Cross the Careenage by the Charles Duncan O’Neale Bridge (one of the bus terminals and market area are just to the west) and follow Bay St around the curve of Carlisle Bay. You will pass St Patrick’s Cathedral (Roman Catholic), the main government offices with St Michael’s Hospital behind it before reaching the historic Garrison area.
From here you can visit Fort Charles on Needham Point (turn right at the Pepsi plant). The fort was the largest of the many which guarded the south and west coasts. It now forms part of the gardens of the Hilton Hotel (being rebuilt). Only the ramparts remain but there are a number of 24 pounder cannons dating from 1824. There is a military cemetery here and the Mobil oil refinery was the site of the naval dockyard. Built in 1805, it was subsequently moved to English Harbour, Antigua. The buildings were then used as barracks before being destroyed in the 1831 hurricane.
Carry on up the hill to the Garrison Historical Area, which contains many interesting 19th-century military buildings, grouped around the Garrison Savannah. There are numerous buildings surrounding the parade ground, now the six furlong race course. These were built out of brick brought as ballast on ships from England. They are built on traditional colonial lines, the design can be seen throughout the Caribbean but also in India. Painted bright colours, some now contain government offices. There are several memorials around the oval shaped race course, for instance in the southwest corner, the ‘awful’ hurricane which killed 14 men and one married woman and caused the destruction of the barracks and hospital on 18 August 1831 and outside the Barbados Museum in the northeast corner to the men of the Royal York Rangers who fell in action against the French in Martinique, Les Saintes and Guadeloupe in the 1809/10 campaign.
Across the road is St Anne’s Fort which is still used by the Barbados defence force. You cannot enter but look for the crenellated signal tower with its flag pole on top. It formed the high command of a chain of signal posts, the most complete of which is at Gun Hill. The long, thin building is the old drill hall. The Main Guard, overlooking the savannah, has a nice old clock tower and a fine wide verandah. It has been turned into an information centre and houses exhibits about the West Indian Regiment. The Garrison Secretary of the Regiment, Major Michael Hartland, T4260982, is here. Outside is the National Cannon Collection which he created, an impressive array of about 30 cannon, some are mounted on metal ‘garrison’ gun carriages (replaced with wooden ones during action as they were prone to shatter). There are also a number of newer howitzers, dating from 1878. Major Hartland welcomes visitors but he is still creating a Regimental museum, so make an appointment first.
The Barbados Museum is housed in the old military prison on the northeast corner of the savannah. Based on a collection left by Rev N B Watson (late rector of St Lucy Parish), it is well set out through a series of 10 galleries. It displays natural history, local history (in search of Bim), a fine map gallery including the earliest map of Barbados by Richard Ligon (1657), colonial furniture (Plantation House Rooms), military history (including a reconstruction of a prisoner’s cell), prints and paintings which depict social life in the West Indies, decorative and domestic arts (17-19th century glass, china and silver), African artefacts, a children’s gallery and one to house temporary exhibits. The museum shop has a good selection of craft items, books, prints, and cards. The Café Musée under the trees in the museum courtyard is a delightful place for a drink or for lunch. T4270201/4361956. US$5.80 for adults, US$2.90 for children. Mon-Sat 0900-1700, Sun 1400-1800. Library available for research purposes. US$10 for visitors, US$5 for locals, plus VAT. Mon-Fri 0900-1300.
The Barbados Gallery of Art, at the top of Bush Hill, across the savanna from the museum, has a collection of paintings and visual arts from Barbados and the Caribbean. T2280149. US$2.50 adults, US$1 children, Tue-Fri, Sat US$1 adults, children free. 1000-1700. George Washington House, close by, is where he stayed in 1751. The National Trust has launched an appeal for restoration funds.
Nearby there are stables for the race course. The Barbados Turf Club holds meetings on Saturday during three seasons (January-March, May-October and November-December). The biggest one being the Sandy Lane Gold cup held in March. Races go clockwise. A good place to watch is from the Main Guard. At other times, it is used as a jogging course for people in the mornings, when you can see the horses being exercised, or on weekday evenings. There is also rugby, basketball, etc, played informally in the Savannah, go and see what is going on on Sunday afternoons. There is a small children’s playground in one corner. Later, at night, prostitutes parade here.
Also near Garrison is Mallalieu Motor Collection, with a Vanden Plas Princess, Wolseley and Lanchester. T4264640, US$5.