Step back in time to the glory days of the 17th century and discover the hidden history and intrigue of the charming St. Nicholas Abbey, one of the oldest working sugar plantations on the island of Barbados.
Your ticket to St. Nicholas Abbey includes seeing the Great House, gardens, rum distillery and getting to taste the 10-year-old rum.
St. Nicholas Abbey
Built in 1658, St. Nicholas Abbey is one of the island’s oldest surviving plantations (apparently built only 30 years after explorers discovered Barbados).
The abbey has no church connection. It has always been used as a sugarcane plantation house.
It is said that St. Nicholas Abbey was built by Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Berringer. He came to Barbados around 1624 from England and is thought to be one of the early sugar planters.
The plantation encompasses over 400 acres of rolling sugar cane fields, lush tropical gardens, majestic palms, and mahogany trees that can span 50 feet in width and 75 feet in height at maturity.
The beautifully decorated mansion is one of only three remaining Jacobean buildings in the Western Hemisphere. When this residence was built (of brick and limestone) many of the buildings in the North America were made of timber, and have long since perished.
The sugar plantation surrounding the mansion includes a steam mill which was installed in 1890 and helped to increase the plantation’s production of rum by 15%.
A syrup plant – a machine that converts raw cane juice into a very sweet syrup.
And a rum distillery that has been producing St. Nicholas Abbey rum for the past 350 years.
Here’s an interesting fact: early Barbadian rum was referred to as “Kill-Divil”, a hot hellish and terrible liquor. Over time, distillation practices improved and Barbadian rum became known as one of the best rums both in Europe and Colonial America.
Inside the Plantation’s Great House
Inside the plantation’s Great House, you can discover antique furniture (some of the furniture is said to be owned by Napoleon’s second wife, Empress Marie-Louise), porcelain dinner sets, artwork and other old curiosities.
The Drawing Room
I personally really enjoyed the artwork made from seashells and other natural materials.
The Study Room
As well as the 1936 Gentlemen’s Chair, which features adjustable table, book holder, and a reading lamp.
The Dining Room
After touring three rooms at the Great House, you will need to follow a path to an area where you can purchase food, taste rum, or shop at the souvenir shop.
As for the rum, the taste is dry (as it has no added sugar) but very smooth and it smells like honey.
Patio space is where you can enjoy lunch, afternoon tea, frothy cappuccinos or other light refreshments.
A visit to St. Nicholas Abbey will indeed transport you back to another era.
However, while it may be steeped in the past, St. Nicholas Abbey is also all about the future. It’s beautiful to see just how far we have come.