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Other Tobago Attractions
 
bulletCastara Baking
bulletFort King George
bulletHistoric Scarborough
bulletScarborough Courthouse
bulletRichmond Great House
bulletKimme Museum
bulletSt Patrick's Anglican Church
bulletFor the love of a woman
bulletTobago Waterfalls
bulletTobago Mills
bulletArgyle Waterfall
bulletCharlotteville Cocoa House
bulletTobago Goat Racing
bulletTobago Kite Flying
bulletSnorkeling with Jazz
bulletSunday School
bulletMoravian Churches
bulletTobago Forts
bulletFort Milford
bulletCasual Cycling in Tobago

 

Castara_Baking - Old Time Baking, Old Time Flavor

By Brian Ramsey

What is so special about baking in Castara to warrant an article encouraging people to visit? The answer is an aroma and taste that can only be obtained by truly old style baking methods.

Castara is on Tobago’s Leeward coast shortly before Englishman’s Bay. There are different routes to Castara depending upon where you are staying in Tobago. If in the Charlotteville area you simply take the North Coast Road, going through Parlatuvier and continuing on to Castara. Visitors in Roxborough can use the Roxborough Parlatuvier Road and turn south at Parlatuvier. Those who are holidaying along Tobago’s south west coast can drive using the Grafton Road to get to Plymouth and then using the Arnos Vale Road to go to Moriah and on to Castara. Vacationers in Scarborough have a variety of routes to get to Moriah and then proceed to Castara. Whichever route you use to get to Castara it is a scenic drive along hillsides with sometimes distant views of a blue sea and other times beaches close by that make you want to stop and immerse yourself in the water. Along the way you pass through villages where houses seem to cling to hillsides and little children play in the streets.

castara_comp.jpg (148958 bytes)

Castara is a small village clustered around a picturesque bay of blue green water gently lapping onto a beach of golden sand. The small houses in the village climb the hillside and interspersed among them are rustic guesthouses and local restaurants. Each day the fishermen land their catch on the beach and if you are lucky you can see them roast a few on galvanise sheets over a wood fire. A short walk away from the village is a small waterfall and pool where refreshingly cool water invites you to soak your cares away.

No visit to Castara however would be complete without viewing and tasting the products baked there. In this village you can get locally baked breads (including a delicious pumpkin bread), cakes, sweetbread, and coconut drops (these are so soft and moist that they break apart just using your fingertips and fill your mouth with flavour).

What is the secret – an old time dirt oven that uses a wood fire, dough wrapped in wet banana leaves and preparation methods developed over years. These delicious products are baked by a group of senior citizens who have been baking with this method for decades. The oven is located just off the main road across a small stream and directly in front of the beach. You can witness the entire process from the firing of the oven to the placement of the dough to the removal of the finished product that fills the air with a wondrous aroma. Locals and visitors alike come to Castara from surrounding areas to purchase and observe a baking method that is now rarely seen.

Spend the day watching the baking process, bathe in the sea, refresh yourself in the waterfall, have lunch at one of the local restaurants. Be forewarned however, if you want to purchase some to the baked products, come early to place your order because all are so delicious they are sold almost the moment they come out of the oven and the baking is only done on Thursdays and Saturdays.

 

Fort_King_George

Fort King George is a commanding presence overlooking Scarborough, Tobago and definitely one of the places of interest on this Caribbean island. This historical attraction is one of the places that every visitor to Tobago should visit as it is the island's best preserved historical monument.

Although Scarborough is the capital of Tobago, Fort King George was not always the main defensive point for the town. Up to 1771, the British troops in Tobago were quartered at Fort Granby in Barbados Bay, however given the distance from Scarborough (approx 6 1/2 miles) and the poor land communications at the time, a decision was taken to construct barracks at Scarborough Hill. By May 1781, some barracks had been constructed. In June 1781, the French attacked and captured Tobago from the British. The French added to the buildings on Scarborough Hill and named the fortification Fort Castries but their main fortification was on Morne Cotton to the northeast of the town at a height of 800 feet. Today Morne Cotton is known as French Hill or French Fort and houses several telecommunication towers. On 14th April 1793, the British landed at Great Courland Bay and recaptured Tobago from the French.  From 1793, the main British Troops were stationed on Scarborough Hill and the fortifications came to be called Fort King George, while Fort Granby fell into disuse. From 1797 to 1854 structures were added to the fort largely because of a fear of French attack. In January 1854, British troops were removed from Tobago.

Today Fort King George sits at a height of 450 feet above sea level welcoming all to visit and remember the past while admiring the panoramic view of Scarborough, southern Tobago, the east coast and the central hills.

Access to the fort is very easy, you simply follow Main Street into Fort Street and proceed up the hill going past the hospital grounds to emerge in the midst of the fort. Here you will find well manicured grounds with solid stone walls and darkly gleaming cannons poking through the parapets, still guarding the approaches to Tobago. Around the grounds you can see the former prisoner cells, bell tanks, officer's mess, military cemetery and powder magazine. Across from the powder magazine is a beautiful spot where you can sit in the shade of a large tree and soak in the visual beauty of Scarborough's harbour. There is a functional lighthouse that was built in 1958.

The focal point of the fort however is the refurbished barrack guardhouse which now houses the Tobago Museum. One of the aspects of Tobago’s past that is not often recognised is that Tobago had a significant Amerindian culture. Part of the reason the Amerindian influence is not as strong in Tobago is that in 1606 the Spanish settlers in Trinidad were uncomfortable with having a powerful Amerindian people so close and they attacked Tobago with the intention of wiping out the Amerindians who lived there and taking the women and children to be slaves in Trinidad. In the museum there are numerous Amerindian artifacts (tools, weapons, artefacts) that have been found across Tobago with some dating back to 2500 B.C. The Tobago Museum also displays many military artifacts reflecting the military history of Tobago, which changed hands 30 times as the European powers fought over the island. The museum which is open from 9am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday also has a good collection of African art, reflecting the slave history of Tobago's population.

 

 

Historic Scarborough

Scarborough the capital of Tobago is an old town having become the capital of Tobago in 1769 when the legislature was moved from Georgetown which is now known as Studley Park. As an old town, Scarborough has several historic buildings and most of these are within walking distance of each other, perfect for an early morning stroll.

At the corner of Piggot and Burnett Streets is a brown brick building which is the seat of the Tobago House of Assembly. The history of this building goes back to to 1781 when the building was a courthouse in the period when the French ruled Tobago. In 1821, under English rule the House of Assembly was formed and a new building was erected on the site. In addition to functioning as the seat of the Assembly the building also functioned as a church holding service for the Catholic and Protestant churches. More information on this building can be found in the section titled Scarborough Courthouse.

Just up the street from the Scarborough Courthouse along Bacolet Street is Gun Bridge where the barrels of 19th century Brown Bess muskets are embedded into the sides of the bridge as a memorial to the numerous wars that were fought over Tobago. Just after the bridge heading west is the Anglican Church which was opened in 1819 and previously church services were held in the courthouse. The original church was destroyed by Hurricane Flora in 1963 and rebuilt in 1964. Adjacent to the church is the home of the Anglican priest which is a lovely example of a clapboard building atop a brick lower floor.





Literally across from the clapboard house is the St Joseph's Catholic Church which was established in 1892. Almost at the side of the Catholic Church is the former Scots Kirk. In 1807 a request was made by a plantation owner to the Church of Scotland for persons to be sent to Tobago to minister to the slaves. In 1813 the London Missionary Society built a church (known as a kirk) in Scarborough. Unfortunately by 1841 the number of persons who were members of the church was too small to continue the church and it was decided to dissolve the congregation and lease the building to the Anglican Church who converted the Scots Kirk building into a girl's school.

Another historic building in Scarborough is the Methodist Church on Fort Street. The Wesleyan Methodists originally has a small chapel on Market Square in 1817 but in 1823 they began efforts to construct a new church and in 1824 the foundation stone for the church on Fort Street was laid with the building being completed in 1826. This building was built using the bricks that had served as ballast on ships coming to Tobago to collect sugar. Just above the church along the street is the original home of the Methodist minister for the church.

 



Further up Fort Street is Tobago is Tobago's most historic structure, Fort King George, which was started by the British in 1781. When the French captured Tobago they added to the fortifications and when the British recaptured Tobago in 1793 they further added to the Fort. More information on Fort King George can be found earlier on this page.

 

Scarborough Courthouse

Directly opposite A.P.T. James Square (formerly Market Square) in Scarborough Tobago is a brown brick building behind an iron railing. The square in front the building which is now called A.P.T. James Square after a Tobago politician, was previously called Market Square and until 1807 was the site of the market for African Slaves. The brown brick building is the seat of the Tobago House of Assembly but its history goes back beyond the formation of the House of Assembly. In 1781, Tobago was captured by the French and during this period there was a court house at this site, however during a rebellion of the soldiers stationed at the fort, the building was destroyed by fire. In 1814, Tobago was formally ceded to Britain and a system for running the island known as the House of Assembly was created. To provide a home for the government it was decided that a building had to be erected and so on April 23rd 1821, the Governor General Sir F.P. Robinson laid the foundation stone and the building was completed in 1825. The completed building included a courtroom, chambers for the Tobago House of Assembly and an office for the Governor.





The basement floor was constructed of Scottish firebrick, imported as ballast in the holds of sugar ships, and contained a stable as well as a small jail cell. The upper floor was of mortared and un-plastered limestone quarried locally. An interesting example of harmony was that both Protestant and Catholic services were conducted in the court room until houses of worship were built for both denominations.


 

Richmond_Great_House

The Richmond Great House is a restored estate house of the original Richmond Estate sugar plantation and dates back from 1766. The original estate was devoted to growing sugar cane however by 1886, the cultivation of sugar cane could no longer support the estate. As a result in 1893 the estate was bought by a retired English officer called Mayo Short who changed the estate to growing cocoa and coconuts. Upon the death of Mayo Short the estate passed to is son. Hurricane Flora in 1963 destroyed the crops of the estate and the owners were not able to rejuvenate the estate. Eventually part of the estate was sold in 1973 to Dr Hollis Lynch, a Tobago born Professor of African History at Columbia University who bought the Great House and 4 acres of the surrounding land.

The Richmond Great House has a truly eclectic collection of pieces of art from around the world collected by Dr Lynch, even the furniture is art. There are wooden and brass African and Chinese furniture and a collection of African textiles and carvings. In addition there are many original pieces of furniture and cooking utensils from Tobago's early days. The Great House is built on a hill top and the grounds around the house are filled with fruit trees. On its grounds are two inscribed tombstones dated 1829 and 1840. The view from the grounds is magnificent showing the hills of the Tobago Rain forest and the Atlantic Ocean. There is a constant cooling breeze that flows over the hilltop.

 One can visit the Great House on any day to tour the property. In addition parts of the house have been converted into a guesthouse so that you can stay and sleep in the rooms of the old sugar planters.

 

Kimme Museum

The Kimme Museum in Tobago is literally a must see. As soon as you drive up to the building you realise why it is classified as a must see and the exterior of the building is only the beginning of the "wow" moments. Luise Kimme is a German sculptor who moved to Tobago in 1979 and the museum is part of her home and workshop. The entire building is unique and persons who live nearby call it the Castle, however with its commanding view of the countryside and unique artistic and architectural finishes it is probably like no other castle on earth.

Luise Kimme creates larger than life sculptures in wood and bronze, some as much as 14 feet tall. The sculptures represent the life of Tobago as seen through her eyes as well as reflecting her love of dance and nature. Words often seem inadequate to truly describe these figures and they really require being seen to grasp the magnificence of the work but once seen they are never forgotten. The exterior of the building and the statues on the outside gives a glimpse of what is in store for those who visit the museum as there are approximately 100 sculptures housed inside.
 

 
The Kimme Museum is located in the Mount Irvine area in Tobago and is open only on Sundays from 9am to 2pm although other visits can be arranged by special request. To see more of the museum plus obtain directions you can visit http://luisekimme.com/museum-touranddirections.html. You can also read other visitors views on Trip Advisor at http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g1463484-d1997216-Reviews-Kimme_Museum-Mount_Irvine_Tobago_Trinidad_and_Tobago.html

 

St Patrick’s Anglican Church Tobago

St Patrick's Anglican Church in Mount Pleasant Tobago is the oldest surviving church on the island. While other churches were constructed before St Patrick's, with St Andrews Anglican Church in Scarborough being built in 1819, all the other churches were destroyed by Hurricane Flora in 1963. Thus St Patrick's is the oldest surviving church having been constructed during 1837 - 1843. This church sits atop a peninsula with a view of the sea on two sides. Among the artifacts within the church are two Bibles that were used when the church was commissioned in 1843. a bronze lectern bearing the date 1727 donated to the church by Sir Geoffrey Knox; an 18th century chalice of copper plated silver; a baptismal shell of Mother of Pearl with a beautiful carving of our Lord representing the Resurrection found by Cecil Anthony at Buccoo believed to have been recovered from the wreckage of a French ship that sunk more than 200 years ago; and pews that may have been installed originally when the church was built. There are also relics of the horse and buggy era at the front of the building.

One of the aspects of the construction of the church is that it is built of fire bricks that were used as ballast on the ships coming from England & Scotland during the slavery period. Very often these ships did not have sufficient cargo to fill their holds during their voyage to the West Indies to collect sugar and so used fire bricks as ballast in the ship hold. To construct the church the slaves carried the bricks on their heads from the bay at Mount Irvine to the site of the church on the hill in Mount Pleasant. To the front of the church lies the grave of Jane Lovell, who was the last surviving slave that carried bricks from the beach to the church and is reputed to have lived for 100 years.


Every year is August, as part of the Tobago Heritage Festival the church members conduct an Ancestral Walk from the Beach at Mount Irvine to the church to commemorate the transportation on the heads of their ancestors of the bricks used in the building of the church.

 

For_the_Love_of_a_Woman

Tobago surprises you, as just around each corner is an interesting or historical site.
 
Just outside the village of Bloody Bay on the way to the Bloody Bay beach facility is a Chapel at the side of the road. This chapel sits on the side of the hillside and all around is clothed with the verdant Tobago Rain Forest which is the oldest legally protected forest in the Western Hemisphere having been designated as a protected Crown reserve on April 17, 1776. The grounds in the immediate vicinity of this circular chapel are covered with low cut grass and low decorative shrubs. The interior of the chapel has pews, an altar, a baptismal font and bronze artwork. This chapel is available for use by any group that desires. So for those who come by this area, the question that invariably arises is how did this chapel come to be here?

 


 
 

On 7th March 1965, Dorothy Rood died in an accident near to the site of the chapel and was buried at St Andrews churchyard in Scarborough. Dorothy had loved Tobago and so her husband, John Rood, erected the chapel in memory of her.

 

Fresh_or_Salt

Fresh or salt is a familiar cry uttered by Trinidad peanut vendors, however "fresh or salt" takes on a different meaning in the island of Tobago. There is no denying that beautiful beaches abound in Tobago with warm blue salt water gently lapping on the shores. What is sometimes not recognized is that Tobago has many waterfalls with cool clear fresh water falling into pools that invigorate both the body and the mind. So that Fresh or Salt is a real choice in Tobago.

Many of Tobago’s waterfalls are close to the road so that it is a short hike to visit them. One of the easiest waterfalls to view is the Craig Hall Waterfall. This two-tiered waterfall is just off the road between Mason Hall and Mesopotamia and visible from the road. The first tier falls into a large bathing pool that seems like a tub hewed from the rock. The water then spills over the side of the pool and cascades down the solid rock face into the river below. There is a concrete walkway leading to an area facing the cascade, with benches, croton plants, bamboo and natural vegetation, which is perfect for quiet contemplation.

Another waterfall that is easy to visit is the Castara waterfall on the southwestern edge of Castara village. This idyllic little waterfall is easy to find, as you simply enter River Road, go to the football field, walk across the field and the follow river upstream. A clearly defined track runs along the edge of the river, at times crossing back and forth across the river. As you walk along, clean water runs down and little fish lazily swim in the pools. During the short ten-minute walk you cross through small agricultural holdings with banana and cocoa. Along the way Jacamars regally stare from low branches and Hermits dart across the stream visiting stands of heliconia on the hillsides while other hummingbirds flit among the high branches of the immortelle trees.

If your Tobago journeys take you along the Windward Road on the Atlantic side of the island, the Rainbow Waterfall is yet another of Tobago’s easily visited fresh water delights. A turn off at Goldsborough Bay and then a 1.5 mile drive along a road that has potholes but is navigable brings you to Rainbow Nature Resort. From there a short 20 minute walk through countryside that is beautified with ginger lilies, heliconias, and majestic bamboo canopies, while butterflies, lizards and kingfishers keep your company, brings you to Rainbow Waterfall. There you can revive your spirits at the sight of a rainbow dancing in the water’s spray.

Another waterfall that can be easily visited from the Rainbow Nature Resort is the Twin_Rivers_Waterfall. This waterfall which is also known as the Two Rivers Waterfall gets its name from the fact that at the base of the waterfall two rivers join and continue down stream as the Goldsborough River. The Twin Rivers waterfall is a tall waterfall that is broken into a series of small waterfalls and the last fall is large dropping into a wide cool pool that is ideal for swimming. Experienced hikers can climb to the top of the waterfall along a steep trail and at the top follow the river to more pools and cascades. The trail to the Two Rivers waterfall is along the Goldsborogh River, following the river upstream and walking mainly on gravel and small rocks. Along the way there are some small rapids that are easily navigated. The 45 minute hike to the pool at the base of the waterfall is a journey through tropical nature with gorgeous abundant lush vegetation and a variety of water birds.

Further along the Windward side lies the quiet village of Kendal. Here a walk through undulating countryside along the banks of a quiet stream leads to Lamy Falls. Spreading as it runs down the rock face, the water plunges into a deep pool below.

The most visited waterfall in Tobago is Argyle waterfall on the outskirts of Roxborough. Here an easy 20 minute hike along the Argyle River brings you to Tobago's highest waterfall, where the water tumbles 54m (175ft) in a series of stepped cascades. You can wade in the pool at its base and totally immerse yourself in the refreshing coolness. Or climb the path that leads to the second and third pools. Whatever you plan to do at Argyle Waterfall be sure to walk with a camera as it is a breathtaking sight.

If you want to expend more energy in getting to a waterfall, two of the waterfalls that require some effort to reach are the Parlatuvier Waterfall and the Highland Waterfall. Parlatuvier, on Tobago’s Leeward coast, is a short drive after Castara and is a small village with a magnificent deeply indented bay. The hike to the waterfall, while more difficult than many of the others, passes through undisturbed natural habitats teeming with wildlife. Starting in the village on the banks of a river in which river mullet and crayfish dart while herons scurry about, you ascend along a boulder-strewn river that grows in steepness. Eventually arriving at a tall waterfall that spreads across the stone face of the ridge and is framed on either side by rich tropical greenery.

The Highland Waterfall between Les Coteaux and Moriah is an uphill climb best undertaken by those who are fit and accompanied by a guide. The effort though leads to a beautiful waterfall where the water crashes from a height into the stream below.

Fresh or Salt, well in Tobago you do not have to choose, you can combine fresh and salt and have them both in the same day.

 

Tobago Mills

As one drives through southwestern Tobago scattered around are conical shaped brick and stone structures with the majority having an abandoned unused appearance. These conical structures are the remains of windmills that once provided the power for the crushing of sugar cane in the production of sugar.

By the terms of the Treaty of Paris signed on 10th February 1763, the Seven Years War was brought to an end and Tobago was ceded by the French to Britain. Once Britain had formal control of Tobago, King George the Third issued a royal proclamation allowing the sale of land in Tobago. Those persons purchasing the land did so for the express purpose of developing sugar plantations and by September 1770 the first cargo of Tobago sugar reached England, having been exported from Studley Park Estate. Sugar became the dominant crop and by 1836 there were 72 sugar estates in Tobago.

Each of these estates needed a power source to drive the rollers that crushed the sugar cane to extract the juice that would be later boiled to produce the sugar crystals. While animals such as mules and oxen could be used these were expensive and so learning from the Dutch, the planters erected windmills taking advantage of the steady Trade Winds that blow across the island. So today as you drive around the south west of Tobago in Riseland, Lowlands, Killgwyn, Cove, Shirvan and Bacolet these silent sentinels to the sugar past are visible.



However as you proceed to the northern side of Tobago, sights of wind mills recede and now topography gives a different view of sugar history. Southwest Tobago is relatively flat land with only gentle undulating swells. The northern side of Tobago is much more mountainous and here rivers flow down from the Main Ridge Forest. Taking advantage of the rivers that would have had strong water flow in the 18th and 19th centuries planters erected waterwheels to drive the rollers for the crushing of the canes. Still standing more than 100 years after it was fabricated in Scotland and erected in Tobago is the waterwheel at Speyside. Another remaining example of these waterwheels can be found just off of Franklyn's Road in Arnos Vale and here can also be seen the remnants of the aqueduct that brought the water from the river to the wheel.

While the waterwheels and many of the windmills merely stand as silent reminders of the past, others have found new life showing us the past and yet useful in the present. At the Mount Irvine Bay Hotel, site of the former Mount Irvine estate, the windmill has been incorporated into the lobby of the hotel. Along Shirvan Road the Watermill Restaurant has the tables laid out under the cut stone roof of an abandoned watermill. At Courland Bay Estate, Grange Estate, Friendship Estate and Bon Accord the old windmills have been converted into houses.

 

 

Argyle Waterfall

Argyle Waterfall at 175 feet is the highest waterfall in Tobago. Located just outside Roxborough, the entrance to the waterfall is on the Windward Road and fairly easy to find as there is a large sign marking the entrance. Once at the booth and having paid the entrance fee of TT$30 per person, you are directed to an area for parking your vehicle and assigned a guide. Now some may ask why do they need a guide as the walk to the waterfall is not long about 15 - 20 minutes and the trail is well marked. The route to the waterfall is more of a nature walk than a trek and the guides provide information on the flora and fauna along the way enhancing the overall experience of a visit to these falls. The trail is an easy one, suitable for persons of all ages and the vegetation is lush giving the overall area a very tranquil feel. Along the way if you are lucky you may get to see several Blue-Crowned Motmot birds and these are truly beautiful to observe.

The waterfall descends in a series of steps with three large pools with the largest pool being at the base. Most individuals simply stay and enjoy the pool at the base, however if you are adventuresome and in explorer mode there is a trail at the side of the waterfall that enables you to ascend to the higher levels. The trail up the side of the waterfall is more difficult than the easy walk to get to the waterfall. At the second level there are a series of rock pools that you can lie in and let the cool water flow over you. Further up is the first pool that is not easily seen from the base of the falls because of its height but this pool is deep enough for swimming.

The waterfall is open to the public from 9am to 5pm daily. When taking a guide it is strongly recommended that you ask to see their official guide badge before departing from the booth so that you know that you are getting someone who is knowledgeable and safe.

 

Charlotteville Cocoa House

Charlotteville is a charming village on the northern tip of Tobago and as you descend to the village via the Windward Road you get to see the village spread out around the bay and hemmed in by the hills. At the foot of the road at the intersection of the Windward Road and the Northside Road lies the remains of an old "cocoa house". This simple structure underlies much of the history of the village and was an important element in the ultimate production of chocolate.

In 1865, Mr Joseph Turpin the Anglican Bishop of St Vincent, bought the two principal estates in the area which were the 1,800 acre ‘Charlotteville Estate” and the much smaller 150 acre “Pirates’ Bay Estate”. Mr Joseph Turpin remained in St Vincent and gave the estates to his son Adolphus (Edmond) Turpin and he in turn had managers to run the estates. The market for Tobago sugar was however in decline and the managers began to convert the estates to the production of cocoa, so that by 1900 they were fully cocoa estates.

Cocoa trees flower all year round however only between 1% and 3 % of the flowers develop into cocoa pods and in 6 months the pods are fully grown, growing directly from the trunk and main branches. At this point the pods are ready to be harvested with each pod containing between 40 and 50 beans surrounded by a thick pulp. The pods are usually left to rest for about three days and then cracked open to remove the beans and pulp which are placed in wooden trays. The pulp then needs to be removed from around the beans which led to the practice known as "Dancing the cocoa" where people would literally dance on the beans so that their feet remove the pulp from the beans. The combination of the feet and fermentation results in the pulp leaving the beans and after approximately seven days the beans are placed in drying trays for the heat of the sun to dry the beans. Being in a  tropical climate there is always the risk of rain which would ruin the drying process and so in a twist of ingenuity cocoa planters devised a method where either the drying trays were on runners or the roof of the cocoa house was on runners so that if rain threatened the trays could be pushed under the roof or the roof pushed over the trays.

Today in Charlotteville you can still see the cocoa house complete with runners to allow the cocoa beans to be put under cover.

 

With cocoa now being the predominant crop in the area there was need to transport it from the area and from 1901 to 1960 there was a coastal steamer service that made a stop in Charlotteville to collect the cocoa and other produce for transport to Trinidad. Eventually as the road from Speyside developed it became more important for the transport of the beans and eventually the coastal service ceased in 1960. By 1990, however it was determined that cocoa production was uneconomic and the estates plus the land occupied by tenant farmers ceased producing cocoa. The economic life of the village then began to depend more and more upon fishing and tourism.

Today there is a resurgence of interest in cocoa production in both Tobago and Trinidad and it may be that we will see a resurgence of cocoa production in Charlotteville.

 

Tobago_Goat_Racing

Tobago may be home to the only dedicated goat and crab racing facility in the world and indeed Tobago may be the goat racing capital of the world because on Tobago goat racing is a serious competitive sport.  
 
Goat Racing was started in Tobago in 1925 by Samuel Callender, who interestingly was not a Tobagonian but a Barbadian. Goat Racing was introduced as the poor man’s equivalent to the horse races, which was controlled by the "moneyed class". At the time, Good Friday and Easter Saturday were dedicated to marble pitching, Easter Sunday was a day of feasting, and Easter Monday was for horse racing. As a result Tobagonians created ‘Easter Tuesday’ in Tobago and dedicated it to the racing of goats for the entertainment of the ‘lower classes’. Horse racing no longer exists in Tobago and marble pitching no longer has its former prominence but goat racing has thrived. In recognition of the importance that Tobago places on goat racing, the Tobago House of Assembly has built a complex dedicated to goat racing.


 

 

The goat racing complex in the village of Buccoo has a main covered grandstand plus two other stands with seating for hundreds of spectators. These stands are designed so that everyone has a good view of the 100-yard grass track. The complex also has a reception and information tower, museum, craft booths, restaurant and bar, stables and car park.
 
In Tobago, not every goat is considered good enough to enter in the goat racing competitions because this is serious business with stables, owners, trainers and jockeys plus all the pride of winning and of course the embarrassment that comes from losing badly. Individuals very carefully select the goats that are used for racing and then begin the training. The animals are trained for at least two months prior to racing and during this period they learn to walk at increasing speeds until they’re running in front of the trainer with a rope round their neck as on race day. A swimming routine to build muscles is also a critical part of the training as is diet. The jockeys must also train for these races as they do not ride on the goats but must run alongside and be able to match the speed of their goats.
 
On Easter Tuesday, the village of Buccoo transforms itself from a sleepy seaside village into beehive of activity for the goat races. Large crowds attend the event and before each race the goats are paraded, with commentary indicating the race favourites, and then the goats and jockeys proceed to the starting gates. The jockeys, although they run barefooted, wear white silk shorts and brightly colored jerseys. While Easter Tuesday is the main day for goat races in Tobago, the popularity of the activity has led to it taking place at other times in the year during events such as the Tobago Heritage Festival. The nearby village of Mt. Pleasant has also begun to host goat races although they do not have a dedicated facility.
 
The other aspect of the Easter Tuesday activity in Buccoo is the crab races. In these races only the best bred and healthiest looking large blue crabs are entered in these races. The crabs are harnessed with a piece of string and then encouraged by much poking and prodding to run towards the finish line. These crab races generate almost as much energy and excitement as the goat races.

 

 

 

Tobago_Kite_Flying

December is kite flying season in Tobago. While in other islands, kite flying reaches its peak at Easter time, in Tobago the month of December is when kites really soar. Those strong steady winds that produce the waves which make December the best time for surfing in Tobago, also make December the peak time for kite flying in Tobago. Tobagonians like to put their kites in the air and then leave them flying for several days so that there is the constant sight of kites swaying in the wind. Accompanying the sight of the kite is the steady drone that the kites make because the most popular type of kite in Tobago is the mad bull kite. While factory made kites can be seen in Tobago, most people still make their own kites from scratch. Increasingly these home-made kites are done using plastic which allows the kites to stay aloft for several days, even in the rain.



 

Tobago's love of kite flying has led to several competitions being held with the largest kite flying competition being on January 1st on the Plymouth Recreation ground. Here children and adults come to show their skill at kite making and kite flying with all sizes of colourful kites being seen. In the large kite category teams are often required to get these kites aloft as some of these kites are over 12 feet in size and one person cannot hoist such a large kite. In addition, once the kite is in the air, it takes a strong person or several to hold onto the kite. In fact there have been instances where the kite hoisted the person aloft and many have taken to tying the kite to a post to prevent being dragged airborne. These teams are often organised by villages as everyone competes for the prizes but more importantly for the bragging rights that come with their village team having won the competition. You can see pictures of the 2010 Plymouth kite flying competition by visiting the Caribbean Outdoor Life Photo Gallery.

 

 

Snorkeling_with_Jazz

The Tobago Jazz Experience is organized by the Tobago House of Assembly in the last week in April of each year. This is one week to 10 days of music shows in Tobago. The highlights of the Jazz Experience are shows which feature local and international artists. While the shows with the international artists have an entrance fee many of the other shows are free. There are also several side events during the week and one of these side events is called Jazz on the Beach. Held on Mount Irvine Beach and organized and sponsored by the Mt Irvine Bay Hotel this show has been running for several years and is held on the Saturday and Sunday afternoon.
 
The location of Jazz on the Beach provides a beautiful ambiance, with the stage set on the sand, with almond trees providing shade for the listeners and the blue water of the sea as a type of side screen. This is a relaxed jazz experience with the audience generally clad in swimming clothes. While the music plays the audience sits or dances on the sand, bobs in the water or drifts on top the water admiring the beauty of the underwater world while enjoying the sounds of the jazz.
 
Mt Irvine Beach is a lovely beach for snorkeling. On the southern end of the beach just a few feet offshore is a coral reef so that with a few strokes you are over the reef. This reef is composed of scattered coral rock outcrops so there are canyons and valleys to explore. There are no waving sea fans or soft corals but hard corals throughout. During the Jazz sessions, the water near the shore gets full of people as many members of the audience take to the sea to enjoy the music while soaking in the salt water. Even during the jazz however there is sea life to observe, one simply has to move further out. On weekday mornings and indeed even on weekday afternoons this is a very quiet beach so the sea life can be found closer inshore.  On the northern end of the beach, part of the reef is raised above the water at low tide while at high tide the water covers most of the reef except the top. The northern end therefore also provides an area for snorkeling.


 

 

 

 

Sunday School is Clean

Every Sunday night there is a local affair in Buccoo Village Tobago that has been going on for decades. Known as Sunday School, this weekly street party is a key element of night time entertainment in south-western Tobago. Over the years Sunday School had degenerated into a dark hall that was a pickup point for tourists looking for local companionship against a backdrop of Jamaican dub music. However, Sunday School has rejuvenated itself and now compares favorably with other weekly Caribbean street parties such as Fish Friday in Gouyave Grenada, the Anse La Raye Fish Feast and the Gros Islet street party in St Lucia and the Friday night Fish Fry at Oistins in Barbados.

Buccoo is a small village in the south-west of Tobago known for its goat and crab races on Easter Tuesday and also as a location for boarding boats to view the Buccoo Reef. Buccoo village is however best known for Sunday School, which is a weekly event held every Sunday. Beginning from 8pm and lasting till after midnight, this street party brings the entire village to life. As you enter the village the shops and bars are open and there is a feeling of excitement in the air. As you proceed down the gentle hill there are craft and souvenir vendors on either side of the road and the excitement builds. Finally at the base of the hill with a backdrop of fishing boats gently bobbing in the water is the Buccoo Integrated Facility with the beach side facilities and the heart of the action.

Sunday School is a party and no party would be complete without music. In Buccoo’s Sunday School, music and dancing are the main highlight of the evening. Every Sunday night in the courtyard of the Buccoo Integrated Facility there is live steel band music and people sit and listen to the band and couples dance under the stars. Later when the players take their rest, the D.J. provides the music.

The music, the tang of the salt air, the gentle breezes and the star light all combine to create an enjoyable ambiance. The mixed crowd of Tobagonians, Trinidadians and foreign tourists mingle freely enjoying the night. So that besides the music the people watching is fantastic. As the night wears on and the area fills you can stand on the side walks and watch the passing parade of people and cars.

Whenever you are thirsty obtaining liquid refreshment is easy as every bar in the vicinity is open. If at any point in the night you feel for a bite, the restaurant on the upper floor of the Buccoo Integrated Facility is open and there is an array of food vendors with a variety of meals on offer. If you do not want a heavy meal, ice cream and other local snacks are easily acquired.

So the next time you are in Tobago go on down to Sunday School. Its clean, its free and its open air.

 

 

 

Moravian Churches

The Moravian church was established in Tobago in the 1780’s when a plantation owner, Mr. John Hamilton with the support of the French Governor Comte Dillon,  invited the church to send missionaries to preach to his slaves. According to Douglas Archibald in his book, Tobago Melancholy Isle, in 1789 the church sent John Montgomery in April 1790. Unfortunately in October 1790 his wife, Mary, died and worn out from his efforts Mr Montgomery left Tobago in 1791. In 1792, Mr. Hamilton continued his efforts to get the Moravians established but that second attempt failed. In 1798 a third attempt failed until finally in 1827 a Moravian church was established in Montgomery which lies in the middle of the villages of Mount Irvine, Riseland, Bethel and Old Grange.

From its start in 1827, the Moravians (United Brethren) went on to establish churches at Mount Pleasant (1839), Moriah (1840) Bon Accord (1861) Back Bay (1958) Black Rock (1869) Bethesda (1874) Buccoo (1996). The Moravian Church is particularly noteworthy for the fact that it came to Tobago to provide Christian teachings to the slaves. It was one of the first religious bodies to establish primary and secondary schools in the West Indies for slaves.

Today in the village of Montgomery a Moravian Church still stands on a beautiful hilltop with a view of the villages all around and the ocean in the distance. The Montgomery church has been rebuilt as a modern concrete building but in the villages of Spring Garden and Black Rock, two of the earlier wooden churches still exist.

The Spring Garden Moravian Church is over 100 years with the original building being constructed in 1852 on the ruins of an old sugar factory. Although the church has constructed a new concrete church building the original church building still stands on the grounds and is used as a sanctuary and corrective learning center. The Spring Garden Moravian Church is very easy to find as one simply turns onto the Orange Hill Road at the intersection with the Claude Noel Highway (the intersection with the NP Gas Station) and drives for 5 minutes along that road.

 

The other wooden Moravian Church is in the village of Black Rock and is in better physical condition than the Spring Garden church. The Black Rock Moravian Church was built in 1869 but in 2003 the church underwent a restoration process and in 2009, the church won an award from the Tobago House of Assembly for the Best Historic Restoration Project (Small). The Black Rock Moravian Church is easily found as it is visible from the main road.

 

 

 

Tobago Forts

Colonial era fortifications are always a tourist attraction throughout the Caribbean. In Tobago, Fort King George is the best known of such forts. Fort King George however is not the only military structure that you can see in Tobago. Many of these other forts still remain and are scattered all over the island. It seems that wherever you stay in Tobago there is a fort near you.

On the westernmost tip of the island near to the Crown Point airport lies Fort Milford, with its cannons still also pointing out to sea. Built in 1642 by Dutch settlers the fort derived its name from the town of Milford that had been planned for the area where the airport is now located. Originally called Belle Vista, the fort still provides pleasant views and is an enjoyable place to relax and watch the sunset.

 

 

The Black Rock area provides the opportunity to explore the remains of Fort Bennet, which was originally constructed in 1680 by the Courlanders from Latvia. The settlers were headed by an English mercenary named Lt. Robert Bennet, after whom the fort was named. It was abandoned in 1681 as Amerindian aggression drove the settlers from the area. In 1778, the British rebuilt the fort as protection from privateers for the sugar cargoes that were shipped from that area. The area around Fort Bennet now provides magnificent views of Turtle Beach and Grafton Beach.

 

 

Betsey’s Hope is an interesting name as it is not the type of name that you would normally associate with a military fort. Yet there is a fort at Betsey’s Hope on the Windward Road between Belle Garden and Roxborough. Betsey it turns out was the wife of one of the slave masters and she had hoped that slavery would be abolished. The village that developed around the 600 acre estate drew its name from her. The estate was on the sea at Queen’s Bay and in the 1700’s piracy plus attacks by foreign nations was to be feared, so a military battery was erected to protect the estate.

It seems that wherever you go in Tobago there are forts throughout from Charlotteville to Plymouth to Studley Park.

 

Fort Milford

It is said that Tobago was the most fought over island in the Caribbean, changing hands 31 times. As a result of the numerous battles for Tobago, forts were erected at many points around the island and the remnants of many of these can still be found on the island, with Fort King George being the best preserved. One of the easiest fortifications for visitors to observe is Fort Milford being located a few minutes’ walk from the airport at Crown Point.

Built in 1642 by Dutch settlers the fort derived its name from the town of Milford that had been planned for the area where the airport is now located. The Dutch presence in Tobago goes back to the 1620s. They wanted Tobago as a first base for their excursions into Guyana, where they were creating colonies on the Demerara and Essequibo Rivers.  From about 1770 the British army maintained a picket post there and the militia manned a two cannon battery on the site until the island fell to the French in 1781. As part of the American War of Independence, the French had joined the war on the side of the Americans and in May 1781 they sent a fleet under the command of the Comte de Grasse to attack Tobago. The French landed troops commanded by the Marquis de Boullie and captured the island on 2nd June 1781. In 1793, the British re-conquered Tobago.

In 1811, the British enhanced the fortifications at Fort Milford. This work on the Fort was meant to help protect the sugar industry which was extremely profitable at the time. The British maintained a garrison at Fort Milford until 1854 when they withdrew troops from the island of Tobago.

 

Originally Fort Milford was called Belle Vista and even today it lives up to that name with a wonderful view of Store Bay.  Nowadays, most visitors come to stroll around the peaceful gardens, which are well maintained, observe the old fort walls that are made of cut coral limestone, see the cannons that still point out to sea and enjoy the tranquility and views. With the added benefit of a security officer stationed at the fort during the day, Fort Milford is an enjoyable place to relax and watch the sunset.

 

 

 

Casual Tobago Cycling

Going cycling in Tobago is easy and almost every area is good for cycling plus bicycles are easy to rent, especially in the Crown Point area. Adding bicycling to your holiday itinerary is a wonderful way to get some exercise plus see parts of the country. Because of the slower pace at which you move, having a ride on a bicycle often allows you to see items that you often would have missed.

In this article we highlight some areas around the more popular vacation areas in Tobago where you can go cycling while on holiday in Tobago

Crown Point
The Crown Point area is the section of Tobago where the majority of persons on holiday spend their vacation. Being composed of mostly flat land, this part of Tobago is the easiest to ride for someone looking for a casual bicycle ride. From the airport you can cycle around the airport perimeter and down a slight incline to the beach. At the beach you can stop and look at the airplanes on their final approach to the runway. As you continue along, the road runs parallel to the airport runway and there are several side traces, all of which lead to Kilgwyn Bay.

Storebay Local Road
Storebay Local Road is located just outside the entrance to the airport and is a long straight stretch of flat road with many of the smaller apartment hotels along the road. At the eastern end of the road, the paved section ends but the road continues with packed earth and gravel. At the end of this road there is another road on the right that leads down through Kilgwyn Swamp. Continuing along this road gives you the opportunity to see several species of swamp birds such as hummingbirds, herons, jacanas and egrets. Eventually the road through the swamp ends on beautiful Kilgwyn Beach.

Pigeon Point
The road leading into Pigeon Point is bordered on one side by the sea and on the other side by a mangrove swamp. This road always provides an interesting casual ride as scattered along the sea side are vendors of various local craft items, while in the water can be seen yachts and fishing boats. At different times during the day, usually in the mornings and early evenings, local fishermen return to the shore with their catch of fresh fish and lobster. As Pigeon Point is on the western side of Tobago in the evenings you are often treated to the sight of a magnificent sunset.

Bon Accord Wetlands
A ride through the Bon Accord wetlands is a great way to combine gentle bicycling with some bird watching. This area is probably the top location to see some of Tobago's wetland bird species. In this area are often found Whistling Ducks, Red-hooded Woodpecker, Great Egrets, Black-Crowned Night Herons and others. The ride takes you through a developed area of holiday homes and then on to the undeveloped section which is a wetland area bordering on the sea. To get to the Bon Accord wetlands you can turn off the Claude Noel Highway at several points – Bon Accord Estate Road or Alfred Walk or Shade Road.

Cove
Further along the Claude Noel Highway heading from the airport to Scarborough is a sign indicating the entrance to the Cove Industrial Estate. An industrial estate is not somewhere that many people would first think of as a place for a relaxing bicycle ride yet this industrial estate is such a location. The road leading into the estate is a long straight road bordered by tall trees with grassy open areas behind. Along this road is the entrance to Canoe Bay Resort. At the end of the road is the TTEC Electricity Generation plant but one can go past the plant along a gravel road and continue in the wooded area. This area is cool and peaceful in the early mornings. A similar ride can be done using Friendship Road which is just before the Cove Estate Road.

Lambeau
Beginning at the edge of the Tobago Plantations Resort at the Claude Noel Highway is the Lambeau Old Road (some persons call this the Milford Road) and cycling along this road is a wonderful ride along the edge of the ocean with coconut palms and a strong breeze coming in off the ocean plus scenes of windsurfers moving along the wave tops. Lambeau Road eventually climbs an incline and goes through Lambeau village before descending again to the sea. One can continue along this road until the edge of Scarborough.

Shirvan-Buccoo Road
While the Shirvan Road can be busy at times with cars zipping past it can still be an enjoyable ride if one does not mind the occasional car speeding past. The section of this road that goes past the Mount Irvine Golf Course and then down to Grange Beach climbing to the entrance to the Mount Irvine Hotel and then down again to Mount Irvine Beach can be very pleasant in the early mornings with the views of the golf course and then the sea. Another enjoyable section of this road is the area beginning around Grafton Hotel.  As part of your ride you can follow the signs on the Buccoo Road down to Fort Bennet to see the remains of an old fort and then back onto Buccoo Road and through the village of Black Rock and going past Turtle Beach Hotel along a long stretch with its coconut trees and azure blue ocean until the entrance to Plymouth village

Buccoo Road
This ride can be started at the three way intersection of Shirvan Road, Belmar Trace and Buccoo Road on the corner where Me Shells Restaurant is located. This road goes through the flat area containing the village of Mt Pleasant and into the village of Carnbee. As you go through this area you see the typical village life of Tobago with small shops and vegetable stalls, the area where the steelband practices and the village football field.

Golden Grove Road
Off Shirvan Road is Golden Grove Road, which winds down through a cool forested area with small streams flowing through the area and then goes past the Latour Farm with its herd of red Hope cattle. At the southern end of Golden Grove Road it joins onto the Claude Noel Highway however before the junction with the Highway one can swing onto the various side streets and explore the back areas in Caanan Village. 

Buccoo Bay Road
A short but interesting ride is to go along Buccoo Bay Road which starts on the Shirvan Road at the edge of the Mount Irvine Golf Course and runs gently down hill and goes past the Tobago goat racing complex and then past Buccoo Bay with its fishing boats bobbing on the sheltered waters of this bay. Continuing past the bay, the road goes up a short incline and leads to a promontory overlooking the ocean.


While each of these riding areas has been described separately, one of the many nice things about Tobago is that depending upon how much exertion you want to engage in you can combine several of these rides to extend your cycling.

 

 

 

To learn more about Tobago, visit our other Tobago Pages:

bulletAn Introduction to Tobago
bulletTobago Places of Interest
bulletTobago Birding Hotspots
bulletTobago Kayaking
bulletTobago Beaches
bulletTobago Snorkelling
bulletTobago Camping
bulletTurtle watching in Tobago
bulletTobago Surfing

 

 

 

 


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Last modified: May 03, 2017