We rolled up at dusk at Cobblers Cove, which is the best time for your first time.
It’s a good light on anybody, but a Barbadian sunset as you crumble down a ramshackle lane in an air-conned SUV across blobs of sand and bits of palm blown in off the beach that’s right there, past sun-bleached beach bars and sea-facing mansions faded by years of sun and make-shift stalls piled high with coconuts and yams, towards the pink-on-pink-on-pink Cobblers Cove – just Cobblers to its mates – all twinkly in the mottled early evening air, just… gets you right there. Especially when you’re met with a post-pandemic hug and an even bigger mauby – which isn’t a typo, but a drink made from the bark of the Mauby tree with cinnamon, orange peel, nutmeg and cloves. It’s practically a health drink, even with a couple of shots of rum thrown in. I mean, when in Barbados.
Will’s the man to know round here. Not only because he’s, like, in charge, but because, of all the hob-nobs who like to hob-nob round Cobblers, he’s the hobbiest-nobbiest of them all. Because Cobblers is quite the thing. People come from far and wide, and less far and wide, to this 1940’s mansion that was converted into a hotel back in 1968 by Alan and Lady Elizabeth Gospal – who sound like they knew what they were doing, right? – from the locals who swing by for a drink and a chinwag to the repeat holidayers who’ve been coming longer than lots of people have been alive. Such is the draw of this bright-eyed palace of pleasure and general lolling around in the sun, with the garrulous and whole-load-of-fun Will emceeing it all with panache and kicky shirts.
And they’re also not afraid of colour round here. Pink is the main attraction, then we’re talking a sunshine-happy palette of hi-res blues and whites and off-whites and dustier blues and reds and all the greens, pattern on pattern and stripes on stripes. From the wraparound wallpaper in your totally-homely suite to the parasols giving you shade over those sun loungers you’ve got your eye on, from crisp lawns brushing up against the twinkling swimming pool to the floaty fabrics in Liberty-style printed fabrics that catch the Caribbean breeze just so. It’s bright, it’s breezy, it says holiday at every turn, if you turn the other way it says joie de the best vivres of your life. It’s like Laura Ashley’s been on a particularly spectacular bender. Or Ralph Lauren after an edible. You know, classy and zingy but so much fun.
And waking up in Cobblers is a treat all of its own. Because I don’t know about you, but I like getting up with the sun, even if the night before has something to say about it. It’s that light-streaming-in thing, nature’s wake-up call that puts you in the right mood even before your morning mimosa. And there are a million-and-odd podcasts and TEDs and mothers who tell you that getting up early is the key to success/happiness/glossy hair.
Then that spring in your step will take you over to breakfast – via spongy grass and hiccupping grasshoppers and sun dappled through palms – to breakfast by the sea. You know, the Caribbean Sea, your bit of the Caribbean Sea with Cobblers’ own private beach. For fruit and seeds and nuts, if you’re saving your calories for cocktails by the pool like some of us I can mention, or homemade banana bread, crepes with agape chocolate and a full English if you’re not, like some other people I can mention. And there are toddler-sized water pistols at your breakfast table. It’s not quite clear if they’re for trouble-shooting the pesky parrots, who’ve developed a taste for melon and smashed avocado, or gratuitous fun, though the latter suits this place better. Like fun can ever be gratuitous!
Then the rest is up to you. There’s paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkelling and sailing. You can take a boat trip along the coast, or you can just loll by the pool. You can go for a hike (don’t be daft) or play tennis at the courts across the road, or stick around for a boozy lunch of coconut corn fritters and curried eggplant at The Camelot – Cobblers’ laid-back restaurant that still has people talking – then maybe sundowners at 1.11 East just down the road for a change of scenery.
Or that hidden beach round the corner, via a dinky boat that’ll whip your hair right up just in time for a BBQ on the sand. And if you’re lucky you’ll get one of the sultry downpours that are par-for-the-weather in these parts that lasts six, seven minutes and cools down that sunburnt nose of yours as you’re legging it into the sea to get drenched in all the right ways. It’s like Madonna’s Cherish video round here.
Local musicians will pitch up, probably, playing the greatest hits of reggae on steel drums, because people pay good money for their cliches, and the smell of singed meat and scorched sweetcorn and sweet, sweet rum will soak the air. These are not shy and retiring BBQs, they are Bajan BBQs with hurly and burly for days.
Oh, and we should tell you about the pool party sometime, if we could only remember it.
Cobblers is a special place. If you’ve been, you’d’ve gone all evangelical on everyone’s ass already. If you haven’t been, there are To Do lists for these things. Legendary for a reason, 50-odd years of knowing exactly what they’re doing has created one of the world’s most iconic hotels, and ‘iconic’ isn’t something we throw around willy and/or nilly. You’ve gotta earn that lofty status and create a world that people want to be part of and, lucky for us, Cobblers has gone and done it. And we’ll drink another mauby to that.