Nevis: Nelson’s love island

By | Category: Travel destinations, Travel tips & opinions

Famous as the setting for Nelson’s nuptials, tiny Nevis is home to a wealth of other treasures both natural and cultural, writes Judith Baker

A short ferry ride from St Kitts is its little sister, Nevis. Nevis is famous for its connections with Admiral Nelson, who met and married local beauty Fanny Nisbet here. When she met Captain Horatio Nelson on Nevis, Frances Nisbet was a young widow with a five-year old son. They were married under a silk cotton tree in Nevis in 1787. A copy of the marriage certificate is on display at the Saint John Figtree Parish Anglican Church and the cotton tree still stands on Montpelier Plantation, from where it is a short trip to Saddle Hill Fortress – Nelson’s lookout point for spying on enemy ships.

Small cotton tree

But there’s more to Nevis than Nelson. Just a few minutes from the port where we embark from the ferry is the imposing Bath Hotel, built in 1778 and said to be the oldest hotel in the Caribbean. Once a playground for the rich who came here to enjoy the weather and the therapeutic hot springs, the hotel is now a crumbling, faded shadow of its former grandeur. Ambitious plans are underway to renovate the building, which is estimated to re-open in 2014.

In contrast to the lushness of St Kitts, Nevis has a drier, almost arid landscape. A number of historical plantation houses are dotted around, dating back to the time when sugar was king. Many of them are now converted into boutique inns and hotels such as Nisbet Plantation Inn and  Montpelier Plantation, all offering luxurious accommodation in authentic surroundings.

By contrast, we pass the chattel houses given to slaves which still stand by the roadsides. The eerie ruins of the Eden Brown estate, a former sugar and cotton plantation, are said to be haunted by the ghost of an abandoned bride.

Nevis’ capital Charlestown is a lively and charming colonial town. A quick walk around to admire its mix of French and British Georgian buildings brings me to Jews’ Walk, which is where people believe a synagogue once stood. After being expelled from Brazil in the 17th century, Jews began to settle on this string of islands. At its height, the Jewish community here constituted around 25 per cent of the islands’ total population. These mostly Sephardic Jews brought to the island their expertise in sugar production, including how to crystallize sugar and make rum from molasses.

The Jewish community of Nevis erected a synagogue in the tiny capital Charlestown around 1684 and a Jewish cemetery located on Government Road, which can still be seen, contains graves dating from 1679 to 1768. There are 19 surviving markers in the cemetery which bear inscriptions in Hebrew, English, and Portuguese. Today, a major archaeological effort is underway to preserve and uncover more of the Jewish cemetery.  It is believed that researchers may find a still undiscovered Jewish school and even another synagogue.

Just three miles outside the capital, St Thomas’ was the first Anglican church in the Caribbean. Built in 1663, the church’s cemetery is home to the tombs of many Nevisian early settlers and has a lovely view out to St Kitts.

Away from the town and the plantations, Nevis shares the pretty coastline and sun-kissed beaches found on St Kitts and indeed other Caribbean islands. Cades Bay is best for swimming and bar hopping, while Ft Ashby is a popular bird watching spot. Nature trails reveal the island’s flora and fauna, including the unavoidable green verdet monkey.

In addition to some fine dining restaurants at establishments such as the Four Seasons there  is also a lively vibe and great food at beach bars such as Sunshine’s,  Chevy’s, and Double Deuce at the pretty Pinneys Beach. Try local dishes such as chicken and ribs, or freshly caught fish such as snapper and mahi mahi, washed down with cold beer and the sounds of live calypso.

 

NEED TO KNOW

Getting there
British Airways flies to St Kitts twice weekly from London Gatwick. Return flights from £475.

Getting from St Kitts to Nevis
Four ferry companies run daily services between St. Kitts and Nevis. The 45-minute crossing provides beautiful views of both islands. There is also a Car Ferry Service operating from Cade Bay Nevis and the South East Peninsula St. Kitts. For more information contact the Nevis Tourism Authority (869-469-7550).

For more information and inspiration, visit www.nevis island.com

 

 

 

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