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Where To Go And What To Do In Barbados

When I was four years old, my family moved us to the tiny Caribbean island of Antigua where – for the next six years of my childhood, I frequently ran away from the local school, developed a Caribbean accent and drunk an awful lot of Ting. I don't remember a lot of it – just cricket matches, a boy named Gus putting a lizard in my lunch box and shell painting birthday parties – all documented in printed photographs of me with a perma-tan, white blonde hair and cheeky smile which won me free sugar cane from the guy with the donkey at the roundabout by our house.
Courtesy of Amber Atherton
Despite the fact that my family eventually moved back to Hong Kong, and I spent the rest of my pre-teen and teen years in Asia, I've always been drawn to the West Indies. Hardly surprising is it? The Caribbean has the best beaches and weather in the world, the food is delicious and the music is banging. These are the things that I recently found myself fantasising about on the number 38 bus on a rainy London evening, while stuck in traffic. Being impulsive in nature, I decided to book myself a flight. But where to go in the Caribbean? Partying? Well that would be Trinidad or Jamaica. Chi chi vibes? Mustique or St Barths. Isolation? Turks and Caicos.

No, I was looking for some good old-fashioned Caribbean; some easy going island chill. Cue a Virgin Atlantic return deal to Barbados, the third most popular island in the Caribbean (according to Trip Advisor). Home to Rihanna and crystal clear waters. 'Bim' is the Caribbean classic.

I decided to book into The House, a 34-room boutique hotel (as are most hotels on the Caribbean Islands) namely because The Sandy Lane – the famed bolt hole of heiresses, WAGs and TV moguls – was full and because all the other hotels are pretty much glorified retirement homes for the wealthy. If I was going with a group of mates, I’d have rented a villa up at The Royal Westmoreland, but this time I was travelling solo.

If you're under 30 and planning a trip to Barbados, I'd definitely recommend staying at The House. It's very informal and meant to feel like you’re in your own home… an atmosphere helped by the big living room area and casual dining. It’s probably the best beach spot on the whole island and within walking distance of the bars of Holetown, or Lime Grove Mall if you're feeling flashy. Oh and there's Elemis products in the bathroom.

If you're on a budget but the words “all inclusive” are simply not in your vocabulary, then definitely check out Airbnb for some amazing beach-front apartments and bigger, inland villas. For a family vibe, try The Tamarind (elegant, and owned by the same group that own The House.)

Once you get to the Caribbean, there are only two things to worry about: where the next rum punch is and where the rum punch after that is. Having always been more of a tequila girl, after just a few days, I'm truly a rum convert. Barbados is where the first ever deed was submitted for a rum plantation. I know this because I went on the Mount Gay Rum Tour. The honey-brown elixir contributes substantially to the Bajan economy and its presence is everywhere; the island is split into 11 parishes, and for every church there seems to be at least three rum shacks 100 feet or less away.

Don't feel like you can't drop into bars because you’re a tourist. Everyone is super-friendly and will gladly laugh at the expense of your rum intolerance. Rum bars are where most of the partying on the island happens. In addition to my favourite spots, Red Door Lounge and Sugar Ultra Lounge, there is also the Jammin Catamaran, a 63ft party boat, which is a weekend ritual not only for tourists but locals too. Extra tip: Try switching from rum punches to rum sours, they’re half the sugar and taste way better.

And an insider tip for getting around: Catch the local buses, you can end up spending a lot on taxis but the buses are fast, generally air-conditioned and only $1 to wherever you want to go on the island.

One of my favourite things about Barbados is the food. Oistin’s on a Friday night is like Brick Lane on a Sunday. Think amazing food stalls with the freshest, most delicious fish, all for under $20. Eat at Pat's Place and don't wait for them to seat you. Else, on the higher end, check out The Cliff (open for dinner) and The Cliff Beach Club (for lunch). Imagine a country club restaurant, hanging off a cliff, chic, all blue and white, but then with the added humour of terrible knock off film posters. The bacon and crab club sandwich is 200% delicious.

Cin Cin is another good spot for dinner. It feels a bit Ibiza (plus neon lighting), with delicious seafood and Carpaccio, right on the water. The hot new place is The Lone Star, a former garage with a Soho House vibe, a big open air restaurant and a huge mirror on the beach. #selfie. They recently added rooms too, so if you ever fancied staying in a very fancy garage, here's your chance.

And finally: What to pack? I always go on holiday with way too much stuff and only ever end up wearing three things. Here's what I lived in on my vaycay and what I couldn't go away without:

- Mara Hoffman and Beach Riot bikinis
- My Flash Trash charm jewellery (of course)
- Sisley suncream and Urban Decay Waterproof Mascara
- Vintage silk trousers for travelling (aka the closest thing to pyjamas you can acceptably wear in public)
- Local fiction… wherever I travel I like to read a book either set in the destination or by a local(ish) writer. This time I read the Man Booker award-winning book A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James from Jamaica.
- Local playlist including tons of calypso, reggae… okay, fine, Rihanna.
- Claire Barrow halter necks, a fake Louis Vuitton baseball cap, Florence Bridge slip dresses, Salvatore Ferragamo sandals.
- And finally… Markus Lupfer x Linda Farrow Sunnies.