Hidden Cottage - Review Page 1
Reviewed by Steve & Jill Wooler in February 2008
Hidden Cottage is a two-storey wooden house in the increasingly popular village of Castara. Built on a steep cliff side and surrounded by rainforest, the house offers a 3-bedroom apartment (Mot Mot Apartment) on the lower level and a single self-contained studio apartment (Hummingbird Apartment) on the upper ‘ground’ level. An internal spiral staircase with lockable dividing door connects the two, allowing the house to become a spacious four-bedroom - the only property in Castara capable of accommodating ten people in one self-contained unit.
The cottage is accessed via a short un-surfaced track leading towards the rainforest. I understand that the road is scheduled for surfacing, but things take time on Tobago. It is anybody’s guess when the work will occur. In the meantime, access by car is no real problem, as we can attest. However, during the rainy season the track could become quite slippery and a 4x4 would make life easier. There is parking for two vehicles at the house.
Although it only takes a minute or two, the walk to the shops and beach does mean negotiating a steep incline. Additionally, access to the Mot Mot Apartment involves descent of 20 steps. As such, the property is not suitable for wheelchair users or anyone with mobility problems.
Although the centre of the village and nearest shops are less than two minutes walk away, and the main beach little more, you could be forgiven for thinking that you are deep within the rainforest. The house is surrounded by avocado trees, mango trees, coco trees, and orange and lime trees. Other than partial glimpses of a few houses on the opposite hillside, there is very little sign of other habitation, no road noise and very little sound except for the chirping of myriad tropical birds. Although only a few hundred yards away, the sea is largely obscured by the foliage and only brief glimpses of the water can be made out between the trees.
Castara is a quiet, working, fishing village. It has two lovely beaches with excellent swimming and worthwhile snorkelling opportunities. Apart from its sheer beauty, the bay is noted for the family of friendly rays that regularly patrol the waterfront. Harmless to swimmers, they are a wonderful sight, particularly when viewed from higher ground around the bay.
Shopping is extremely limited in Castara. Basic supplies can be obtained from small shops close to Hidden Cottage. The meaning of ‘basic’ will vary depending upon where you are from and your levels of expectation. I mention this, having been chastised by an American family while in the village. They claimed that this site did not make it clear that they would have to forgo fresh bagels (I assume they also expected a choice of two dozen fillings) and complained that the local shops didn’t stock ground coffee. They didn’t appreciate my response that they should be grateful that they found ANY coffee in the village.
The island's three main supermarkets are around a 50-minute drive from Castara. It is important to stock up on your way to the village or accept that you will have to make regular trips to the more populated end of the island.
The village has eight small restaurants and cafés six of which are within easy walking distance of the cottage. All the restaurants serve variations of the same no-menu Creole cuisine – rice and local vegetables with shrimp, fish, chicken or goat. For a change of cuisine, there is an English-owned small restaurant on the outskirts of the village, but this is too expensive for regular dining. Please see our restaurant listings for the good, the bad and the downright ugly.
Because Hidden Cottage is located so centrally to all the amenities of the village (if amenities is not too grand a word), the apartments are ideally suited to visitors without transport. After the aforementioned berating I received this week, I must stress that life in Castara is extremely simple and the combined stock of every shop in the village probably occupies less space than half an aisle in the average British/North American supermarket. So, visitors must be prepared to live simply. Without transport, you will need to plan regular trips to the supermarkets by public transport or taxi.
Fortunately, transport need not be a problem. A reliable soft-top Suzuki jeep is available for rental from the owners of Hidden Cottage, either for the duration of your stay or on a day-to-day basis.
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