Whilst making all the effort to visit a holiday destination, thousands of miles away, why would anyone not want to learn anything about the history of the place? Being a ‘Culture Vulture’ for an evening is a great way to have a quick history lesson and a great conversation starter about your trip, especially to those who you want to impress.
Having walked past the Barbados Garrison in Hastings a number of times (on our way to The Boatyard) we found out that there were tours being offered around this fascinating place. We decided to spend an evening learning, looking around and exercising (yes, that part is important) by taking in the night tour with the Barbados Garrison Historical Consortium.
The Garrison Night Tour is a unique and these guys are the only tour operators that do this. As there are a few surprises by a certain local celebrity Sergeant, we are not going to give the game away. Instead we are going to take you through our experience, leaving out the shocks!
First of all we did not book this and instead just turned up on a whim, we did go prepared wearing a pair of trainers, for the 2.5 KM walk. We are glad we made the effort as meeting our guides at the George Washington House at 6.45pm (which is in the back corner of the racecourse turn by the Garrison and walk the road/car park for about 400 meters to the road junction) they both seemed friendly and jolly. We each paid our dues of $30 Barbados and were invited to wait for more intrepid adventurers to join us.
Whilst we waited we could wander the grounds around the House, visiting the gardens and seeing the bats flying around, as the sun went down as it was starting to get late.
At about 7pm there were about 16 in our group and we were all introduced to our 2 guides for the evening. Then the exercise began, the walk/talk commenced. From this point on, we had facts, stories and history thrown at us – all of which was welcome information that made us want to know more.
We started by going to the far end of the car park by the house and had a fascinating 5 minute lecture about British soldiers being scared to be stationed in Barbados! We were shown how this was rectified with tunnels and then allowed to walk a length of tunnel, about 100 meters. As we went the tour guides helpfully explained how they were built and what is going on with the restoration of them today.
Out the other side, popping up right by the old house we then started our walking tour. After some theatrics outside we were ushered across the road and along the line of houses by the Racecourse. We were told about the use of the buildings and why there are so many old cannons around the racecourse, all great bits of information.
Our guides made sure that we had some stories of blood and gore, before being told how a pair of duellers made history on the parade ground, which is now all part of the races just across the road from the Garrison itself. Once we were contemplating the sure bravery of one man, we were instructed to cross the road and the trek continued.
Around the side of the Garrison down the steep road, we were told about its history from a far. We even got to meet a pair of patrolling soldiers, who were just as interested in us as we were their building. Moving on, we made our way along the coast, being filled in on local history on a more one to one basis by our guides. One of the great parts were that the guides clearly loved their jobs, their interactions with the group as we walked was superb. More historic facts and things pointed out kept us all entertained before we hit our next target.
Getting all the way along to the Hilton hotel, seeing the dedicated Turtle patrol people dotted about before we had another member of the team meet us. We learnt more stories about the island, locals and folk lore tales about losing fingers and the love of gold. The guides were handing out water and allowing our legs a small recovery as the story unfolded by our newest guide.
When the story was done and the comeuppance of the people involved was revealed, we carried on around to the military cemetery, where we inadvertently ruined one of the tours jokes by jumping the gun. Another performance was given and a story told by the resident ghost, keeping us entertained before we moved off again with stories of Carlisle Bay. A quick history of the battles that occurred there before the old cook and stores house were visited then the original road to the Garrison was taken, where there were some ‘barrel’ full of laughs to be had.
A visit at the back of the Garrison, more historic facts pointed out and then the restored, impressive building, now home to the Barbados Light and Power Co. pretty much finished off the tour.
Our final trek across the road, up the hill and back into the safety of George Washington House finished the tour at about 9.30pm.
The tour was a great way to see the parts of Barbados, with some context from our experts that we would never probably have found or experienced without them.
Our thanks go to our guides, both are hard working individuals who’s passion for the restoration and retention of the history around Hastings is truly to be admired.