The view from Cobbler's Cove

The brochure for Cobbler's Cove promises “the charm and elegance of an English country house” combined with “the tropical beauty and character of Barbados.”

Situated in an attractive bay on the exclusive west coast of Barbados, just five minutes’ walk from the island’s sleepy second city of Speightstown, it is the only hotel on the former British colony to have been awarded a mention in this year’s prestigious Relais and Chateaux guide. So our expectations were high as our taxi deposited us at the unassuming entrance to begin our seven-night stay.

Cobbler's cove gardensTake a relaxing stroll through the lush gardens
Mark Day

Stepping through into the airy reception we were immediately offered a cold towel and complimentary glass of rum punch – a welcome tonic after a long flight. As our friendly concierge led us down a winding path through the hotel's beautiful tropical gardens I felt the cares of the big city back home falling away from me.

The comfortable and spacious first floor bedroom and living room apartment that greeted us was decorated with a restrained colonial elegance which reflected the dominant style of the hotel. White wicker furniture, slatted doors and imprints of exotic flora on the walls and fabrics gave an upmarket beach house feel, while a marble top sink in the small but tasteful bathroom added a note of luxury.

From our spacious balcony overlooking the garden we were able to appreciate the full beauty of our surroundings. Through luscious foliage shimmered the delicate pink visage of the hotel’s former colonial summerhouse and beyond, a tantalising glimpse of an emerald sea.  As we marvelled at the tropical vista before us we were shocked from our reverie by a loud thud. "Green monkeys," our concierge explained as unripe mangos discarded by the discerning primates rained down on to the roof of our apartment from the tree above.

Cobbler's cove monkeys 200Green monkeys roam around the hotel grounds
Mark Day

Fortunately the entertaining antics of these fascinating creatures - one of which we discovered at 5am one morning hurling mangos at our apartment door - merely added to the hotel's air of exotic seclusion. The lack of a television or radio in the room meant the only distractions from the outside world came through the free Wi-Fi. Our mattress, which we overheard the manageress say the hotel replaces in each room once a year, was one of the most comfortable I have ever slept on.

An unseasonal spell of Caribbean April showers gave us an excuse to try some of the island's indoor attractions. A short taxi ride to the majestic Harrison’s Cave in the interior of the island, and The Atlantis Hotel on the rugged east coast to sample delicious Bajan delicacies such as pepper pot and cou cou at its famous Wednesday and Sunday lunchtime buffet, proved there was far more to Barbados than coral beeches and azure seas.

When the sun returned we were able to take advantage of the hotel's attractive sundeck adjacent to a narrow but pretty stretch of palm tree-lined beach, although a few extra loungers would not have gone amiss to avoid the slightly unholy scramble for deck space after breakfast. Here we would alternate between refreshing dips in the kidney-shaped pool or paddling in the sea's crystal clear waters.

We were too lazy to try the many watersports on offer such as windsurfing, kayaking or scuba-diving provided free of charge by the hotel. Instead we availed ourselves of the excellent fruit and rum cocktails issuing from the elegant poolside bar. An English tea of scones and crustless sandwiches served everyday at 4pm in the shadow of the summerhouse was a welcome distraction during the long and sleepy afternoons.

On our first day we ventured down to the hotel's beachside restaurant terrace for dinner. Evenings are a more formal affair at the hotel with no shorts or collarless shirts allowed in the bar or French-themed restaurant after 7pm.

A chilled lobster and papaya salad, while tasty, was reminiscent of a posh prawn cocktail, an impression reinforced by the use of prawns to bulk out the lobster meat. The catch of the day, a loin of mahi mahi served blackened with cauliflower purée, mashed potato, asparagus and raisins, packed a pleasantly spicy punch but was slightly overdone. By contrast, the tuna steak in a seared bajan pepper tuna salad niçoise we had for lunch was perfectly cooked; the Caribbean spicing added an interesting and successful twist to this classic French staple.

Cobbler's cove eat 200Have dinner at the French-themed restaurant
Mark Day

Breakfast, including freshly sliced tropical fruit platters as part of the continental offering as well as a complimentary à la carte menu, was also worth getting up for. The waiting staff, although occasionally a little too keen to whisk empty plates away, were always helpful and attentive and ready with a warm Bajan smile.

The nightlife on offer reflected the generally sedate pace of life on much of the island. It was not unusual for the hotel bar to be deserted by 10.30pm. This clearly suited the many older couples with whom we shared the hotel, some of whom had been visiting for more than 20 years. A stroll into Speightstown to the friendly Fisherman’s Pub for its regular Wednesday steel band night made a welcome change from the normal evening roll call of expensive ‘destination’ restaurants.

As we relaxed over a rum punch on our penultimate evening we reflected on our experience of the past week. There were a few minor niggles: the room service menu could have been more varied and £10 for mosquito repellent from the hotel shop seemed a mark up too far. But the hotel’s rare blend of elegant hospitality and old world charm, combined with its stunning location, had won us over. An English country house in the heart of the Caribbean turned out to be the perfect mix.

Cobblers Cove
Road View, Speightstown, St. Peter, Barbados.
Tel: (246) 422 2291.
Price: Rooms from US$490 per suite, per night, including tax.


Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.