The mass development of the west coast was carried out only recently. The beaches are easily eroded and can be covered with broken coral after storms.
Pre-war, the area was regarded by the local Bajans as unhealthy. They preferred to go for their holidays to the east coast. Nowadays, the road north of Bridgetown on Highway 1 is wall to wall hotels. Highway 2a runs parallel inland and goes through the sugar cane heartland, with small villages and pleasant views.
Holetown today is a thoroughly modern town but was the place where the earliest settlers landed on 17 February 1627. The Holetown monument commemorates Captain John Powell claiming the island for England. Initially named Jamestown, it was renamed Holetown because of a tidal hole near the beach. It was quite heavily defended until after the Napoleonic Wars. Little trace of the forts can be seen now. Well worth visiting is St James Church. Originally built of wood in 1628, it was replaced by a stone structure in 1680. This building was extended 20 ft west in 1874 when columns and arches were added and the nave roof raised. You can see the original baptismal font (1684) under the belfry and in the north porch is the original bell of 1696. Many of the original settlers are buried here (although the oldest tombstone of William Balston who died in 1659 is in the Barbados Museum). Church documents dating to 1693 have been removed to the Department of Archives. It was beautifully restored between 1983-86.
On the beach at the back of the church is the post office and also the Folkestone Park and Marine Reserve. Here you can snorkel in a large area enclosed by buoys. The reef is not in very good condition but there are some fish. Snorkelling equipment for hire as are glass bottomed boats which will take you over the reef to two small wrecks further down the coast. A diving platform about 100 yds offshore allows you to snorkel over the wrecks. There are toilets and a shower here. The small museum is open Mon-Fri 1000-1700. Slide shows are held about every hour. US$1.
The Portvale Sugar Factory (best in the crop season, February to May) and Sir Frank Hutson Sugar Machinery Museum inland has an exhibition on the story of sugar and its products. T4320100 to check. US$7.50 when factory is running Feb-May, US$4 the rest of the time, children half price. 0900-1700, Mon-Sat.
Pronounced Spitestown or Spikestong in broad dialect. Follow the coast road and glimpse the sea at Gibbes and Mullins Bays to reach Speightstown where William Speight once owned the land. An important trading port in the early days, when it was known as Little Bristol. Speightstown is now the main shopping centre for the north of the island. There are several interesting old buildings and many two-storey shops with Georgian balconies and overhanging galleries (sadly many have been knocked down by passing lorries). The Lions Club building (Arlington) is 17th-century, built very much on the lines of an English late medieval town house. No longer occupied, it is rapidly becoming derelict, but well worth a look.
The National Trust runs the Arbib Nature & Heritage Trail, starting in Speightstown. There are routes of 5½ kms and 7½ kms, starting from St Peter’s church. US$7.50, reservations T4262421. Wed, Thu, Sat, 0900-1430.
In 1996 construction started on a marina at Heywoods Beach just north of Speightstown, known as Port St Charles. The US$60mn project will include 145 residential units, restaurants, a yacht club and watersports as well as have a capacity for nine mega-yachts and 140 yachts on completion in 2000. The first houses have already been sold, with prices ranging from US$0.4mn to US$1.8mn; homeowners are allowed to bring in a boat duty free to this upmarket development.