Grange Cottage - Review Page 1
Reviewed by Steve & Jill Wooler in February 2006
Many of us dream of spending a holiday in a small cottage beside a Caribbean beach. Realising that dream is not so easy on Tobago. Beachside land is scarce. Large plots were grabbed by the island’s largest hotels a long time ago. The smaller plots invariably end up as expensive luxury villas. The cost of staying beside the beach often carries a high premium.
Opportunities still exist in the more remote regions of the island. However, not everyone wants to be totally isolated, or wants to stay in small fishing villages where the cuisine is strictly Creole-only and shopping for even the most basic dairy products involves an hour’s journey to the other end of the island.
Grange Cottage was of interest to us because it is one of a mere handful of rental properties located along the lower Caribbean coastline offering genuine direct access onto a sandy beach with good swimming. We decided that it was time to have a closer look at this very basic, but affordable, four-bedroom beach house.
Although the name might not be familiar, every visitor will recognise Grange beach. It will be their first ocean view as they travel up the Caribbean coast road (Shirvan Road) from the airport. A short distance from the start of the Mount Irvine Golf Course, the wide parking area and concrete sea wall next to the beach are unmistakable. Look back, left, at the wide arch of pristine golden sand, turquoise sea and tumbling white surf and your face will light up; after a somewhat less-than-imposing drive from Crown Point, you will know that your Caribbean dream is reality. This is Grange beach.
Don’t expect to see Grange Cottage. Although adjacent to the main road (the pounding of the surf masks any road noise) it stands in two acres of almost untouched palms and tropical trees, bordering the beach. So discreetly is the cottage sited that even beach walkers could almost miss it, despite the house being less than twenty metres from the sand. The flotsam and jetsam along the salt-corroded beachside perimeter fence show testament to how close the waters come during exceptionally high tides and storms.
Located halfway between Buccoo Junction (where the Shirvan Road crosses the Buccoo-Carnbee-Scarborough road) and Mount Irvine beach, Grange Cottage could hardly be more ideally situated. Unless the surf is particularly boisterous, you are unlikely to wander further than Grange beach. But, should a change take your fancy, both Mount Irvine Bay and Buccoo beaches are within walking distance. The greens of the golf course are directly opposite the property and the clubhouse an easy five-minute walk down the road. Morshead Gourmet Food supermarket and a good fruit and vegetable shop are within a rather hot 10-15 minute walk, as are Buccoo village and half a dozen restaurants (although I would be imprudent to suggest walking this distance along unlit roads after nightfall).
As I say in every review, you must budget for a rental car or 4x4 to get the best out of Tobago. Other than in the built-up Crown Point area, nowhere on Tobago is within walking distance of more than two decent beaches, restaurants and shops. Your own transport is essential. It would be preferable to cut back on your accommodation budget rather than to go without transport. Private taxis are no longer an option: taxi drivers have become exceedingly greedy in recent years and now almost totally ignore the recommended tariffs and charge rates comparable to those charged by London black cabs. Public ‘route’ taxis do remain a good, cheap alternative however.
With your own transport, most of Tobago’s best restaurants are within a five minute drive. The three main supermarkets are a similar distance away. It is less than ten minutes to Pigeon Point and Store Bay. In fact, the honest truth is that it would be hard to think of a more ideal accommodation location for rapid access to every part of Tobago.
Grange Cottage was built some twenty years ago as a private holiday home. The concept was to keep the cottage as simple as possible; more of a beach hut than a villa. However, given the proximity to the sea and the highly corrosive nature of the sea blast, the building needed to be solidly built if it was to withstand the forces of nature.
The two-storey cottage was therefore built of concrete blocks. An insulated shingle-tiled roof helps keep the building cool, particularly as it is largely shielded from the worst of the sun by the surrounding trees. Doors and windows are unglazed with simple, adjustable, wooden shutters and heavy-duty security grills. The building may not be of any beauty, but it is practical, comfortable and with these sea views who is looking at the building?
The main rooms, comprising four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen and a utility area, provide a total accommodation area of around 860 square feet. The 430sq.ft. upper balcony represents the main living area and takes wonderful advantage of the views and cooling breezes. It is accessed by a short flight of wide stairs with wooden handrails on each side. The property would not be suitable for wheelchair users, but the stairs are shallow and should not prove insurmountable to those with less severe mobility problems. A lower deck offers a further 430sq.ft. of space, but does not really form part of the main accommodation area, but offers an ideal alternative to the main deck for anyone wanting to relax in private.
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