Travel: Antigua, Scotland on Sunday
‘No tears, no fears, just beers,” is the first thing I hear on arriving at Blue Waters Resort & Spa from one of its many relaxed and friendly staff, and it’s a sentiment I very much take to heart from the get-go.
I can feel the stresses of the real world drift away with every step across the threshold at the site in 17 acres of tropical gardens on the northwestern corner of Antigua, with the island famously said to boast enough beaches to offer a different one for each day of the year. If only I could stay long enough to try them.
Blue Waters, which originally opened in 1960, has three beaches of its own, and was first run by Osmond Kelsick, the only Antiguan squadron leader in the Royal Air Force in the Second World War.
Since it was sold in 1984 to its current owner, UK entrepreneur Ronald Randall, it has played host to Prince Harry and undergone a major refurbishment of several areas.
These include the bright and airy Pelican Bar, where we stop off for a welcome drink with the Caribbean sea peeking through the palm trees invitingly ahead of us. Also named after the water birds that we will often see gliding elegantly across the landscape is our accommodation, Pelican House, a short walk away along a winding path.
It’s made up of two semi-detached villas each with three bedrooms and its own living area, although the villa can be rented as a whole. As soon as I step inside I decide I want to take shelter here for the duration of the UK’s gloomy winter months, and perhaps all the other seasons just to be on the safe side.
The décor is understated, comfortable luxury, mainly in creams, low-key blues and browns, echoing the scenery’s sand, sea and palm tree leaves.
My room is on the upper level, and, soundtracked only by the quiet, relaxing whirring of the ceiling fan, I unpack my sadly neglected summer wardrobe and then head to the balcony. I’m quite overwhelmed by the view before me across the resort’s eponymous blue waters in picture-postcard cobalt and turquoise.
The villa also has its own infinity pool, one of several pools dotted around the resort, and after a quick dip we head for dinner at the Palm Restaurant, where I sample the curry menu as the stars twinkle above us. This is usually the time jet lag starts to kick in, but I still feel relatively awake, and Scots-born Blue Waters general manager Alistair explains that the time difference with the UK at only four hours is easy to acclimatise to.
We have breakfast in the same restaurant – one of three at the resort – the following morning, a buffet where I make a beeline for pancakes with maple syrup washed down with iced coffee. I then go on an exploratory walk around the property.
The resort is operating at near capacity, but what strikes me throughout my stay is that it doesn’t feel crowded, having been laid out so each area has its own space and privacy. What’s more, it’s mercifully quiet at night and definitely seems to be a resort where the emphasis is on relaxing rather than partying.
There always seems to be a free sun lounger to recline on, and I seize every available minute to do so with my nose buried in a book and the calming noise of the waves gently lapping in the background.
But we also get to see what lies beneath the surface of the blue at close quarters on a snorkelling trip. Our friendly guide Owen takes us across the waters, giving us a great view of both the resort and the broader tropical coastline.
Once we have taken the plunge, we set out, convoy-style, accompanied by schools of a variety of fish. I spot a clown fish at one point, but my favourite sight is the needlefish that dart past me at eye level just below the surface in a phosphorescent, hypnotic, and seemingly endless parade.
It’s a spectacle I could watch all day, but it’s time to head back to the resort for lunch, and I tuck into a freshly made flatbread topped with grilled king prawns, fennel seeds, basil and roasted garlic, washed down with one of the pina colada options. I’m in the shade enjoying the relaxed poolside atmosphere of eaterie Carolyn’s.
This is one of several spots at the resort named after staff, along with Veronica’s Bar and Bartley’s Restaurant, with the latter indoor and air-conditioned. Furnishings are punctuated with flashes of bright pink, greens and turquoise, while the menu includes Antiguan saltfish fritters and herb marinated corvina fish.
We get a closer look at life on Antigua with a trip to explore some of its attractions and learn about its history, and the drive alone gives a fascinating glimpse of everyday life, including streetside stalls and multicoloured houses.
The island was spotted in 1493 by Christopher Columbus, who named it after a church in Seville, Santa Maria de la Antigua. It is home to Nelson’s Dockyard, named in the 1950s when the area was restored after Horatio Nelson in honour of the years he spent on the island.
It is the only continuously working Georgian dockyard in the world, and was declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 2016. It includes gift shops and a museum, making for a nice day out pottering around.
We head up to the stunning Shirley Heights Lookout at the southerly tip of the island, which on Sunday evenings plays host to a popular party complete with steel drums.
But that will have to wait until my next trip to the island, as will trying some of the amazing-sounding cocktails on offer at Blue Waters, including the Bellinitini, the Infiniti Martini, and Bailey’s version of the pina colada. Other activity options on offer include golf, and helicopter tours of the island, as well as tennis and yoga on-site at the resort – I was lucky enough to get a massage in the sizeable spa to enhance my relaxation further.
The sun sets on our trip to this magical island. We look down at English Harbour, home to Nelson’s Dockyard, which was recognised in the 18th century for the valuable shelter from hurricanes it afforded ships – just as Antigua has granted me a precious respite from the less than tranquil reality that awaits me back in Blighty.
Destinology, the experts in luxury travel, offer a seven-night stay at Blue Waters Antigua from £1,389 per person, based on two sharing on a bed and breakfast basis and including return flights from Glasgow and private transfers. London and regional departures are also available. For further information or to book visit Destinology.co.uk or call 01204 824619