Grande dame hotels of the Caribbean

Coral Reef Club, Barbados

Padding bare-footed around 12 acres of landscaped gardens, I can just about hear the familiar sound of tennis ball on racquet, but I am under no illusion that we are in England. There are hummingbirds and turtles, and not a sniff of spaniels or sparrows. I’m also wearing flip-flops whilst maintaining sensation in all of my toes. And yet there is something inescapably British about Coral Reef Club.

Wooden balustrading and shuttered windows give the place a colonial feel, affirmed by the suites, each owing its name to a different local plantation, all once owned by British families. Elegantly decorated and pleasingly secluded, the plantation suites come complete with private balcony and personal plunge pool. The service, too, would not be out of place in a bygone English era-unerring but never effusive.

Set on Barbados’ west coast, the sea is calm and blue, and the beach is unblemished white. There are 88 rooms, cottages and suites, but you’d never know it-even at supper, everything is calm, quiet and understated. For moments of indulgence the spa is first rate, amusingly enhanced by the monkeys, who leap about in front of the windows of each treatment room, as though putting on a show.

For those with energy to burn, nightly tennis coaching with a resident professional is complimentary, and two 18-hole golf courses lie less than five minutes away. Twice weekly garden tours provide a fascinating insight into the history of both the plants and the wildlife surrounding the hotel.

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(0 246 422 2372; British Airways offer seven nights at 5* Coral Reef Club in Barbados from £1,699 per person, based on two people sharing, for travel in October. Price includes return flights from Heathrow and accommodation with breakfast. Visit or call 0844 4930758

 The Coral Reef Club beach

Ottley’s Plantation Inn, St Kitt’s

Flagstones and stone walls surround the pool and restaurant overlooking the surprisingly green island of St Kitt’s. Set on a hilltop, the scattering of houses below the hotel’s woodland is reminiscent of a medieval township. The wood itself is actually more of a jungle, but the walks are a fantastic adventure, lush with vegetation and wildlife.

The gardens are beautifully manicured, which is useful for both admiring the surprising array of flowers in the beds, and playing croquet-the perfect way to spend a lazy afternoon-there’s even Pimm’s. Family-owned and run, it’s like staying in someone’s home. Rooms from £115 a night (001 869 465 7234;

St Kitts from the water

The Cotton House, Mustique
The beauty of this hotel is that it doesn’t feel like one. Each suite is a self-contained cottage, so although the service is impeccable, it’s easy to forget that anyone else is around. The bird sanctuary is incredible, and for those who enjoy exotic avians, surprisingly exciting. The finishing touches are tastefully colonial-deep sofas, ceramic teapots, English breakfast tea, British newspapers. You can also ride, walk, play golf, fish and sail. The master suite comes with its own butler, which, while indulgent, doesn’t prevent you from pottering comfortably about (001 784 456 4777;

Carlisle Bay, Antigua

Set in a sheltered pocket of Antigua, the waters off Carlisle Bay’s private coastline barely ripple. But then you’d expect no less from the impeccable planning of renowned hotelier Gordon Campbell Gray-it is his influence that makes this such a British hotel. Original art and photography throughout feel like a collection, rather than an adornment. The library is modern, but the content is classic-Robinson Crusoe seemed apt. The front of the rooms take in the ocean, while the rear soak up a mangrove lagoon, teeming with wildlife. The rainforest comes right up to the doorstep. Rooms from £410 a night (001 268 484 0000;

A room with a view at Carlisle Bay, Antigua

The Great House, Barbados

A house, not a hotel, that sleeps up to 20 people, the Great House is fully staffed, with all the service and hospitality you’d expect from a hotel, but decorated and kept like a home. Each room is individually furnished, there is a piano, a cobbled courtyard and a wealth of hidden spots around the garden to sit, sunbathe and think. They also offers cookery lessons, wine tastings and cocktail parties. On the edge of Turtle Beach, steps at the end of the garden lead to the sea, which is strewn with incredible coral. Rates on request (001 246 422 2787;

The windy east coast of Barbados