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Behind a chic but unassuming converted 1940s garage exterior on the west coast of Barbados lies a true gem of a boutique hotel.

As soon as you pass through the narrow reception of the Lone Star, the building opens out into a verandah bar and restaurant simply furnished with white sofas and linens against rich mahogany floorboards – all selected to frame the star of the show…. the white sands and azure sea of Barbados.  

The breezy tropical chic interior of Lone Star boutique hotel - set in a former 1940s garage - is the perfect setting to enjoy the white sand and azure sea of Barbados

The breezy tropical chic interior of Lone Star boutique hotel – set in a former 1940s garage – is the perfect setting to enjoy the white sand and azure sea of Barbados

What awaits is a haven of laid-back luxury, and with only six perfectly-appointed rooms, the place has an intimate and glamorous vibe with the advantage of minimal crowds – unlike some of the bigger resorts on the island.

The butlers on hand to tend to your every need certainly help with settling down to a very relaxing holiday

Each morning, sun beds are prepped before you wake, ice cold jugs of water are delivered post swim and 11.30am becomes known as ‘sorbet time’, where a selection of home-made ices are presented to you. 

Before it's transformation into a chic boutique hotel the Lone Star was a 1940s garage by the same name. The hotel still retains many nods to its history including some retro-chic decor in the bar, and the quirky garage overalls donned by some of the staff

Before it’s transformation into a chic boutique hotel the Lone Star was a 1940s garage by the same name. The hotel still retains many nods to its history including some retro-chic decor in the bar, and the quirky garage overalls donned by some of the staff

You’ll see the staff dressed in overalls – a quirky nod to the building’s past as a garage, along with the rooms which are all named after classic American cars that used to be serviced there. 

Cadillac, Buick and Studebaker are the best rooms with gorgeous sea views, but the jewel in the crown is the vast Lincoln suite in a coral-stone beach house right beside the main hotel.

The beach could not be closer to the hotel, restaurant and bar - everything you need to enjoy a relaxing break under the sun is mere steps away. And if you can't find the motivation to leave your sun lounger, a butler will help deliver whatever you need.

The beach could not be closer to the hotel, restaurant and bar – everything you need to enjoy a relaxing break under the sun is mere steps away. And if you can’t find the motivation to leave your sun lounger, a butler will help deliver whatever you need.

Set across two floors, this penthouse – with two en-suite double bedrooms – will take your breath away.  The first floor holds a beautifully furnished indoor lounge split into two areas with the ‘library’ complete with comfortable sofas, and a TV viewing area. 

But the real wow factor is the sweeping open lounge and dining room that adjoins with a stunning garden and sea view, the perfect setting to enjoy a glass of Lone Star’s signature – and very powerful- rum punch as you enjoy the sunset. 

Above is the main bedroom on the upper floor with it's own balcony, large en-suite and walk-in wardrobe and dressing area. Bottom picture shows the indoor lounge areas which lead onto the open dining and seating areas that enjoy wonderful views of the ocean.

Above is the main bedroom on the upper floor with it’s own balcony, large en-suite and walk-in wardrobe and dressing area. Bottom picture shows the indoor lounge areas which lead onto the open dining and seating areas that enjoy wonderful views of the ocean.

There is much to explore on the island – hiring a driver for the day to take in the sights is highly recommended, along with wreck-diving, swimming with turtles, Oistin’s fish fry, catamaran cruises and more – the hotel’s butlers and concierge can point you in the right direction. But if it’s complete relaxation you are after there’s really no need to leave Lone Star.

Many hours can be blissfully whiled away using the complimentary snorkels to search the corals for tropical fish, or just simply bobbing about enjoying the water.

The shoreline itself is a hive of activity with tiny ghost crabs digging their holes and little sand piper birds running in and out of the surf. Strolling along the beach will bring you to a selection of other small bars and cafes and watersports to enjoy.

And eating at restaurant at Lone Star is certainly not to be missed, priding itself on attracting a celebrity clientele to its open deck, it offers a menu of flavourful and simply-presented European/Caribbean menu. 

The restaurant - which serves a menu of fresh and delicious Caribbean and European cuisine - sits on an open verandah with wonderful views of Alleyne's Bay

The restaurant – which serves a menu of fresh and delicious Caribbean and European cuisine – sits on an open verandah with wonderful views of Alleyne’s Bay

Favourites include the plump and juicy coconut shrimp with mango dipping sauce, and the catch of the day – usually a red snapper or Barracuda – grilled to perfection. There’s also some hearty fare for the dedicated meat-eaters including steak, short rib, aromatic duck and shepherd’s pie.

After dining, retire to the boardwalk, or sink your toes into the sand and enjoy a drink from the expertly-mixed cocktail list as you soak in the view. And if it’s jealousy-inducing social media snaps you’re after, a quick Instagram search of #lonestarbarbados will show you just how popular posing by the leaning palm in front of the restaurant is – the perfect reminder of a wonderful holiday.

 Rates: Summer rates start from USD $595 / GBP £440 per night double occupancy.  

Lone Star Hotel and Restaurant, Mount Standfast, Porters, St James, Barbados. Call +1 (246) 539 0600 or book/enquire on the website –  www.thelonestar.com

The Lone Star's 'Instagram palm' makes a popular backdrop for holiday snaps - as a quick search of #lonestarbarbados will prove

The Lone Star’s ‘Instagram palm’ makes a popular backdrop for holiday snaps – as a quick search of #lonestarbarbados will prove

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As Barbados celebrates the 55th anniversary of its independence and becomes the world’s newest republic, what better time to visit this beautiful Caribbean island.

Prince Charles attended the celebrations and hailed the creation of the republic a ‘new beginning’ for the island in November, with the Queen sending her ‘warmest good wishes’.

While my wife and I may not have been greeted with quite the same pomp and ceremony when we landed at Grantley Adams International Airport the week before, we certainly received the warmest of welcomes.

The Crane Resort, pictured, is the oldest continuously operating hotel in the Caribbean - it first opened its doors to guests in 1887

The Crane Resort, pictured, is the oldest continuously operating hotel in the Caribbean – it first opened its doors to guests in 1887

The resort is built on a clifftop with breathtaking views on the quieter south-eastern part of Barbados

The resort is built on a clifftop with breathtaking views on the quieter south-eastern part of Barbados

Prince Charles arriving at Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados on November 28

Prince Charles arriving at Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados on November 28 

It seemed fitting that at a time of historic change for Barbados we should be staying at the oldest continuously operating hotel in the Caribbean.

A convenient 15-minute drive from the airport on the quieter south-eastern part of the island, built on a clifftop with breathtaking views, The Crane Resort first opened its doors to guests in 1887. Encouraged by the arrival of the railway to Barbados, civil engineer Donald Simpson bought the area’s most prominent house, Marina Villa, added a few rooms and turned it into a hotel.

He called it Crane Beach Hotel, not after the statuesque feathered type, but because of a mechanical crane once situated adjacent to the hotel, used to load and unload cargo from the beach below.

Descending in the glass-walled cliff-side lift to one of the world’s most photographed beaches it’s hard to believe 200 years ago this was once a commercial port, the protective coral reef creating a natural harbour for smaller trading ships.

Merchants and plantation owners flocked from all over the island to the soft pink-tinted sands of Crane Beach for the magnificent views and the cool breeze that was conducive to doing business.

Ian describes Crane Beach, pictured above, as 'one of the world's most photographed beaches'

Ian describes Crane Beach, pictured above, as ‘one of the world’s most photographed beaches’ 

The resort was founded by civil engineer Donald Simpson, who bought Marina Villa and turned it into a hotel

The resort was founded by civil engineer Donald Simpson, who bought Marina Villa and turned it into a hotel

A room in a contemporary suite at the resort. Ian writes: 'In 1988 there were just 18 rooms, now there are 252'

A room in a contemporary suite at the resort. Ian writes: ‘In 1988 there were just 18 rooms, now there are 252’

Pictured is one of the pools in the resort. According to Ian, many residences and suites at the resort have ocean views and private pools

Pictured is one of the pools in the resort. According to Ian, many residences and suites at the resort have ocean views and private pools

Today those same views and wonderful breeze are conducive to a relaxing stroll along the sands and rum punch at the beach-side Coconut Grove bar and grill.

On top of the cliff are immaculate 40-acre grounds, most of which are accessible to guests via winding pathways and bridges over Koi ponds and the large pool complex with whirlpool, waterfall, wading pools and separate adults-only pool, leading to lawns, statues and benches and the original part of the hotel with its dark beams, coral stone walls and terracotta patios.

In 1988 there were just 18 rooms, now there are 252. Residences and suites all have patios, many have ocean views and private pools, and rooms are spacious with generous bathrooms, huge Jacuzzi-style baths and walk-in showers. And even the cheapest rooms provide well-equipped kitchenettes, while larger rooms have full kitchens with laundry facilities ideal for families. 

'On top of the cliff are immaculate 40-acre grounds, most of which are accessible to guests via winding pathways and bridges over Koi ponds and the large pool complex,' Ian writes

‘On top of the cliff are immaculate 40-acre grounds, most of which are accessible to guests via winding pathways and bridges over Koi ponds and the large pool complex,’ Ian writes 

The resort's residences boast marble floors and bathrooms, four-poster beds, teak shutters and sliding patio doors

The resort’s residences boast marble floors and bathrooms, four-poster beds, teak shutters and sliding patio doors 

The Crane is run as both a conventional hotel and timeshare complex, Ian reveals

The Crane is run as both a conventional hotel and timeshare complex, Ian reveals 

Ian observes that the 'well-proportioned accommodation' is decorated in a 'cool colonial style'

Ian observes that the ‘well-proportioned accommodation’ is decorated in a ‘cool colonial style’ 

Ian observes: 'The sheer size of the resort means it never feels crowded. Occupancy levels were at over 90 per cent but it felt like half that during our visit'

Ian observes: ‘The sheer size of the resort means it never feels crowded. Occupancy levels were at over 90 per cent but it felt like half that during our visit’ 

Marble floors and bathrooms, four-poster beds, teak shutters and sliding patio doors give a cool colonial style to the well-proportioned accommodation.

The Crane is run as both a conventional hotel and timeshare complex, with the apartment-style rooms and new residences available for ‘fractional ownership’, though there is absolutely no sales pressure on guests. 

The sheer size of the resort means it never feels crowded, occupancy levels were at over 90 per cent but it felt like half that during our visit with plenty of sun loungers available and space at the five restaurants, although it is advisable to book at Zen the Japanese-Thai-fusion eaterie that has been Zagat rated No.1 for food in Barbados for two years running. 

Ian recommends booking a table at Zen (pictured above) - a Japanese-Thai-fusion eaterie

Ian recommends booking a table at Zen (pictured above) – a Japanese-Thai-fusion eaterie

Zen, pictured, has been Zagat rated No.1 for food in Barbados for two years running

Zen, pictured, has been Zagat rated No.1 for food in Barbados for two years running

Entry is via a bridge over a Koi pond framed with water lilies and the dramatic monochrome interiors are dotted with Japanese artefacts, providing an ideal foil for the inspiring cuisine.

The Carriage House, formerly the old hotel stables, is now a lovely pool-side spot for lunch or early dinner and the lively Bar 1887 boasts tasty Bajan tapas along with inspired cocktails, live music and a popular happy hour.

D’Onofrio’s Trattoria serves excellent Italian food and is situated in the centre of Crane Village, a charming collection of painted clapboard buildings with overhangs and verandas housing a cafe, gym, general store, duty-free shop, jewellery store, art gallery, and gift shop.

Ian says that The Carriage House, pictured, is 'a lovely pool-side spot for lunch or early dinner'

Ian says that The Carriage House, pictured, is ‘a lovely pool-side spot for lunch or early dinner’

Crane Village, pictured, is a charming collection of painted clapboard buildings with overhangs and verandas

Crane Village, pictured, is a charming collection of painted clapboard buildings with overhangs and verandas

D'Onofrio's Trattoria serves excellent Italian food and is situated in the centre of Crane Village

D’Onofrio’s Trattoria serves excellent Italian food and is situated in the centre of Crane Village

Facilities also include tennis courts, a spa and children’s club.

Staff at The Crane are unfailingly cheerful and although there are some occasional inconsistencies in service there is a genuine will to ensure guest satisfaction.

Since a change of ownership in 1988, The Crane has continually evolved, adding more residences with luxuries such as rooftop pools and underground parking with private lifts into apartments. 

It is a resort that strives to find something for everyone and to that end its latest development, the Beach Houses at Culpepper, a 15-minute drive from The Crane, aims to appeal to guests looking for complete seclusion.

We were invited to experience the first phase of this development, launched in May, consisting of ten luxury single storey one to three-bedroom villas, which can be interconnected to sleep a maximum of eight people. These are the front row of a development that will eventually comprise 63 homes spread over 50 acres overlooking the rugged natural beauty of Skeete’s Bay and Culpepper Island.

Beach Houses by The Crane overlook the rugged natural beauty of Skeete's Bay (pictured) and Culpepper Island

Beach Houses by The Crane overlook the rugged natural beauty of Skeete’s Bay (pictured) and Culpepper Island

The villas have been designed to blend into the landscape with living roofs. Pictured is a view of the sea from the grounds

The villas have been designed to blend into the landscape with living roofs. Pictured is a view of the sea from the grounds

The villas have been designed to blend into the landscape with living roofs and with the ‘wow’ factor in mind. As soon as you open the door the eye is drawn to the turquoise of an infinity pool, framed by the deep blue of the Atlantic Ocean viewed through a glass wall of sliding patio doors. A private terrace stretches across the width of the villa, set with sun loungers, high–end patio furniture and can be fully enclosed by remote-controlled bug screens. 

The inviting interiors boast an open-plan kitchen and spacious living room with large ceiling fans, porcelain tiles, limewood flooring, and luxury natural stone-tiled bathrooms with indoor/outdoor showers and free-standing bathtubs. 

The fully equipped kitchen includes an oven, microwave, ceramic hob, dishwasher, laundry appliances and large fridge-freezer. Large comfortable ivory sofa beds can be used to accommodate extra guests and the villas have interconnecting doors to allow flexible accommodation for larger groups. The infinity pool design incorporates a separate whirlpool heated by solar energy and there is also a barbeque area.

Pictured is a bedroom in one of the villas. Ian admits: 'It was impossible not to be awed by the majesty of the ocean in such a glorious setting'

Pictured is a bedroom in one of the villas. Ian admits: ‘It was impossible not to be awed by the majesty of the ocean in such a glorious setting’

The inviting interiors boast luxury natural-stone-tiled bathrooms with indoor/outdoor showers and free-standing bathtubs

The inviting interiors boast luxury natural-stone-tiled bathrooms with indoor/outdoor showers and free-standing bathtubs

It was impossible not to be awed by the majesty of the ocean in such a glorious setting – watching the crashing waves glittering in the morning sun just yards away at the cliff edge felt like it could never get old, however for those craving civilisation a daily return trip to the resort is included along with breakfast.

Guests can order any meals from The Crane restaurants for an extra $15 Bajan delivery fee and there is a daily concierge to organise grocery supplies, although for families it is more cost-effective to use online ordering from the local supermarket, which also delivers to the villas.

The Concierge can also organise luxury extras such as private chefs and in-villa spa treatments.

Do bear in mind that the development is still under construction and rates are set to reflect this, however during our visit work was of the ‘small trade’ variety and ceased by late afternoon and at weekends.

'As soon as you open the door [of the villa, pictured] the eye is drawn to the turquoise of an infinity pool, framed by the deep blue of the Atlantic Ocean,' writes Ian

‘As soon as you open the door [of the villa, pictured] the eye is drawn to the turquoise of an infinity pool, framed by the deep blue of the Atlantic Ocean,’ writes Ian 

A dining table at one of the villas. Guests can order any meals from The Crane restaurants for an extra $15 Bajan delivery fee

A dining table at one of the villas. Guests can order any meals from The Crane restaurants for an extra $15 Bajan delivery fee

General Manager of 14 months Chris Forbes presides over this growing resort and could be forgiven for ‘touching wood’ when we met as he explained it was his first four consecutive months ‘without some sort of natural disaster’.

There was a fire at the hotel in February, a huge volcanic ash cloud in April from neighbouring St Vincent that deposited substances that took five weeks to clear out from buildings, pools and pathways; and hurricane damage in July. And on top of it all a pandemic to deal with. He praised his staff for their superhuman clean-up efforts and added, ‘I think everyone will be glad to see the back of 2021.’

Let’s hope the new beginnings Prince Charles spoke of see this iconic and beautiful resort go from strength to strength in 2022.  

TRAVEL FACTS 

The Crane Covid protocols

  • All guests required to wear wrist bands, colours denote quarantine/vaccination status and may indicate restricted access to certain areas
  • Touch-free sanitizing stations are placed in all public areas of the resort.
  • All staff wear masks
  • Guests required to wear masks when interacting with staff or other guests or when social distancing is not possible
  • Staff check temperatures of all arriving guests and when entering all restaurants using handheld temperature sensors
  • Enhanced cleaning and sanitizing throughout the resort
  • On-site Covid testing lab for convenient fast testing for travellers requiring test results to return home.

Room rates

Stay at The Crane Resort from £170 per night in a Junior Suite with Garden View, on a B&B basis.

Stay at Beach Houses by The Crane from £214 per night for a One Bedroom Villa, on a B&B basis.

For more information visit thecrane.com.  

Note: Beach Houses by The Crane is still in development. Current rates reflect that there will be some ongoing construction work in adjacent villas.

 

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High-street summer holiday sales are in full swing – here are some of the best deals, from Bali to Barbados

  • Kuoni is offering up to £405 off a week in a Royal Santrian luxury villa in Bali 
  • Inspiring Travel has discounts on a week at  Cobblers Cove hotel, Barbados
  • Virgin has a deal where every fourth night is free at Omni Orlando hotel, Florida










Every week our Holiday Hero Neil Simpson takes an in-depth look at a holiday topic, doing all the legwork so you don’t have to. This week: Summer bargains.

High street sales are in full swing, with travel companies offering discounts and added extras to boost summer bookings.

Most offer flexible terms so you can book now – often with a rock-bottom deposit – and change dates or destinations later if required.

Virgin’s sale has plenty of family-friendly deals in Florida, including Omni Orlando hotel. Pictured is the hotel's Lazy River ride

Virgin’s sale has plenty of family-friendly deals in Florida, including Omni Orlando hotel. Pictured is the hotel’s Lazy River ride

Inspiring Travel is offering a week at Cobblers Cove hotel in Barbados from £3,499pp, including flights. Pictured is the hotel's chef

Inspiring Travel is offering a week at Cobblers Cove hotel in Barbados from £3,499pp, including flights. Pictured is the hotel’s chef 

Long-haul offers from Kuoni include up to £405 off a week in a Royal Santrian luxury villa on the southern shores of Bali.

Each of just 20 villas in the resort has a private pool surrounded by lush gardens, and activities range from beachside yoga to the attention of a 24-hour butler.

Prices with flights start from £1,710pp and Kuoni can arrange connections from regional airports. Kuoni also aims to extend its January sale with weekly ‘hand-picked deals’ all year (kuoni.co.uk).

Luxury tour operator Inspiring Travel has discounts of between 20 and 50 per cent in top resorts around the world. 

A week in boutique, all-suite Cobblers Cove hotel in Barbados now starts at £3,499pp, including flights. Guests can even join the hotel’s resident fisherman on an early-morning sail, then watch the chefs serve up their catch at night (inspiringtravelcompany.co.uk).

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are competing to offer the best bargains in their January sales.

With BA, added extras available until January 25 if you spend £1,500pp or more on a holiday include fast-track through security and VIP lounge access at Heathrow. Deposits start at £60pp (ba.com/holidays).

Virgin’s sale has plenty of family-friendly deals in Florida. Every fourth night is currently free at the Omni Orlando hotel, while you also save some £25 a day with free parking and waived resort fees. 

The Magic Life Bodrum resort in Turkey is one of the hotels featured in Tui's January sale. Pictured is Bodrum beach

The Magic Life Bodrum resort in Turkey is one of the hotels featured in Tui’s January sale. Pictured is Bodrum beach

The hotel has a water park with lazy river, a wave pool, 36-hole golf course and kids’ camp. A free shuttle takes you to Walt Disney World and other theme parks. From £989pp for seven nights including flights from Manchester or Heathrow (virginholidays.co.uk).

Free places for kids are available in Tui’s January sale, which also has discounts of up to £300 per booking, depending on holiday costs.

Sporty families can stay busy with activities from archery to zumba at the Magic Life Bodrum resort in Turkey. Or less sporty types can lay back on a lounger in the adults-only spa. Prices start at £462pp for all-inclusive breaks that also include free afternoon teas and midnight snacks (tui.co.uk).

Latest deals with easyJet include Barcelo Santiago hotel in Tenerife where you can spend your days hiking or swimming at the foot of the Los Gigantes cliffs (pictured)

Latest deals with easyJet include Barcelo Santiago hotel in Tenerife where you can spend your days hiking or swimming at the foot of the Los Gigantes cliffs (pictured)

Book flights and hotels together with easyJet and get discounts of up to £300 per holiday on week-long stays, with the option to change your bookings fee-free up to 28 days before departure.

Latest deals include a week at the stylish Ivi Mare hotel in Paphos, Cyprus. From £642pp with departures from a number of regional airports.

Or try Tenerife and enjoy both ocean and mountain views with a week at Barcelo Santiago hotel. Days can be spent hiking or swimming at the foot of the Los Gigantes cliffs, or in cabanas by the hotel’s infinity pool. Prices start from £500pp (easyjet.com).

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