Pinterest
LINKEDIN
Instagram

The timing couldn’t have been better, at least not for the Hippodrome. The moment I walked past the gaming area in the central London casino, one of the slot machines paid out the entire jackpot, handing the person playing on the machine a cool £12,536 on a £1 spin. Considering I was on a guided tour of tour by one of the staff at the Hippodrome, it was pretty good PR.

I was almost as excited as the woman who had just struck lucky – although I was pretty envious too, as I’d just been playing on the machine just along from her on exactly the same game – but my tour guide Michael was pretty nonchalant.

‘Hey, it happens here all the time,’ he shrugged.

hippodrome casino london review
The Hippodrome first opened in 1900 as a circus variety theatre and over the years has been a nightclub, restaurant, cabaret venue and now casino

Now I’m not sure that’s strictly true – the casino wouldn’t be very good at making money if it did – but it was certainly a novelty to see the machines paying out for once. (I know the woman had probably put in more than a pound before her jackpot spin, but I’m assuming she was still considerably in profit after the £12k payout.) I once spent New Year’s Eve at the Grosvenor Victoria on London’s Edgware Road and had a really pleasant time dancing and drinking and dining and, for some reason, trying to work my way through an enormous cigar. One of my friends, though, went downstairs to the slot machines and won £200 instantly. Needless to say, he was delighted. Equally predictably, when he went back the following week to repeat the achievement, he ended up returning the £200 to the machine, with interest. Putting £12,536 back would be rather more unlikely (I hope). With any luck – pun intended – she instantly cashed out and left the Hippodrome, thankful of her good fortune.

The very mention of the Hippodrome is likely to stir up distant memories of – depending on your age – the coolest night spot in town, or a rather dodgy venue with sticky floors and the feeling that the best of its years were behind it. For those with even longer memories, the Hippodrome was the location for the highly successful restaurant/nightclub Talk of the Town, which featured global stars such as Eartha Kitt, Shirley Bassey, Judy Garland, Sammy Davis Jr, The Jackson 5 and Tom Jones, and was where celebrities of the day went to see and be seen (memorabilia including records, programmes and photos are found on some of the walls). Continue reading A timely jackpot at the Hippodrome casino, Leicester Square, London

Facebook
Facebook
Pinterest
Pinterest
LINKEDIN
Instagram

Skyros – the Greek island holiday which could change your life

Facebook
Facebook
Pinterest
Pinterest
LINKEDIN
Instagram

It is rare that a holiday actually changes your life, but a week on Skyros, the original ‘alternative’ holiday destination, can do just that. From changing jobs or learning new skills, to getting married, ditching bad relationships and embarking on new careers, in the 40 years since Skyros first started hosting holidays on the Greek island of the same name, thousands of people have gone there to find inspiration and to find new meaning and direction in their lives.

Skyros Holidays review
The house at Skyros overlooks the beautiful bay

If that all sounds too hippy-dippy, then don’t worry: a trip to Skyros has all the holiday essentials of great food, great beaches, lots of time for swimming, sunbathing and sleeping. But it offers something so much more than your typical package holiday. As its website says:  ‘This is an adventure that opens the heart, expands the mind, recharges the body and uplifts the spirit’.

After a week at its beautiful Atsitsa Bay location, I had to agree. I’d performed comedy on stage, slept in a bamboo hut where the breeze came through the walls, practiced yoga in the open air, shared my hopes and fears with a group of strangers, laughed till I cried on a dozen occasions, ate my body-weight in fresh Greek yoghurt, gone hiking around the island and thoroughly disconnected from my life in London.

Skyros Holidays review
Our home for the week: Skyros holidays’ beautiful site in Atsitsa Bay, right on the Aegean sea

Recalling Skyros while back in the city is to instantly be transported to lying in the shade of an olive tree to shelter from the blazing sun; drinking morning coffee while overlooking the bluest sea; the swaying of my hammock as I curl up to read a book, and the light breeze coming through the bamboo sides of my hut, perched high on the hillside. You could spend the whole week simply ‘being’ if you wanted to, and several did, enjoying the total break from the outside world – there is no internet reception aside from a fixed line in the office for emergencies, and mobile phone coverage is patchy – and my phone soon ran down and stayed down all week. Continue reading Skyros – the Greek island holiday which could change your life

Facebook
Facebook
Pinterest
Pinterest
LINKEDIN
Instagram

Rowhill Grange luxury hotel and spa: a relaxing stay in the Kent countryside

Facebook
Facebook
Pinterest
Pinterest
LINKEDIN
Instagram

It goes without saying that anyone doing battle with the traffic on either the M25, A2 or A20 routes is probably in need of some serious relaxation, but they might be surprised to learn that there is an oasis of calm just moments away. Thankfully due to its location in 15 acres of beautiful bluebell woods and manicured lawns, no traffic noise penetrates the calm of Rowhill Grange hotel and spa – its outdoor garden of tranquility would be rather ineffective if it did – and just minutes in coming off the M25 I was taking pictures of the bluebells and signs saying ‘Ducks crossing’ and feeling as I were deep in the Kent countryside.

rowhill grange dartford hotel review
Rowhill Grange is set in 15 acres of lawns and woodland

Four-star luxury hotel Rowhill Grange is owned by Alexander Hotels, which also owns the Alexander hotel and spa in  West Sussex, Barnett Hill in Surrey and Langshott Manor, also in Surrey – and which I can highly recommend, it being a unique 16th-century manor house just minutes from Gatwick Airport (thankfully not underneath the flight path).

rowhill grange dartford hotel review
Hotel guests can relax both indoors and outdoors at Rowhill Grange

Rowhill Grange in’t quite as historic as Langshott Manor but is no spring chicken either: it was built in 1868 and later owned by Sir George Cole, Lord Mayor of London and breeder of Shetland ponies. Having survived the Blitz, the house was converted into a country house hotel and restaurant in 1987 and acquired by its current owners in 1994. The original coaching house is still intact, next to the main building, and used for weddings and private parties.


To book directly with the hotel, go to: Rowhill Grange hotel and spa
To compares prices click on: HotelsCombined – Expedia  Hotels.com
To check the latest prices and read more reviews go to Rowhill Grange hotel and spa on TripAdvisor


Continue reading Rowhill Grange luxury hotel and spa: a relaxing stay in the Kent countryside

Facebook
Facebook
Pinterest
Pinterest
LINKEDIN
Instagram

News, reviews and opinions on everything to do with leisure, from hotels and holidays to food and fitness, by national newspaper journalist and author Sarah Bridge

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)