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RUM OF THE ISLAND; Head to the secret east of Barbados and you'll have the..

Byline: WILL HIDE

SLURPING a bowl of breadfruit soup at the Round House Inn, I was pretty sure Simon Cowell or Jeremy Clarkson would not be joining me for lunch, even though I was on one of their favourite islands, Barbados.

Not that there was anything wrong with the restaurant. It was all down to its location at Bathsheba on the island's unspoilt, uncrowded east coast - a side most visitors don't usually bother to see.

When the A-list celebs jet here from London they not only turn left on the plane, they turn left when they arrive too, heading for the small Caribbean island's "Platinum coast" to the west, with its glitzy hotels and millpond-calm sea. Others with slimmer wallets head south to lively St Lawrence Gap with its fun restaurants and bars.

But ever since I first came to Barbados 30 years ago, I've always headed east to the friendly, less touristy parishes of St Philip, St John and St Joseph. Even if you just hire a car for a day it's worth exploring the raw natural beauty you will find here.

Head Back in 1887, what is now the Crane Resort was east and the island's first hotel, now there's a shopping village, six outdoor pools and even a sushi restaurant. But its main draw is that it is perched on cliffs overlooking what must be one the Caribbean's finest pink-sand beaches. The sea here isn't as flat as a pancake but c o m e s b a r r e l -ling in from the Atlantic and can k n o c k you off your feet if you don't watch out. The trick is to dive under the large waves as they are about to topple in front of you or take a boogie-board and ride them. One thing's for sure, once back in your room, you'll discover sand gets everywhere!

OF From here you can head to a couple of the island's prettiest beaches tourists hardly ever reach - Bottom Bay and Foul Bay. Savvy locals must have christened Foul Bay with tongue firmly in cheek to keep it to themselves.

It would be hard to imagine a more lovely stretch of beach anywhere with its long expanse of golden sand. Bottom Bay, slightly further up the coast, is hidden at the end of a poorly-signed drive and then down steps carved into the coral cliffs. Once there it's likely you will have it all to yourself.

If you want to explore further, but don't want to hire a car, hop on one of the frequent local buses (fares around 50c). For a sedate trip choose the governmentrun blue ones with a yellow stripe down the side.

If you prefer music on your travels, go for a private one which are yellow with a blue stripe and move to a calypso beat.

On an Island Safari Land Rover our group of six drove at a leisurely pace past rippling sugar cane fields, smelly breadfruit trees, 100ft cabbage palms, mahogany trees and rum shops with names like Dr-T's Bar and Grill.

Cresting a hill we peered down on Bathsheba beach where gnarly surfers were riding the impressive waves. But you need to be in the know on this stretch of coast as strong rip currents can pull you out into the ocean, so swimming is only recommended in a few spots.

A little further up the coast is St Nicholas Abbey in the parish of St Peter, actually an old colonial stately home built in 1660, and well worth a visit. Apart from the house, there are beautiful gardens and a rum and sugar museum tracing the plantation's history including records of slaves shipped from West Africa.

The abbey still makes its own rum which, along with a decanter with a mahoganywood cork and personalised engraving makes a lasting souvenir. Turning south again, we paused to take in the awesome views from the top of the rolling hills overlooking the stretch of coast known as Cattlewash, and the brisk ocean breezes. We halted for a late lunch at the Round House near the beach in Bathsheba, bagging an outside table watching hummingbirds dart about.

After my breadfruit soup I tucked into grilled mahi mahi fillet (somewhat disconcertingly called dolphin in Barbados) with macaroni and salad - all washed down with a rum punch for EUR15.

And there was no sign of Cilla Black or Michael Winner checkin g out the coconut pie with brown sugar and ice cream.

It does seem strange that few tourists - celebs or otherwise, bother to explore an island that measures just 21 miles by 14 miles. Perhaps the attractions of a pina colada and a good book are too much to shift some folks away from their sun lounger.

But you only need a day to pootle around the lanes of eastern Barbados and get to know the Caribbean island.

What's the deal?

ISLAND Safaris (www.islandsafari.bb, 0044 1 246 429 5337) have tours starting at EUR38pp.

CAPTION(S):

Crane Resort perched on the cliffs overlooking the sea You'll have beaches to yourself on the east coast of Barbados Crane Beach has one of the finest stretches of pink sand in the whole Caribbean
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:5BARB
Date:Jan 23, 2011
Words:873
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