Carriacou

Carriacou (pronounced Carrycoo) is an attractive island of green hills descending to sandy beaches. It is 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 Ivan caused far less damage in 2004 than it did in Grenada and all hotels remained open.

Getting there

There are flights from Barbados and Grenada in small planes, or you can get here by sea on a hovercraft, large ferries for cargo and passengers or yacht. It is a lovely route, following the length of Grenada's western coastline before crossing the channel to Carriacou and seeing the Grenadines coming into view. On the crossing look out for dolphins which follow the boats. The
Osprey
hovercraft is recommended as being the most reliable service and the boat is in good condition. In heavy seas you may get seasick on any boat, said to be worse going to Carriacou than coming back.

Getting around

Minibuses run to most parts of the island and will convert to a taxi to take you off route. Car hire is available, which is useful if you are staying in self-catering accommodation and need to shop. Cycling is recommended, the traffic is very light. Many of the roads are in very poor repair, giving the semblance of off-road cycling, although some of the main roads have recently been repaved. Potential for lots of flat tyres in the dry season as there is an abundance of cacti. Walking is equally rewarding, the heat being the main problem. There is good walking on the back roads and the woods are teeming with wildlife such as iguanas. Some beaches can only be reached on foot or by boat. Water taxis are on hand to take you to beaches in remote parts of the island, or to the islets offshore for picnics and snorkelling.

Sights

Carriacou's capital,
Hillsborough
, has a population of about 1,000. It dates from a colonial settlement towards the end of the 18th century and was used by Admiral Ralph Abercrombie who came with 150 ships to launch an attack on the Spanish in 1796 and capture Trinidad. Main Street runs parallel to the sea and the hub of activity is the dock area where you find Customs, Immigration, Police, taxis, buses and fruit and vegetable stalls. Also along Main Street there are guesthouses, a few restaurants, bars, a supermarket, shops, internet access, banks and a dive shop. The town is also blessed with a lovely beach, a huge curve of white sand with good swimming, despite the presence of the jetty and large cargo ships. Along Paterson Street are the telephone office, the tourist office and the small museum. The
Carriacou Historical Society Museum
, has exhibits from Amerindian settlements in the island and from later periods in its history (there's a small shop for gifts, cards, books and local music). The people maintain a strong adherence to their African origins and the annual
Big Drum Dances
, which take place around Easter, as well as those performed at weddings, wakes, tombstone feasts, boat launches and community gatherings, are almost purely West African. 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. Windward used to be the centre for the craft of hand-built schooners but in recent years the boat builders have expanded to Tyrrel Bay. Begun by a shipbuilder from Glasgow, the techniques are unchanged, but the white cedar used for the vessels is now imported from Grenada or elsewhere. The sturdy vessels are built and repaired without the use of power tools in the shade of the mangroves at the edge of the sea. To show the qualities of these local boats, the
Carriacou Regatta
was initiated in 1965 .

Just north of Hillsborough, the Anglican Rectory is in what remains of the
Beausejour Great House
, on a slight hill so that the master could watch his slaves in the sugar and cotton fields below. The house is now single storey, having lost the second floor in Hurricane Janet in 1955. At
Belair Park
by a nature centre and a forest reserve, you can see the ruins of the old government house. The house was stripped bare during the US invasion of Grenada but the park is now used to hold the annual Maroon Festival. On Hospital Hill, Belair, northeast of Hillsborough, there is an old sugar mill with stunning views. The tower is well preserved, but not much else is left. The slaves had to carry the sugar cane all the way up the hill. The best views, however, are from the
Princess Royal Hospital
itself, built on top of the hill in 1907-1909 because of an outbreak of malaria. The wind up on the hill is too strong for mosquitoes and it was also considered a nice, quiet spot for patients to recuperate. From here you get a fabulous view of Hillsborough, and most of the southern part of the island. A few old cannons were put here in 1948. Under the flamboyant tree in the courtyard there are some large, bored tortoises (
morrocoy
).

South of Hillsborough
the road runs along the coast through Coconut Grove (Hurricane Lenny washed the palms away in 1999) and across the airport runway to Paradise Beach and L'Esterre.
Paradise Beach
is one of the nicest beaches on the island. The local painter, Canute Calliste (1914-2005), had his studio at
L'Esterre
. His naive style captured the scenes of Carriacou. The road then cuts across the peninsula to
Harvey Vale
, at Tyrrel Bay. Visitors should see the oyster beds at
Tyrrel Bay
where 'tree-oysters' grow on mangrove roots. Tyrrel Bay is an anchorage for yachts and the mangroves are a hurricane hole.

Sandy Island
i
s a tiny, low-lying atoll in Hillsborough Bay off Lauriston Point, a sand spit with a few palm trees for shade and a bit of scrub. Excellent swimming and snorkelling, take food and drink (boat from Paradise Beach, five minutes, or from Hillsborough EC$60, 30 minutes each way); pick a day when the islet is not swamped with cruise ship visitors. These small cruise ships offload 200 tourists to trample all round the islet and their anchor chains do untold damage to the coral. Yachts anchor here too and there are no mooring buoys in place yet. Alternatively, try
White Island
, a similar islet in Manchineel Bay off the south coast, ask for boats at
Cassada Bay Hotel
.

North of Hillsborough,
Bogles
is the most northerly village on the west side of the island and the end of the concrete road. From here 4WD or at least high clearance is necessary in the wet season. The Bogles emporium is an old building at the junction of the road to Windward, built in the mid-19th century by a merchant. Although desperately in need of renovation, the top floor overhang still has the original iron supports, denoting prosperity at the time of construction. 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. Take food and drink and no valuables of any sort; there are no facilities and few people. It is very easy to get lost walking to Anse La Roche beach and it is easier to take a water taxi there. It's very peaceful, watch the yachts rounding the headland on their way to anchorage; at night turtles swim ashore to lay their eggs.

This end of the island has the highest elevation, High North Peak, which rises to 955 ft and is part of a protected area. 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. However, you should contact them in advance as their pack of dogs deters uninvited visitors. There has been local opposition to their plans to convert the whole of the north of the island into a national reserve.

You can walk all round the north of the island. The British placed a cannon here in the 1780s. 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.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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