Bermuda: City of Hamilton

Front Street, City of Hamilton
Front Street, City of Hamilton

On our last day, we didn’t need to leave for the airport till 6pm, so decided to visit Bermuda’s (tiny) capital, the City of Hamilton (always referred to as such to avoid confusion with Hamilton Parish which, strangely, it’s not in). We’d changed buses here several times during the week, but never had time to explore. As it was Sunday, most things were closed but it was a lovely day and we were happy to wander.

Right next to the bus station is the City Hall and Arts Centre.

From there, we strolled along the waterfront. The statue is We arrive by Chesley Trott which commemorates the 1835 landing site of the American slave ship Enterprise.

Lots more statues in the nearby Queen Elizabeth Park, and a beautiful bandstand in Victoria Park:

Next, we walked three blocks to Fort Hamilton which technically took us outside the city limits – it’s that small! Although it still has the odd cannon lying around, it’s laid out as a garden. It also has great views over the city and shoreline.

From there, we worked our way back into town past the Sessions House which has the Supreme Court on the ground floor and the House of Assembly – one of the oldest parliaments in the world – upstairs. Nearby is the Cabinet Building and the statue of Sally Bassett, a legendary heroine of Bermuda’s slavery days.

Finally, we popped into the Anglican Cathedral, Holy Trinity, before making our way back to the bus.

The next day we were home to a rainy November, but our break in the sun had done us good.

Bermuda: coasts and caves

Bermuda: Coasts and Caves

On days 4-6 of our Bermuda break, we continued to tramp the Railway Trail up and down the islands. As one lovely bay looks very like another, I’ll restrict myself to highlights.

Day 4

Bailey's Bay, Bermuda
Bailey’s Bay, Bermuda

On Day 4, we walked the North Shore through Bailey’s Bay (above) and on to Coney Island. From here, we could see the Martello Tower at Ferry Point which we’d approached from the other side a few days before. We visited two caves, one at Blue Hole Park that you just climbed up and walked into, and the more complex Crystal Cave which you paid to enter. The day finished at the Swizzle Inn where we tried one of the local tipples – rum swizzle (too sweet!)

Day 5

On Day 5 we returned to Somerset Bridge where we started our very first walk, but this time we turned east instead of west. Highlights included Whale Bay and the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse.

John had the energy to climb the lighthouse tower for the view. I relaxed on a bench with a cold drink!

View from the lighthouse
View from the lighthouse

Day 7

Our final walk took us along the South Shore from Horseshoe Bay – the prettiest part of the coast we had seen all week, and there was some competition!

Flora and fauna

The Railway Trail

Although we had almost a full day in Bermuda before our flight the next evening, this was our last excursion along the Railway Trail. I confess my expectations were rather more sophisticated than the trail turned out to be. At its best, it looked like this:

However, a lot of the time it ran parallel to a road, or even became the road, so I don’t think I’d want to follow it again. That’s not to say I wouldn’t go back to Bermuda – I would, but I’d spend more time exploring the towns and some of the lovely little museums which we missed because we were so busy walking.

One more post to go – on Bermuda’s capital, the City of Hamilton.

Bermuda: Botanical Gardens and Spittal Pond

Bermuda Botanical Gardens
Bermuda Botanical Gardens

On our third day, Hurricane Kate passed close to Bermuda and we awoke to a wet and windy morning. It was also a public holiday (11th November) which meant that all museums were closed, so an outdoor attraction it had to be. The Botanical Gardens were within walking distance of our hotel – we got soaked on the way, and had to take shelter in the Cactus House when we arrived, but fortunately the weather perked up a bit after that and we enjoyed our visit.

The most interesting part was this memorial to John Lennon. He spent two months in Bermuda just before he died in 1980, and named his final album Double Fantasy after a freesia he admired in these gardens.

By lunchtime it was dry enough to have a picnic outdoors, after which we caught the bus a short distance to Spittal Pond Nature Reserve. Here, a circular walk takes you out along the coast and back alongside a brackish pond. It’s short, but has several points of interest.

Portuguese Rock is thought to have been carved by Portuguese survivors of a shipwreck. The original has long since weathered away, but a bronze cast now replaces it, reading “RP 1543” – Rex Portugaliae?

The Checkerboard is a large, flat rock surface with crosshatching. Man made, or carved by the sea? Who knows?

Nor do I know what these little creatures in the pools formed in the cracks are – sea slugs / snails?

After a final view of the sea, we turned inland to the pond – but the sea peeked through again later.

Not a bad day despite a hurricane passing close by!

Bermuda: a walk around St George’s

Bermuda via Wikimedia
Bermuda via Wikimedia

Having explored the western tip on our first day in Bermuda, on the second we travelled to the East End. St George’s is marked B on the map – we travelled there by bus, explored the town, made a loop round the elbow shape above it then followed the Railway Trail to Ferry Point overlooking Coney Island (the little green dot above Hamilton Parish, marked 8).

The Old Town of St George is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Maybe you can see why?

As we headed uphill out of town, the views of St George’s Harbour got better and better until we reached the small 17th century Gates Fort. We also met some local wildlife.

Further round the coast we came to more fortifications, Alexandra Battery.

If you examined the first gallery, you might have noticed a statue and a replica ship. These are Sir George Somers, founder of Bermuda, and the Deliverance. The Sea Venture carrying Somers and his party of English settlers was wrecked nearby in 1609 and, carrying on around the coast, we came to a memorial to their “deliverance”. The settlers then named the replacement ship they built Deliverance before continuing their journey to Jamestown, Virginia.

Our next stop was Fort St Catherine (admission fee) which had so much to see inside and out. (The map demonstrates why Bermuda was historically of such strategic importance and why it had so many forts. After losing America, Britain only had three major bases to protect vital trade routes to the West Indies – Halifax in Canada, Bermuda and Jamaica.) The views were special too, with St Catherine’s Beach on one side and Achilles Bay on the other.

After the Fort, it was a short walk back into town for lunch, past Coot Pond, Tobacco Bay, the Unfinished Church and a variety of small cottages. The one in the gallery below, Hermit Cottage, was the home of Pilot James Darrell, c. 1795. He was a former slave and one of the first black Bermudians to own his own property.

After a very late lunch, we left town in the opposite direction on the Railway Trail for Ferry Point. This was a less successful part of the walk. There were some pretty parts along the coast, but the trail had been built over in others and we also passed an oil depot, a quarry and a prison farm. At Ferry Point, there is a Martello Tower and you can see the railway trestle that would once have carried the tracks across to Coney Island (and we’d be looking at that from the other side in a few days’ time).

The light was now fading, and it was almost dark by the time we got back to the bus stop (having retraced our steps past the prison etc). It had been a long day and, in retrospect, I’d rather have missed Ferry Point in favour of spending more time exploring the Old Town – especially as, after all the road walking, I ended up with a horrible blister on my little toe which plagued me for the rest of the week. Still, that’s what Elastoplast is for! There was a lot of walking still to come.

Bermuda: Somerset to the Dockyard

Bermuda via Wikimedia
Bermuda via Wikimedia
Bermuda is a tiny speck in the Atlantic Ocean whose first inhabitants were shipwrecked English colonists in the early 17th Century. As a result, its place-names all have a distinctly familiar feel, as you can see on the map above. On our first full day, we took the bus to what is (probably) the world’s smallest drawbridge joining Somerset Island (where the 1 is on the map) to the main island. Built in the 17th century, its central plank opens just enough (about 30 inches) to allow a yacht’s mast to be eased through.

From the bridge, we walked the Railway Trail to the Royal Naval Dockyard at Bermuda’s western tip. Our first stop was Fort Scaur. This was constructed following the American Civil War when the British were worried about a US invasion. There are many underground rooms and passages to explore, a very large gun and beautiful views. The moat has been turned into a flower garden.

Back on the trail, we quickly came to another detour, to the Heydon Trust Estate with its lovely little chapel, converted in the 1970s from a 17th century cottage.

The trail from here to Mangrove Bay and Somerset Village had plenty of interest – hibiscus hedgerows were something we became very used to seeing all over the island. There wasn’t much to the village itself – excitedly, we spotted a pub for lunch then found it only opened Wednesday-Sunday. This was Monday, so we turned to the Village Café (pink building in the gallery below) which, in UK terms, was basically a chippy.

After a not-very-healthy lunch of grilled cheese sandwich and chips / fries, we set off again. With hindsight, we’d have been better off catching a bus from here and having more time at the Dockyards as the trail petered out and we ended up walking on roads. The Dockyards have been converted into shops and craft outlets and are home to the National Museum which came highly recommended if you had 2-3 hours to spare. We only had an hour so decided to leave it and come back another day – which of course, we never did. We had a beer instead.

Our one-week travel pass worked on both buses and ferries, so we travelled part-way back by boat. The Dockyards receded and the City of Hamilton came into view, from there we took the bus back to our hotel.

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks. There are many other interesting cyber-walks on her site so please take a look.


Bermuda: Coco Reef

Coco Reef, Bermuda
Coco Reef, Bermuda

At the beginning of November we escaped the dreich Glasgow weather for a week in Bermuda. Those who knew of my antipathy to beach holidays were bemused, even more so when I said “No, it’s going to be a walking holiday!” For only 17 years (1931-1948) Bermuda had a 22-mile railway which is now (largely) available as a trail for walkers and cyclists (see the Bermuda Railway Pages for more information about both). Over 7 days, we managed to walk most of it.

In any case, the weather, although warm, was a bit too stormy for beach activities. Hurricane Kate passed nearby while we were there, bringing rain and quite a lot of wind on some days, as seen below.

Our base, the Coco Reef Hotel, was in a lovely setting.

The room was comfortable, although I found being watched by the lady in the picture a bit scary. But who could quibble with a balcony with a sea view?

The holiday was arranged by Headwater – we’ve travelled with them in the past, but mainly in Europe, walking from hotel to hotel while the local rep moves your baggage. We haven’t used a travel company for some years, but I picked up their brochure when looking for ideas and this jumped out. I’m glad it did!

More on the walks we did to follow.

Bermuda benches

Hamilton City Hall
Bench sculpture: Hamilton City Hall and Arts Centre

For its final fling in December, Jude’s Bench Series is “anything goes”. Last month, we escaped the Glasgow weather for a week in Bermuda and did lots of bench-spotting so I’m piling them all in at once.

I love the top picture so much that I’m currently using it as my Twitter and Facebook avatar. It’s from the City of Hamilton, as are the two below of Fort Hamilton and the waterfront.

Outside Fort Scaur, John took a picture of me admiring the view in reasonable comfort. I snapped the one next to me to show that I’d definitely chosen the right bench.

Bermuda Benches

Bermuda Benches

Fort Scaur itself had a bench next to a very big gun!

Bermuda Benches

This bench and cross are at Heydon Chapel, with another gorgeous view.

Heydon Chapel

More broken benches at Parson’s Cove:

A stone bench at Crow Lane Park:

Bermuda Benches

Contemplating the sea on the North Shore:

Bermuda Benches

And, finally, Whale Bay where I loved the contrast of the emerald grass, the turquoise sea and the bench dividing the two.

Bermuda Benches

There’ll be more on Bermuda in the New Year, but this is my final post of 2015. In the meantime, Season’s Greetings to you all however, whatever, and wherever you will be celebrating in the next couple of weeks. See you in 2016!