The Oldest Jewish District In The Western Hemisphere
A trip to the capital city Bridgetown will reveal the Jewish Historic District. Home to the oldest Jewish synagogue in the Western Hemisphere, it was built in 1628, just one year after the British settled in Barbados.
The area is filled with architecture reminiscent of the early Jewish settlers on the island and a visit there can take up an entire afternoon as there is so much to see. There you will find:
There is also a museum that showcases what life was like in the 1600s. What was once the main Fire Station also makes up a part of the historic district, known for horse-drawn water carriages, it makes for an interesting visit. The entire community takes up an entire city block, this alone shows the strength of the original occupation in early Barbados.
Visiting a fort is a great way to delve into the island’s history. When we think of forts, images of pirates come to mind and time that was exciting and dangerous.
Barbados’ history is filled with forts - forty of them can be found littered across the island. They were necessary at the time to protect from the French, who threatened to invade and overtake the island. So for at least two hundred years, the British fought tirelessly to protect Barbados. Its location made it desirable to all and the sugar industry made it a profitable colony to be protected at all costs.
One famous fort that can be visited is Gun Hill Signal Station - This location was utilised over time as a source of protection, as a signal station and as a quarantine facility to combat the spread of Malaria, The forts boast large canons that are lodged through stone walls for support.
St. Ann’s Fort, at the Garrison Savannah, is also open to visitors, and makes up one part of our UNESCO World Heritage site, due to its location in historic Bridgetown. This namesake of Queen Ann was built in 1705 and is home to one of the largest military gun collections in the Caribbean. In its heyday, flags were used to relay information to other forts in a relay system that facilitated communication and island-wide warnings!
The Tunnels Below the Garrison ( A part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site)
Also at the Garrison, located deep underground, an intricate tunnel system can be found. The opening of the tunnels are located in the main courtyard of George Washington House - named after the famous U.Sn President once stayed there. These tunnels offer a network of access which was necessary at the time for fast travel by soldiers. The tunnels are over two hundred years old and were cut directly through the limestone earth that Barbados is known for. The tunnels retain their structural integrity and are very safe to travel through, even today. Though the tunnels were used for quick travel, they were also said to have been used for nefarious reasons too, with many slaves killed and transported to the sea via these tunnels. Visiting the tunnel offers the experience of a lifetime, walk the dark tunnels the soldiers traversed in the 18th century and feel the coarseness of limestone rocks on your fingertips.
The Last Remaining Screw Dock on Earth
While Still in St. Michael, you should pop into Bridgetown. There you can visit the Blackwoods Screw Docks and Maritime Centre. Construction of the dock started in 1889 and was completed in 1893. At the time it was the epitome of Victorian architecture and it is said that the architecture is even relevant today! That is the level of engineering that was employed at the time. The dock was once the main berth for ships that were in dire need of repair. There the mechanism enabled them to raise them out of the water, making it easy for repairs to be done. It is the last of its kind remaining in the world, making this a one of a kind experience! When you’re finished, have a drink at the Blackwoods Tavern and let the history of the place sink in.
The World’s Oldest Rum
What better history could a tourist want to learn about than the history of rum? Barbados is home to the world-famous Mount Gay Rum, made at the worlds oldest rum distillery - it’s over three hundred years old! Diving into the world of liquor is fun and easy, a tour of the Mount Gay Distillery located in Spring Garden, St. Michael will expose you to the wonders of rum-making. You can even indulge in having a taste or many sips, of the world’s number one rum starting at just $20.
St. Nicholas Abbey - One 3 Jacobean Mansion in the Western Hemisphere
Into Caribbean architecture? Stop by St. Nicholas Abbey. This historic mansion is one of the last three in the hemisphere that is Jacobean in style. Three symmetrical wings make up the house, with columns leading to the inside. Classic seventeenth-century style pervades the entire home, making it a must-see. Visit not only to admire the architecture but for the historical wealth too. The home was built in 1658 is over 360 years old and has stood the test of time. The mansion is also shrouded with tales of deception and maybe even murder! Throughout the years, it was bought and sold by many families, all contributing to its rich history. The property is also a sugarcane plantation and the premises house a rum distillery which can be toured. There is also a beautiful train station which provides a lovely view of the surrounding countryside.
The Biggest Tree
Throughout the island, African heritage penetrates the very fabric of society. A very natural display of this is the Baobab Tree. There are only two of these breath-taking trees on the island and gazing upon their splendour ignites feelings of awe. Taking a photo next to them shows the enormity of the trees leaving you feeling quite dwarfed. One tree is located in Queens Park, Bridgetown, which is a National Park. It's the largest one in Barbados and it takes an astounding fifteen adults with hands fully outstretched to go all the way around the tree. Its girth is due to its old age, an impressive 1000 years old! You can have a try of hugging the tree when you visit, see how far around your hands can stretch.
The second tree can be found in Warrens, at a mere 300 years old, it is quite impressive in its own right, however, it cannot rival the size or age of its sister tree in Queen’s Park.
Are you ready for a bit of folklore, then you must pay a visit to Hackleton’s Cliff in St. Joseph. Not only does the cliff reveal beautiful views of the east coast of the island, but it is also steeped in mystery. It is said to have gotten its name from a lone rider who rode his horse off the cliff to his death! Visit this cliff and get an idea of the fate this poor soul met on his journey down, don’t get too close to the edge though!
The Museum of Parliament
Barbados’ parliament is the oldest to be found within the Caribbean, this makes it a place of great significance as it was the cornerstone of democracy in the Caribbean. As such, the Museum of Parliament is home to a very unique treasure trove of Barbados’ political past and present. There you will find memorabilia that accounts for most of the island's legislative actions throughout the decades. The museum holds an active record of Barbados’ governmental past since 1629, almost four hundred years of political history in one place! A visit here will highlight the thinking of early politics and government, making the museum an extremely interesting visit indeed.
The Last Working Windmill In The Caribbean
Finally, take a drive through the country to the parish of St. Andrew. There, nestled in the hills, you will find the last working windmill on the island, in fact, it is one of only two left in the Caribbean! The country was once home to hundreds of windmills as they were the only means of grinding sugarcane, now only one remains fully intact. It is listed as one of the seven wonders of Barbados, it is the fourth wonder due to its longevity. Come and see this magnificent feat of old engineering while exploring the onsite museum.
These are just a few snippets of the country’s past, Barbados has far more to offer than just sun, sand and pristine beaches, you can make your visit to the island more all-embracing, learning more about the island as it was.