Gloucester Place - Review Page 1
Reviewed by Steve & Jill Wooler in February 2007
High quality guest houses that offer breakfast and other catering are in short supply in Tobago. It is one of the smallest categories in the myTobago accommodations listings. In addition, there is a distinct shortage of upscale accommodations of any description along Tobago’s spectacular northern coast.With the exception of a few up-market properties in Castara, choice along the coast has been limited to a handful of luxury rental villas. We therefore welcomed news of the opening of Gloucester Place in mid-2006.
Owned and managed by two charming retired American school teachers, Gloucester Place is a striking new villa in a stunning location above Parlatuvier Bay. Open from mid November to the end of April, the property offers three guest rooms on bed-and-breakfast terms and a quaint cottage on self-catering basis.
Never having stayed this far up the northern Caribbean coast of Tobago, we looked forward to our stay at Gloucester Place with eager anticipation.
Although no sign marks its presence, Gloucester Place could not be easier to find. As you descend the steep hillside into Parlatuvier village from Castara, the distinctive blue roof of the property suddenly comes into view on the opposite side of a steep ravine. There’s no mistaking it. For many miles there has been nothing but a few small local wooden houses. This is clearly something very different. As you ascend the next gradient, the property suddenly pops into view and you’re there.
Parlatuvier is a quiet, small fishing village. Visitors doing an island tour will probably have stopped at the lookout point, just a couple of hundred metres above Gloucester Place, and admired the lovely view of Parlatuvier Bay, with its distinctive long jetty. A few people may even have stopped at the beach for a cooling swim. However, with no visitor accommodation in the area it was just a notable point on the tourist maps previously; somewhere viewed in passing.
Those seeking the ‘real Tobago’ will not be disappointed with Parlatuvier. This is probably as near to the ‘old’ Tobago as you can get nowadays. There is not a hint of commercialisation. This is a fishing village; nothing less, nothing more. Many of the young men have left the area and are working in the more developed parts of the island – or even Trinidad. The fishermen are mainly of older generations. Somewhat fearful that their way of life will be changed, they can at first appear suspicious and even taciturn, but treat them with courtesy and respect and you will be rewarded with the humour, warmth and hospitality of the true ‘Gonian.
Having your own transport is pretty essential when staying at Gloucester Place. There are no taxi services in the area - but it is possible to rent a vehicle locally. The only restaurant in the area is not really within walking distance. The local shops sell basic supplies – but basics by the standards of Tobagonian fisher folk.
The property lies on the slopes of a small deep gorge bordering the Caribbean Sea and immediately before the entrance to Parlatuvier Bay. Backed by the high hills of the Main Ridge Forest Reserve, the oldest protected rainforest in the western hemisphere, the grounds of the property tumble down a steep hillside to the tiny Creighton River that wends its way through the permanently shaded gorge before discharging into the turbulent sea beneath the property.
When the owners bought the land, they first built Essex Cottage. Their design concept was of a tree house floating in the tree canopy, open to the environment and taking advantage of the beautiful views and birdlife. Given that the cottage looks down on many of the tall mature trees growing at the bottom of the gorge, you truly feel to be in the canopy and the tree house concept is actually very appropriate.
What may not be at first apparent is the fact that Essex Cottage is actually a two-storey structure. The lower floor is of concrete block construction. The upper floor is built entirely of wood. From the road you get the impression of a small wooden cottage, with two small windows and a door. It looks cute, but not really extraordinary. What you don’t see or appreciate is that almost the entire length of the other walls is made up of open balcony or wooden shuttered windows. When fully opened up, occupants enjoy an incredible sense of space and light. Not only do you get the most from the spectacular panorama, you also feel very much more ‘at one’ with the environment.
The main house, just 50m away, is much larger and more sophisticated. It is difficult to describe the design and so I would prefer to allow the photographs to do the talking. Features such as the cathedral ceilings, railing designs and overall appearance of both buildings was a combined effort between the owners and the local builder.
As is to be expected, the two-storey main house occupies a prime position on the plot - a bluff of land that gives virtually uninterrupted views over the north-western coast. Primarily of concrete block construction, the building undoubtedly creates the right upmarket impression as new guests arrive down the beautifully landscaped drive.
Given the nature of the land, it has to be said that this is not a property that would be suitable for those confined to a wheelchair or who have serious mobility problems.
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