The year was 1625... the year that the ship Olive Blossom captained by John Powell made its 1st landing in Barbados, and the island was claimed in the name of England as a new British territory. Some two years later, Henry Powell (John’s brother) arrived on the island at that same site - they named the spot Jamestown, after then-reigning King James I of England. A small town on the west coast of the island, it was eventually renamed after a small stream which provided safe harbour for ships. This is what we now know as Barbados’ first town - Holetown Barbados.
St James Parish Church
With the settlement of the British, came the establishment of their primary religion – Christianity and the Anglican Church. Now a landmark in Barbados, the St James Parish Church, stands as the oldest church on the island, built in the 17th century in close proximity to where the first British settlers had landed. The first two church buildings structures were destroyed by hurricanes, but the third was built using the coral stone found on the island, making it more resilient to natural disasters. This last structure was completed in 1875 and remains on the site today. The three exquisite stained-glass windows in this church are typical of British chapels from this era. There is also a baptismal font which is over 300 years old, with its inscription highlighting the date 1684. Another 17th-century relic found in this Caribbean landmark is the oldest bell in the Caribbean, dating back to 1696. This bell was severely cracked due to a fall from the belfry in 1881, but it was repaired in England and then returned to the church where it is still on display.
Every year in mid-February, Holetown Barbados comes to life with a week-long festival which commemorates its British settlement. The Festival was conceptualised in 1977 and started at the monument in Barbados which is situated at the site of the first settlement. Throughout the week, the town is buzzing with activity, with street parades, a variety of musical offerings, folk dancing and open-air concerts. There is also the Queen of the Festival Pageant; Holetown bus tours; a Military Tattoo, the Vintage and Classic Car Parade and lectures in memory of one of the festival’s founders, Alfred Pragnell. With such a wide range of activities, the Holetown Festival promises an authentic Bajan experience condensed into one exciting week!
Folkstone Park and Marine Reserve
Just next door to the church is the Folkstone Park and Marine Reserve. Another one of Barbados’ famous landmarks. West coast park is a favourite among those who wish to have a shaded, breezy day out. It’s not the best place to go for a swim since it is very rocky due to the nearby reefs. Those reefs do, however, make for an adventurous day out and you can sometimes find marine life nestled between the rocks. Just offshore, there is another reef which was formed as a result of the 1976 sinking of the Greek ship Stavronikita. Lying some 120 feet below the water’s surface, the sunken vessel has become home to several species of fish and other sea creatures, making it a diver’s or snorkeler’s delight. For those who are less adventurous, you can remain dry and still appreciate the underwater paradise as glass-bottom boat tours provide a clear view of the reef and marine life. There is also a Marine Museum on-site and an aquarium on display, where the discussion around the Folkestone Marine World is developed.
If you are visiting Holetown, you may also want to take a walk along the West Coast Boardwalk. Stretching for some 2.5km along the coast, this provides the perfect opportunity for persons who may wish to take an evening stroll or run. You can stop at the beaches along the way (since the Boardwalk is not continuous), take in the seaside views of some of the hotels and guesthouses on the coast, or simply find yourself a comfortable spot to watch the fantastic sunsets which are synonymous with Barbados’ West Coast.
Shopping In Holetown
While historical and eco-tourism are popular among visitors to Holetown, it also provides a diverse shopping experience with the Chattel House Village in close vicinity to Sunset Mall, West Coast Mall and the high-end Limegrove Lifestyle Centre. Chattel House Village is so named because the shops are designed to reflect the chattel houses which were once prevalent all across the island. Surrounded by lush, green lawns with cobblestone walkways connecting the places, these stores offer a range of products. There you will find boutiques, souvenirs, teas, local savoury treats, and local art and craft items. The neighbouring Sunset Mall houses Barbados’ largest department store, Cave Shepherd, where you can purchase merchandise from swimwear to precious stone jewellery. There is also an outlet of Cave Shepherd in the nearby West Coast Mall, along with a supermarket, a footwear outlet and other stores.
One of the newest additions to Holetown is the Limegrove Lifestyle Centre. At this luxury shopping centre, you can purchase luxury brands at exclusive stores such as Louis Vuitton, Armani, Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren or, you can enjoy the open-air seating which is provided for the on-site restaurants and bars. There are many speciality stores in Limegrove, such as House of Jaipur which offers a range of authentic Indian products including clothing, textiles, home décor and teas. Even if you don’t want to shop, the walls of Limegrove are lined with unique pieces of mostly contemporary art, and you can also visit one of their two art galleries. For family entertainment, take in a movie at Limegrove Cinemas where you can order refreshments at the touch of a button while lounging in their luxury style seating.
Dining Around Town
Quality food is easy to find in Holetown. With a range of bars and restaurants throughout the town, you are sure to find a spot that suits your taste. For breakfast, Bean ‘n’ Bagel offers a selection of menu items including an American breakfast, full English breakfast, sandwiches, eggs dishes and fruit. They also have a lunch menu with a variety of burgers, wraps and bagels, and both of these menus are available throughout the day. If you’re in the mood for grilled lunch or dinner, Just Grillin’ offers a selection of platters at a reasonable cost. With fish and meats done to order, you are guaranteed to be served with freshly grilled meats and fish. Their seasonings and sauces are all made in-house and are so popular that you can also purchase bottles of their signature sauces from the restaurant.
Lunchtime is always a treat at the Beach House Restaurant and Bar, with its ocean-front dining and unique menu which features a blend of Caribbean and Mediterranean cuisine. On evenings, you can relax and enjoy the golden glow of the sunset while you enjoy their mouth-watering dinners. Sundays are extra special at the Beach House as they serve their affordable traditional Bajan Sunday Buffet, with new menus every week.
Over in Limegrove Lifestyle Centre, there are several cafes and restaurants. Fusion Rooftop Restaurant offers stunning views of the night sky with their open-air dining experience; you can indulge in Indian teas and cocktails while savouring lunch at House of Jaipur; sit on the deck by Lemongrass and be served with cuisine inspired by South-East Asian street food; taste the Italian flavours of Pepenero; or enjoy relish in the comfortable atmosphere of The Rustic Chef where you can partake in European cuisine with an international twist. All of these and more are available at Limegrove.
If you’re thinking about dinner, partying and nightlife, you can sample the international restaurants and clubs that line the horseshoe-shaped 1st and 2nd Street - two famous party spots in this Caribbean town. For Italian lovers, there is Spago restaurant with their pizzas and other Italian dishes. Sitar specialises in Indian food. To savour French cuisine, take a trip to The Mews where there is also live entertainment on Friday nights. And on Sundays, head over to Ragamuffins for a night of riveting cabaret entertainment with their weekly drag shows. A trendy nightclub on 2nd Street is the Red Door Lounge. This premier club serves tapas and signature cocktails while guests are entertained by DJs or live performances. For a more sporty feel, Jamestown Bar and Grill opens daily and also offers live entertainment and occasional comedy shows... And if that isn’t enough, look out for the series of Saturday night events where a number of these establishments join together to produce what can only be described as a mini street festival, complete with street food on sale!
With nearly four centuries of history, from Barbados’ first town to a thriving hive of activity, Holetown Barbados has just the perfect blend of modern and heritage-based elements. Take a trip up to the West Coast to see this beautiful town for yourself!