Northeast of Holetown and reached from St Simon’s Church are Turners Hall Woods, a good vantage point. It is thought that the wood has changed little to that which covered the island before the English arrived.
The 50-acre patch of tropical mesophytic forest has never been clear-felled (although individual trees were often taken out). You can walk over the steep paths here and see many species, ranging from the sandbox tree to Jack-in-the-box and the 100-ft locust trees supported by massive buttresses. The island’s first natural gas field was here and the main path through the wood is the remains of the old road.
On Highway 2, take the Melvin Hill road just after the agricultural station and follow the signs to the Flower Forest, a 50-acre, landscaped plantation, opened in 1983 with beautifully laid out gardens. Dropping downhill, the well-maintained paths afford excellent views over the valley to the east coast. To the west you can see Mount Hillaby, at 1,116 feet the island’s highest point (see above for walking from Farley Hill). It too contains species not only from Barbados but also from all over the world, they are beautifully arranged with plenty of colour all year round. There is a Best of Barbados shop, cafeteria and toilets. Good information sheet. T4338152. US$7, children 5-16 half price. Daily 0900-1700.
Roads in this area are often closed by landslides & circuitous routing may be necessary. Close by and to the south on Highway 2 is Welchman Hall Gully, a fascinating walk through one of the deep ravines so characteristic of this part of Barbados. You are at the edge of the limestone cap which covers most of the island to a depth of about 300 feet. There is a small car park opposite the entrance (despite the sign to the contrary). Maintained by the National Trust, a good path leads for about half a mile through six sections, each with a slightly different theme. The first section has a devil tree, a stand of bamboo and a judas tree. Next you will go through jungle, lots of creepers, the ‘pop-a-gun’ tree and bearded fig clinging to the cliff (note the stalactites and stalagmites); a section devoted to palms and ferns: golden, silver, macarthur and cohune palms, nutmegs and wild chestnuts; to open areas with tall leafy mahogany trees, rock balsam and mango trees. At the end of the walk are ponds with lots of frogs and toads. Best of all though is the wonderful view to the coast. On the left are some steps leading to a gazebo, at the same level as the tops of the cabbage palms. T4386671. US$6, children B$6. Daily, 0900-1700.
Harrison’s Cave nearby has an impressive visitors’ centre which has a restaurant (fair), shop and a small display of local geology and Amerindian artefacts. You are taken into the cave on an electric ‘train’. The visit takes about 20 minutes and you will see some superbly-lit stalactites and stalagmites, waterfalls and large underground lakes. There is a guide to point out the interesting formations and two stops for photo-opportunities. Interesting as it is, it is all rather overdone, you have to wear hard hats (to prevent complaints of bumped heads) and serviettes (to catch the drips) on your head despite the fact that the caves are totally stable. T4386640. Daily 0900-1600. US$12.50, children US$5. Getting there: the bus from Bridgetown to Chalky Mount stops near Harrison’s Cave and the Flower Forest.
If you take Highway 2 heading to Bridgetown you will pass Jack-in-the-Box gully, part of the same complex of Welchman Hall Gully and Harrison’s Cave. Coles Cave (an ‘undeveloped’ cave nearby, which can easily be explored with a waterproof torch or flashlight) lies at its north end.
At Gun Hill is a fully restored signal tower. The approach is by Fusilier road and you will pass the Lion carved by British soldiers in 1868. The road was built by Royal Scot Fusiliers between September 1862 and February 1863 when they were stationed at Gun Hill to avoid yellow fever. The signal station itself had its origins in the slave uprising of 1816. It was decided that a military presence would be maintained outside Bridgetown in case of further slave uprisings. It was also intended for advance warning of attack from the sea. The chain of six signal stations was intended to give very rapid communications with the rest of the island. The hexagonal tower had two small barrack rooms attached and would have been surrounded by a pallisade. They quickly lost importance as military installations but provided useful information about shipping movements. Informative guides will explain the workings of the signal station and point out interesting features of the surrounding countryside. You will not necessarily get the same story from all the guides. T4291358. US$5 (children half price), guide book US$1. Mon-Sat 0900-1700.
Near Gun Hill is the Francia Plantation, house and gardens are open to the public, with old furniture, maps and prints. T4290474. US$4.50. Mon-Fri 1000-1600.
Orchid World, at Groves, St George, is a 6½-acre orchid garden under the same management as the Flower Forest. T4330306. US$7. 0900-1700.