It’s not all about the beach in Antigua… here are our top picks for historical sites for getting off the beach and under the skin of Antigua.
Devil’s Bridge, a natual rock arch in eastern Antigua is located outside the village of Willikies, offers a stunning glimpse into Antigua’s natural formation. Composed of limestone rock, the rugged terrain of Devil’s Bridge is the result of millions of years of ancient reef formation. For hundreds of thousands of years, the Atlantic’s waves have crashed into the east coast of Antigua creating a natural arch, or bridge. Numerous geysers and blowholes surround the arch as waves continually break against the coastal rocks. In addition to being a natural phenomenon, Devil’s Bridge also holds cultural importance in Antiguan history. A prehistoric, Amerindian site is located within its vicinity and suggests that prehistoric peoples may have used the area for fishing and settlement. Though popular belief suggests slaves leapt to their death off of the natural arch during the period of slavery in Antigua, these stories have no historical evidence to support them. Still, Devil’s Bridge gets its name from these myths as the stories contend the devil claimed those who leapt off the bridge.
GREEN CASTLE HILL
Green Castle Hill peaks at 565 feet above sea level, making it one of the tallest hills on the island. Located near the village of Jennings, approximately 3 miles south of St. John’s, Green Castle Hill is accessible only by hiking and it is recommended only experienced hikers trek up the hillsides. Green Castle Hill is the remnant of an isolated volcano and, at the beginning of the Oligocene geologic period, the volcano would have been exposed to the ocean and waves would have affected the formation of rocks. As the volcanic substance cooled, the rocks would have formed into column-like shapes within the volcano. Thousands of years of erosion have exposed these volcanic rock faces resulting in a variety of boulders of different shapes and sizes. Thus, it is widely believed that the rocks atop Green Castle Hill are natural rock formations. However, evidence of Amerindian activity at Green Castle Hill has been discovered in archaeological research. Therefore, prehistoric peoples may have viewed the hilltop as ritually important and used the natural rock formations in their own cultural practices.
Fort Barrington, named for the Admiral who fortified the fort in 1779, safeguarded St. John’s Harbour during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Not only did the fort guard St. John’s Harbour, but it also served as an important signal station to alert forces throughout the island of impending attacks. Fort Barrington is the only fort that saw military action in Antigua. Fort Barrington served as a military defence post beginning in the seventeenth century. In 1652 Prince Rupert, the first member of the Royal Family to visit the West Indies captured the fort in an attempt to claim Antigua for the Royalists. In 1666, the French invaded Deep Bay and captured Fort Barrington so quickly the English soldiers fled the fort with the Royal flag still flying. In 1790, the fort was reinforced to forestall additional attacks by French forces. Today the remains of Fort Barrington include a powder magazine and a gun platform that held eight guns. The fort provides magnificent views of St. John’s Harbour and Deep Bay.
FORT CHARLOTTE AND THE PILLARS OF HERCULES
Fort Charlotte is situated on the headland that the pillars support as part of what is known as the Charlotte Peninsula. Gorgeous beaches surround the headland; Galleon Beach being one, with its golden sand, lapping waves, beach bar and plenty of space for beach barbecues, this is the perfect mix with a historical and cultural visit to Fort Charlotte. The Charlotte Reef, home of Carpenter Rock with its tantalisingly turquoise ocean and fabulous formations of rocks and rock pools. The Pillars of Hercules are a much recommended spot for snorkelling and scuba diving. Standing at 50 metres (165 feet), this is a great spot for both novices and experts. For novices it isn’t too deep (45 metres / 145 feet) and the visibility is clear (30 metres / 100 feet). For experts there is plenty of rare marine life to spot. Alongside the beautiful coral and sponge growth you will find loads of coral encrusted boulders that create fantastic swim passages. It is known to contain rare fish such as the Tritons Horn, Sergeant Majors, Blue Tang and Snappers. There is never anything but praise for the Pillars of Hercules as a diving site and if you are into diving, it is strongly recommended you give Fort Charlotte a go to gain a real taste of what the island has to offer.