Clear water gently washes over soft-as-sugar sand. In the distance, a motorboat glides through the turquoise surf, a momentary distraction for those reclined on sun loungers, sipping fresh coconut water to the sound of palms rustling in a languid breeze. It’s a far cry from the scene you would usually associate with the Caribbean’s original party island. Barbados is now offering visitors the opportunity to work remotely on its shores, while benefiting from its slow, soothing rhythms during down-time. The best place to both relax and focus is discreetly tucked away along the island’s north-western coast – an extraordinary oasis of unassuming elegance.
Welcome to The Great House Barbados, a recently renovated 12-suite villa staffed by a team of 25, where salty ocean air drifts through an expansive complex of lush gardens and beautiful cottages. Flashes of the Hamptons abound – that understated palette of pearl and ivory, layered in texture and offset by cool, slate-toned marble and natural fabrics – and there’s no mistaking the detail and spirit of your surroundings. Originally built in the late 1970s, the villa puts a fresh spin on tradition; rich, locally finished mahogany and rattan furniture uplifts its light and airy rooms, while creative architectural flourishes honour its island setting by bringing the outside in through natural palms and ocean views. The 12 rooms, each with stylishly neutral bathrooms as well as tropical garden or sea views, are calm and tranquil, fresh from a remodel overseen by local architect Michael Gomes and Swiss interior architect Leslie Sturm. The original Great House, a turreted building tickled by palms, has ground-floor wheelchair access; the spacious Carriage House caters well for children; the garden-surrounded Hillaby House is even more secluded; and the serene South Cottage has a delightful open-air bathroom. Each one has a pillow menu, soft bed-linen in the accent colours of each suite, white wooden beams and jalousie windows. Over in The Great House’s Garden Suite – with its natural furniture carefully sourced from Barbadian artisans – commissioned art from locally based painter Hilary Armstrong hangs on the walls.
Set along 330ft of pretty Caribbean coastline (a five-minute drive from Speightstown, the oldest port), The Great House sprawls across 2.5 acres of velvety lawns, lily ponds and lush gardens, with the level of exclusivity you would expect from a top-rung beachfront home. Relaxation areas are folded cleverly into the seaside surroundings, creating a sense of connection and flow between the beach and the house, while also ensuring additional privacy for sunbathers and children. Days at The Great House are best spent in and around the ocean, taking in the smell of the sea, the sound of the waves gently lapping the beach and the beauty of the sun dipping below the horizon. Venturing out on the estate’s 33ft Regal motorboat is a joy, jumping into clear waters and snorkelling around the area’s teeming coral reefs, before towelling off back on board and sitting down to a glass of wine and a lunch of locally caught fish and fabulous salads.
The magic of The Great House is that it makes you feel at home bewilderingly quickly. A comfortable place for an entire family and friends, the private estate can accommodate up to 30 guests with oodles of space, and the layout of the rooms and cottages ensures everyone has privacy and time together in equal measure. And there is something for every age – even hard-to-impress teenagers would approve of the estate’s additional 18ft speedboat, with its array of aquatic toys (banana boat, ride-on inflatables, paddle boards and kayaks), which is included in the price of every stay. Families and friends can gather in the cosy, air-conditioned home cinema, with its own popcorn machine, for the latest film, or get competitive over pool, air-hockey and table tennis in the games room.
However, those more inclined towards lazy afternoons with quiet lunches by the water and a stack of books should make for the beach bar with its brick pizza oven, or the lap pool with deck space and a paddling area. The lovely landscaped grounds – full of rescued and replanted botanicals from the property’s original garden – are a joy to wander through. The two pavilions hidden in among them are used as reading nooks, relaxation spaces and for long lunches followed by moonlit suppers. Inside, the Great Bar – flanked by two enormous aquariums, and opening into the piano room, library and the pool beyond – is the place to settle in for aperitifs. The musically inclined can even tinkle the keys of the property’s original grand piano while gazing out to sea. Or for a more literal take on relaxation, book a treatment such as reflexology or an aromatherapy massage at the spa rooms.
For those working remotely or simply answering the occasional email, the estate’s speedy Wi-Fi means that every suite can be used as a personal office space. Alternatively, guests can make good use of the nine-person conference room, or slip off to the library study area for some peace and quiet. The Great House’s main advantage, however, lies in its ability to lull you into a state of total relaxation – peppered perhaps with the odd heated rally on the floodlit, US Open-style tennis court or a morning negotiating the state-of-the-art technology in the gym. Mostly, it’s about sliding onto a sun lounger and dozing off to a gentle ocean soundtrack, as well as reconnecting with family and friends in a staggeringly beautiful setting.
The warm and excellent service at The Great House makes for a breezy, cosseting experience from start to finish. What’s more, many of the team have worked at the house for years, guaranteeing friendly, familiar faces for returning guests. Nothing is too much trouble for the experienced butlers and chefs can whip up any dish (there’s no such thing as ‘off menu’). Detail really matters here – from coffee preference to morning rituals, it’s promptly clocked and remembered. And should you wish to take a picnic lunch to a quiet cove along the coast, opt for a more formal lunch in the grounds with a string quartet, or even eat supper under the stars on the beach, with fire-eaters and limbo dancers, the team at The Great House will make it happen.
Book your stay
From £6,860 per night for a minimum of eight suites: greathousebarbados.com/rates.
Food and non-alcoholic drinks are £116 per person per day for all guests over the age of 13.
Alcohol, transport and any external services (for example, spa treatments) are charged as extra.