The Unmissables: The Inn at English Harbour, Antigua
If small, peaceful and exquisitely beautiful is your thing, The Inn at English Harbour in Antigua is truly unmissable.
What comes to mind when you dream of a Caribbean holiday? Slick, all inclusive, fun-filled hotels in acres of manicured lawns and stunning swimming pools, or mahogany four-poster beds, beachfront cabanas, crisp white linen and the lapping of the sea. If it’s the latter, you may just be dreaming of The Inn at English Harbour in Antigua.
First Impressions :
Before I’d even arrived at The Inn, I knew I was going to love it. The website tells the highly personal story of the Italian owners, Enzo and Susanna Addari, who fell in love with the property whilst on holiday, buying it in 1999, then transforming it into a five star luxury hotel, packed with their personal design touches and staffed by a team which really understands what makes for an authentic guest experience. The running of the hotel is entrusted to Fabio, the General Manager of over 20 years, a softly-spoken Italian who learned his trade (and his English) in Birmingham of all places, and whose love for his charge is clear for all to see. Once you meet Fabio, and his staff, the scene is set for your stay. You are going to be embraced into The Inn’s family, with a warm welcome and the personal service that only a truly happy team can deliver.
Location: The Inn has one of the most enviable locations in the Caribbean, set within a National Park on a stunning, secluded cove in the South of Antigua, between the cliffs of Shirley Heights on one side, and the bay of Nelson’s Dockyard on the other. It is a split level property, with the reception, restaurant and bar at the top of the cliff, commanding truly stunning views, and the 28 rooms and cabanas down on the beach, along with the second restaurant, boutique, spa and pool. A driver will take you up and down the cliff at your convenience – it’s a steep walk up and the Caribbean sunshine makes it even steeper.
From the beach, the hotel provides a complimentary private boat to take you around the headland to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the historic Nelson’s Dockyard, where you can explore the beautiful marina, eat in one of the local restaurants, and dream of owning one of the impressive yachts moored in the bay.
Many hotels boast about their location, but this one really is perfect. Down by the sea, a peaceful, idyllic, white sand beach, and, at the top, the most stunning view in Antigua.
The hotel is small with only 28 suites including four beach cabanas with direct views to the sea. There are plans to build a few more rooms – given that the grounds extend to 16 acres, there is plenty of space for expansion – but Fabio reassures me that the plans are for no more than 40 rooms. The Inn will continue to do what it does best: small and intimate.
The suites are vast. Designed by a British architect, in the traditional Colonial style, heavy doors with white shutters open into dark wood floors, romantic four poster wooden beds, luxurious white sheets, ceiling fans, and a huge bathroom with double sinks and a large walk in shower. Open the doors to your terrace, and you can walk out along a sandy path, across the lawn and down to the pool, or just beyond, to the sea. The beach cabanas are smaller, with marble floors and cane furniture, but offer the added joy of being right by the water’s edge.
The gardens of The Inn are lovely, dotted with palm trees, bright red Flamboyant trees, and purple and pink bougainvillea. At night, all you can hear is the chirping of tree frogs, and in the morning, the songs of the tiny finches visiting your terrace to see if you’re ready to come out to play.
Work and Play : This is a hotel designed for relaxation. There are tennis courts, a small gym and a variety of watersports available, but you are more likely to see people reading a book than pumping iron here. There is a spa offering treatments and, of course, the lovely pool by the beach. If you have come here to work, lucky you. I imagine you are probably an author or an artist, if you have. The Inn will certainly feed your creativity.
And there is one important element to mention. There are no children under 10 here. So it’s very, very quiet.
Food and Drink : There are two restaurants at The Inn. At the top of the cliff, and next to the Stone Bar (serving up a delicious rum punch, by the way) is the Terrace Restaurant. Linen tablecloths and candlelit dinners are the order of the day here, with palm trees entwined with romantic fairy lights, and a gentle breeze. Meals are a la carte and the half board basis includes a three course dinner. Once a week, as an homage to the roots of the hotel, or perhaps to maximise on the skills of the Sardinian chef, the menu takes a twist towards Europe for Italian night.
This isn’t the kind of place that shouts ‘theme night’, but there is one other special night of the week, the Caribbean barbecue, which is held down on the beach on Thursdays, at the more informal Reef restaurant. This is a relaxing vibe, with a steel band, tables on the sand, and fantastic, freshly cooked jerk chicken, shrimp and ribs with a selection of salads and delicious desserts. This restaurant is also your destination for breakfast, unusually served a la carte, with a wide selection of cooked dishes, pastries and delicious local fruit plates, and it also serves lunch with a full menu including daily specials.
Highs: A tough one to call – there were many. The beauty of the setting made my heart skip and the authentic, friendly service of the staff had me planning my return visit before I’d even left.
Lows: This isn’t the perfect property for everyone. If awkward door locks, imperfectly positioned sockets, or slightly noisy air conditioning bothers you, this isn’t going to be your place.
What is Unmissable?
Sipping a classic rum cocktail before a candlelit dinner on the terrace, looking out across the bay at the most photographed view in Antigua.
Prices: 7 nights at The Inn at English Harbour, Antigua including half board accommodation in a Cabana, economy flights, return private transfers and VIP Arrival Service at Antigua airport start from £2,649 pp with If Only. Book at www.ifonly.net