Carriacou (pronounced Carr-ycoo) is an attractive island of green hills descending to sandy beaches. It is much less mountainous than Grenada, which means that any cloudy or rainy weather clears much quicker. Efforts are being made by the Government to curb contraband and drug smuggling in Carriacou, but a lot comes in around Anse la Roche, where there are picturesque smugglers’ coves.
Hurricane Lenny caused severe damage in 1999 because of the tidal surges it brought to the west side of the island. The waves undermined a small part of the seafront road in Hillsborough and part of the road. Tyrell Bay was washed away. With an area of 13 sq miles, it is the largest of the Grenadines. It lies 23 miles northeast of Grenada; 2½ miles further northeast is Petit Martinique, which is separated by a narrow channel from Petit St Vincent, the southernmost of St Vincent’s Grenadine dependencies.
Carriacou’s capital is Hillsborough and has a population of about 600. On the one hand, the islanders display a strong adherence to their African origins in that the annual Big Drum Dances, which take place around Easter, are almost purely West African. The Tombstone Feasts are unique. On the other hand, French traditions are still evident at L’Esterre and there is a vigorous Scottish heritage, especially at Windward, where the people are much lighter skinned than elsewhere on the island as a result of their Scottish forebears. Windward used to be the centre for the craft of hand-built schooners but in recent years the boat builders have moved to Tyrrel Bay. Begun by a shipbuilder from Glasgow, the techniques are unchanged, but the white cedar used for the vessels now has to be imported from Grenada or elsewhere. The sturdy sailing vessels are built and repaired without the use of power tools in the shade of the coconut palms at the edge of the sea. To demonstrate the qualities of these local boats, the Carriacou Regatta was initiated in 1965. It has grown into the major festival.
The local painter, Canute Calliste, has his studio at L’Esterre. His naive style captures the scenes of Carriacou (kite flying, launching schooners, festivals). He is also an accomplished violinist and performs the quadrille, a dance which is part of the island’s cultural heritage.
The Carriacou Historical Society Museum on Paterson Street in Hillsborough has exhibits from Amerindian settlements in the island and from later periods in its history; the woman who runs it is the daughter of Canute Calliste, and can tell you about the Arawak ruins on the island. Mon-Fri, 0930-1600, Sat 1000-1600. There are also ruined plantations. On Hospital Hill, Belair, northeast of Hillsborough, there is an overgrown old sugar Mill, stunning views. There is good walking on the back roads and the woods are teeming with wildlife such as iguanas.
There are interesting underwater reefs and sandy islets with a few palms on them, ideal for snorkelling and picnicking. Sandy Island is a tiny, low-lying atoll in Hillsborough Bay off Lauriston Point, with a few palm trees for shade, safe and excellent swimming and snorkelling, take food, drink and plenty of suntan lotion. Boat from Paradise Beach, five minutes, or from Hillsborough EC$60, 30 mins each way, pick a day when the islet is not swamped with boat loads of cruise ship visitors. Alternatively try White Island, a similar islet in Manchineel Bay off the south coast, ask for boats at Cassada Bay Hotel. Visitors should see the oyster beds at Tyrrel Bay where ‘tree-oysters’ grow on mangrove roots. Tyrrel Bay is a favourite anchorage for the many yachts which visit the island. There is a yacht club with rooms available, food, drink and a slightly small tennis court.
A beautiful beach is Anse La Roche, which faces west and has a spectacular view across the strait to the mountains of rugged Union Island. Snorkelling is good, particularly among the rocks at the side. Walk from Bogles along the dirt road heading northwards, past the Caribbee Inn and forking right at Honey Hill House; after about 30 mins the road starts to rise, turn left at the large tree which overhangs the track and follow a narrow path through the woods to a ruined farmhouse. The path leads to the right, through bushes; keep to the downhill side of the open slope, bear right down a steep slope leading through more trees to the beach. Take food and drink, there are no facilities and few people, about 45-min walk each way. We have received reports that it is very easy to get lost finding Anse La Roche beach and it might be easier to take a water taxi there. Very peaceful, watch the yachts rounding the headland on their way to anchorage; at night turtles swim ashore to lay their eggs. The Kido Ecological Research Station is near Anse La Roche and High North Park, where you can go birdwatching, hiking, cycling, whale watching and even volunteering for one of the conservation projects.Kido is actively trying to restore the mangroves on the north coast, T/F4437936, kido...@caribsurf.com
Instead of turning off the track to Anse La Roche, carry on walking northwards; the well-shaded, grassy road rounds Gun Point with lovely views of the Grenadines. A path leads down (opposite a mauve-painted house) to the beach at Petit Carenage Bay, which has coarse, coral sand, good swimming and modest surf in some conditions. Returning to the road, Windward is a few minutes walk further on, a few shops and local bars. The Caribbean coast is spectacular in places and a walk from Windward to Dover, then following the coast road until it becomes a dirt road leading to Dumfries, is very pleasant and secluded.
It is advisable to use insect repellent on the beaches, especially in the rainy season. At night it is best to use a mosquito net.