A designer friend had the assignment a few years ago to change the interior of a stuffy London gentleman’s club without its members noticing.
Something similar happened in the undoubted Cobblers Cove just outside Speightstown on the north-west coast of Barbados – a popular hotel bought by the British Godsals family in 1968 and which has changed little over the years to the delight of its more mature guests.
But as the baton has passed from one generation to the next, even the family matriarch Lady Elizabeth Godsal accepts that a refresher isn’t a bad thing to attract the attention of a younger crowd.
Lively: Holetown Beach in Barbados. Mark Palmer of the Daily Mail visited the island and described it as “big and lively”.
Take a look at it with the help of Soane Britain, the London-based interior design studio, who added pops of color that blend into the beautiful pink colonial building that echoes the style of the great architect Oliver Messel.
Each of the 40 suites, which are scattered in the garden and by the sea, has been given a subtle twist, but the wicker furniture is retained.
The salon behind the bar has new, fluffy curtains that catch and inflate the breeze all day long and provide what is known as “emotional air conditioning”.
The original house was called Camelot and was built in 1941 by wealthy sugar planter Joseph Haynes, who was by all reports a popular politician. He and his family lived there until his death in 1963 when the Godsals, who originally came to Barbados during the English Civil War, entered.
Cobblers Cove, pictured just outside Speightstown on the north-west coast of Barbados, is a popular hotel bought by the British Godsals family in 1968 that has changed little over the years
The pool at Cobblers Cove. If you stay at Cobblers, you can get a 15-minute boat ride every day if you wish
Today, Cobblers is everything that doesn’t shimmer on Sandy Lane, about five miles south. Indeed, the late director and Sandy Lane regular Michael Winner was once considered “wrong” by Alan Godsal, who died in 2011. That said, Cobblers is intimate, low key, old-fashioned, and remarkably alluring.
But the same goes for Barbados as a whole.
There is something for everyone on this large, bustling island. One morning we meet a retired couple from Essex on the beach who spend a month here every winter, rent a small studio apartment in Speightstown and live cheaper than at home.
‘What do you do every day?’ we ask. The man says that on this excursion he spent a lot of time seeing how high he can stack clams on top of each other without them falling off.
Speightstown pictured has a new restaurant called Hugo’s, as well as a chi-chi or two nearby
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Tourists must take a PCR test at least 72 hours before arrival.
An online immigration / customs form must be completed 24 hours prior to departure at travelform.gov.bb and the negative test result uploaded.
The test result should also be printed out.
Upon arrival, visitors must stay at one of the approved hotels (including Cobblers Cove). They are not limited to their rooms and can use the hotel’s facilities.
Visitors will be retested four to five days after the initial test in the UK. These can be done either at a government facility or at your hotel (costs vary).
If the second test is negative, guests can explore the island.
Tourists must have a thermometer as they may need to provide temperature readings to health authorities by phone or text.
Scruffy Speightstown – a short walk along Cobblers Beach – appears to have had a facelift too. A new restaurant called Hugo’s, a brother of Cin Cin, opened in Holetown, and a Chi-Chi shop or two doing business in adorable little houses nearby.
It was once the busiest port on the island, and we like that this part of the island has more local and tourist mixes than the Smart Strip further south.
This is particularly evident in Speightstown’s Fisherman’s Pub and Grub (founded 1936), where you can dine like royalty for a fiver and enjoy Caribbean-style karaoke on Saturday nights.
Although I’m not sure many Cobbler guests, like the real owners Lord and Lady Carnarvon of Downton Abbey, the Sangsters, Dame Judi Dench and Maurice Saatchi, are regulars.
And don’t forget that in addition to the plantation houses, gardens, rum distilleries, pottery shops and the infamous Barbados Carnival, you can get two for the price of one.
On the southern stretch to the west of the airport and along the entire west coast, the sea is warm and calm, the coast is a bit confusing, the atmosphere is differently lively and refined.
On the east side, the Atlantic is choppy, uninviting for swimmers (but great for brave surfers), as sleepy villages and working farms go about their business virtually undisturbed by tourists.
Halfway between the two coasts is St. Nicholas Abbey, where you can expect a building with a religious past. Instead, it is one of only three remaining Jacobean plantation houses in the world that were built around 1650.
It has been lovingly restored by its current owner, whose friendly staff will make you taste way too much of their homemade rum.
If you stay at Cobblers, you can get a 15-minute boat ride every day if you wish.
We take advantage of this option and enjoy Boatswain Bradley’s commentary as we speed across the water. He points out who lives where, including Cliff Richard’s huge house that is in the market.
On the east side of the island shown, the Atlantic is unfriendly and uninviting for swimmers, but great for brave surfers
The hotel’s Camelot restaurant is beautiful at night and lively during the day on Sundays when it is turned over to a grill.
New at Cobblers are the Santa Monica designed parasols with candy strips.
After a few twists and turns at full throttle, I head out to fix under one, only to have my phone tumble to the ground and crash the screen in all directions.
“No problem,” says the receptionist. So I leave it with her and a few hours later my phone is returned with a brand new screen and in fully working condition. If only life could be like this all the time.
Elegant Resorts offers seven nights with breakfast in a Garden View Suite from £ 3,705 per person in Cobblers Cove. This includes BA flights from Gatwick, private transfers and UK lounge passes for two adults departing January 20, 2021. Visit elegantresorts.co.uk or call 01244 897294.