After exploring the east of Antigua, and spending some time on Half Moon Bay, I cycle along the coastline and over some hills to reach Shirley Heights. As the name suggests, this place is higher up, and after tackling yet another climb on my mountain bike, I reach the entrance booth where I pay an entrance ticket. A little further up, I arrive at the top of the hill where the British built a small defensive structure. In a newer building, I get an explanation about the history of Antigua, and I then view the small exhibit with items rescued from the area. The views from the ruined walls are fantastic: the beautiful coastline of Antigua, with all its bays and inlets, lies at my feet, and English Harbour just below me. Before going there, though, I continue cycling for a visit to Blockhouse Hill, where I find extensive ruins of officer's quarters from the late 18th century. Right now, a large family of goats seems to have overtaken the ruins. It is here that I get a flat tyre, and I fix it in the shadow of a wall of the ruins. A little more west is Shirley Heights, with more ruins and a viewpoint with remarkable views of English Harbour and the unique coastline of Antigua.
After a pleasant descent of the hill I had cycled up before, I take a shortcut at the cemetery and cycle the narrow stretch of land that separates Nelson's Dockyard from Falmouth Harbour, and soon arrive at a boomgate where I park my bike. Armed with a leaflet from the information centre, I explore Nelson's Dockyard, the primary sight of Antigua. The British established the dockyard at this natural deepwater harbour, which is also well protected against hurricanes due to its narrow entrance and natural setting. The dockyard provided the British with a regional careening centre for their maritime vessels, and it hence became the most important harbour for the eastern Caribbean. Their value for the British lied mostly in the sugar and spice trade, which needed to be protected against pirates and other European powers. Built in the early 18th century, the dockyard closed in 1889. It was reopened in 1961 and is used again for its original purpose. Instead of the maintenance of royal vessels and warships, it now accommodates yachts, and has been dubbed the only working Georgian dockyard in the world.
Walking around Nelson's Dockyard feels like walking in a quiet seaside village. The grand Georgian buildings all look good and impressive, and all have found new functions. The Admiral's House has been turned into a museum, while the Copper and Lumber store has been converted to a hotel. Other buildings now house shops, a pharmacy, and restaurants. The original capstans, used to haul the ships on their side so they could be cleaned, are still there, as is a sundial. It is hurricane season, and there are virtually no ships, but I am told that in the right season, English Harbour is still full of yachts. From the far end of Nelson's Dockyard, I walk to Fort Berkeley, a small defensive structure to defend the entrance to English Harbour. From there, I hike up the hill, which gives me great views of English Harbour, as well as Shirley Heights, and the bays further west. I descend to Nelson's Dockyard again, stroll through the Georgian dockyard again, and pick up my bike for my ride back to Five Islands.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from English Harbour (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to English Harbour.
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