Reviewed by Steve & Jill Wooler in February 2007 and February 2015
Tobago has a shortage of quality vacation accommodation, particularly as you travel away from the more urban and flat south-western end of the island and up Tobago’s beautiful Caribbean coast. When Gloucester Place opened in mid-2006, it offered a new and unique option to travellers. We welcomed the chance to return in 2015 to see how the property had withstood the test of time.
Gloucester Place is owned and run by retired American teachers, Win and Bea Sargent. They offer two levels of accommodation in adjacent, but very different, properties. Gloucester Place itself offers guest room accommodation on a bed-and-breakfast basis and is open from around the end of October until the end of April each year. The adjacent Essex Cottage offers un-serviced self-catering accommodation. It can be rented throughout the year.
Parlatuvier is a small and very peaceful fishing village. Visitors on island tours invariably stop at the lookout, just 50 metres after Gloucester Place. Here, guests can view and photograph the stunning picture-postcard panorama of Parlatuvier Bay, with its classical horseshoe shape and distinctive fishing jetty.
Those seeking the ‘real Tobago’ will love Parlatuvier. This is probably as near to the ‘old’ Tobago as you can get today. There is not a hint of commercialisation. This is a fishing village; nothing less, nothing more.
Having transport is essential when staying at Gloucester Place. There are no local taxi services, but cars and SUVs can be rented in nearby Castara. There are several ladies in the village who prepare meals, by arrangement, but just one small bar within easy walking distance of the guesthouse. The local mini-mart sells basic supplies – but basics by the standards of Tobagonian fisher-folk. With your own transport, the 10-minute drive into Castara is a pleasurable experience and you are well placed for tours of the entire island.
Gloucester Place sits on the slopes of a small, deep, gorge beside the Caribbean Sea, immediately south of Parlatuvier Bay. The grounds of the property, backed by the hills of the Main Ridge Forest Reserve, tumble down a steep hillside to the tiny Creighton River that wends its way through a shady gorge before discharging into the turbulent seashore below.
Having purchased the land, Win and Bea first built Essex Cottage. Their concept was a tree house floating in the canopy, open to the environment and taking full advantage of the stunning views and birdlife, the mature trees deep within the gorge and the sunlit glittering waters of the Caribbean beyond.
Although not at first apparent, Essex Cottage is actually a two-storey structure. The upper floor is built entirely of wood. The lower floor is of concrete block construction and built into the hillside. From the road, you see a wooden cottage with two small windows and a door. It looks cute, but not extraordinary. What you don’t see, or appreciate, is that almost the entire length of the back of the property is made up of wooden shuttered windows. When fully opened, occupants enjoy an incredible sense of space and light and the most stunning panoramic view over the valley and out to sea.
The two-storey main house, just 50m away, is much larger, more sophisticated and of modern concrete block construction. It is located on a bluff of land that offers panoramic views over the north-western coast. The distinctive and upscale appearance of the villa is down to the combined efforts of Win and Bea and their local builder. The property certainly creates the right impression as guests arrive down the short, but beautifully landscaped, driveway.
Due to the hilly terrain and the fact that all three bedrooms are on the upper level, the main guest house at Gloucester Place would not be suitable for those confined to a wheelchair, or to anyone with serious mobility problems. Essex Cottage lies on a single level and has no steps to negotiate. It is one of the very few properties in this hilly part of Tobago that might prove satisfactory for those with less serious mobility issues.
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