Sundays with Shirley

It’s easy to forget that Antigua was once one of the most important bases for the British Navy in the Caribbean. This place used to be hopping in the 18th century, with Admiral Nelson calling the shots from forts like Shirley Heights. Below lies restored Nelson’s Dockyard, the only Georgian dockyard in the world. The dockyard is a fascinating trip back in time – or the future, if you listen to doomsday philosophers to the days of pirates and battles on the high seas for the right to rule these islands.

The beaten path from English Harbor to Shirley Heights Lookout is called, rather imaginatively, Lookout Trail. It passes through a forest of trees and is a lovely walk in the afternoon. Please don’t attempt to descend after dark and/or the Sunday night revelry.

Named after one of the many governors who ruled in the Queen’s stead in the Caribbean, Shirley Heights was an important lookout point. Although less than 500ft above sea level  a hillock really – it’s high enough that you can probably send a smoke signal to someone in Guadeloupe or Montserrat.

Remnant of the barracks, a blockhouse, officer’s quarters and artillery storehouse can be found at Shirley Heights. In fact, the indoor dining area is the restored fortification at the top.

The Lookout Restaurant, which serves mostly Caribbean fare, opens from 9am to 10pm for lunch and drinks, except Monday when it closes at sunset. On Friday evenings you can have Sips & Seconds, along with some steelband music, when Shirley Heights Lookout serves up Antiguan ‘tapas’ on the terrace. Watch the sun set, the boats in English Harbor and Falmouth Harbor, and the lights of the coastal villages.

The high point of the week, however, is the party on Sundays. Quite possibly the longest running Sunday evening party in the Caribbean, this event has been happening for the last 25 years or so.

From about 4pm the steelband starts tuning up, and you would do well to leave the stilettos and mules at home. Flip flops are the recommended footwear if you’re going to shake a leg on the cobblestones and uneven hillside, especially from about 7pm when the live band starts revving up the reggae and soca. Sample some of the barbecue, and have a Wadadli beer while you navigate the heaving mass of bodies.
Tel: 1-268-728-0636 and 1-268-764-0389

Thursday 4pm-8pm – Steelband music and food available from the grill. Entrance FREE
Sunday 4pm-10pm – Steelband music, barbecue, reggae and soca music, Admission US$8, subject to change without notice for special shows.

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