Centuries-old Grenada estate is re-created into splendid weekend retreat where past and present meet.

A visit to Mount Edgecombe Estate hidden away in the mountains of St Mark’s parish overlooking the west coast of Grenada is to take a step back in time. The long, narrow and winding road leading to the remote estate enhances this impression. The sights and sounds of modern fast-paced life recede, replaced by the peace and tranquillity of nature: lush vegetation, wind in the trees, birdsong, the aroma of cocoa pods drying in the sun, the perfume of fragrant flowers. The first glimpse of the secluded Great House is at once romantic and slightly mysterious. Surely arrival by horse and carriage would be more appropriate than the inevitable SUV.

Built by Lord Edgecombe of Devon in the late 1700s, Mount Edgecombe Great House is a fine example of a traditional colonial plantation house. Over the centuries it has had several different owners and seen many changes in fortune, both natural and man-made. But despite hurricanes and economic turmoil, it has survived. Eight years ago, the estate was acquired by international entrepreneur and philanthropist Peter de Savary who set about restoring it into a private weekend retreat. In what is essentially a family home, the somewhat unprepossessing entrance hall on the ground floor of the Great House leads into a snooker room off which is a den or guest suite and outdoor terrace.

A simple wooden staircase leads to the first floor. An expansive veranda with fretwork trimmings and generously proportioned chairs and couches invite lounging and soaking up the view of the distant ocean glimpsed through the trees. Inside you’ll find rooms tastefully furnished in traditional and contemporary country home style. Modern pieces sit cheek by jowl with treasured antiques and family heirlooms. Persian rugs on wooden floors complement chintzy wing-backed arm chairs and contemporary sectional upholstered sofas; recent family photographs are displayed on occasional tables and sideboards, historic framed prints and antique tapestries adorn the walls.

Three bedrooms are located off the drawing room, one with deep red walls, dark mahogany four -poster bed and cheval mirrors, another with an antique sleigh bed draped with soft white mosquito netting. The third is perfectly outfitted for children with brightly coloured coverlets and curtains. Bathrooms feature claw-foot tubs mounted on platforms as well as contemporary shower stalls. Despite the modern plumbing, you are nevertheless transported to a bygone age. You almost expect your personal maid or valet to appear with ewers of water and soft sponges. Wide windows in all the rooms offer views of the gardens while traditional wooden jalousies let in cool air at all times. As in many houses of the era, dividing walls do not go right up to the ceiling, to allow for good ventilation and air circulation. However, modern technology comes to the rescue on hot and humid days when not a leaf is stirring outside. Through the installation of cleverly concealed air conditioning units, the bedrooms are kept cool and comfortable.

A small study/family room separates the bedrooms from the large family-style kitchen. Here, a long wooden table with seating for 10 is centred beneath hanging pots and pans; granite counters gleam and no one could complain about the amount of cupboard space. All mod cons are present: cooker, dishwasher, microwave, toaster oven. Blue accent pieces sparkle against the white paint work. You can almost smell the coffee perking and the bacon and eggs frying. Just outside the kitchen door, a wide open-air patio shaded by fruit trees offers an alternative dining area.

Not far away you may hear the cheerful clucking of chickens or proud crowing of a rooster. Mount Edgecombe is, after all, still a working estate and your eggs, fruit and fresh produce are all grown right here. Accommodation at Mount Edgecombe has been enhanced by the addition of the Long House. Once the cocoa-drying shed, the upper level of the building with its open ceilings contains two very spacious en suite guestrooms at either end. In the centre, an “entertaining kitchen’’ with cheerful blue and white tiled counters has a large centre island that’s just perfect for gathering around the cook.

The original purpose of the Long House has not been totally abandoned, however. Beneath the floors large cocoa-drying trays are stored. After harvesting, these are filled with the aromatic pods and pulled out during the day to dry in the warm sunshine. To complete the weekend country getaway experience, there is the magnificent Great Room accessed from the adjacent Long House through a covered walkway with its signature stream flowing from an ancient copper tache. Open sided with wooden fretwork railings, high ceilings from which hang rustic chandeliers, and a wide veranda, the Great Room brings the outdoors in. Twisted sun-bleached driftwood pieces rest on overhead rafters, ferns fill stone urns. An expansive dining table, casual seating areas, traditional Berbice chairs and attractive wicker sofas invite you to linger. Perhaps, on the open deck in the sunshine by day or surrounded by moonlight and darting fireflies at night.

Just two steps away is the Pool Terrace with its magical double infinity pool and waterfall feature. The piece de resistance here is the breathtaking view. Acres and acres of tropical rainforest leading to the shining blue Caribbean Sea. At sunset even the most jaded will go: “Wow!’’ Thirty acres of spice and fruit trees surround the buildings and include mango, banana, plum, cherry, cocoa, golden apple, guava, grapefruit, carambola and soursop. Many specimens of flowering ornamental trees and other exotic plants fill the manicured gardens.

The estate is still a working one, albeit on a smaller scale than in past times. Nevertheless, it is able to supply Mount Cinnamon Hotel at Grand Anse (also a de Savary property), with eggs, fresh fruit and herbs as well as beautiful tropical flowers.

Guests at Mount Cinnamon Hotel have the option of visiting Mount Edgecombe at pre-arranged times for picnics or as part of an island tour. It is also a popular and picturesque spot for a garden wedding or special occasion. The entire property may also be rented at US$13,000 and US$14,000 per day, depending on time of year.

Now a citizen of Grenada and one of the island’s largest investors, owner Peter de Savary is quoted as saying that he has spent the last 35 to 40 years developing what he calls “unique pieces of real estate in a special way.” Mount Edgecombe is a shining example.

WHAT MATTERS

• Romantic location for wedding or weekend house party.

• Infinity-edge double swimming pool with spectacular view and spacious sun deck.

• Abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices on your doorstep.

• Well-equipped property with all modern conveniences.

• Live-in staff on site.

• House is available for rental furnished and fully staffed.

• In high rainfall area.

• Close to rainforest hiking trails including remote waterfall at Tufton Hall. Local guide required.

• An hour’s drive from Grenada’s capital, St George’s.

• Short distance from fishing town of Gouyave, where the popular outdoor Fish Friday, featuring vendors cooking all manner of seafood over open fires, is held weekly.

GETTING THERE

By Air

Point Salines International Airport at the southern tip of Grenada accommodates commercial and private aircraft from around the world, including British Airways, Virgin and Monarch from the UK; Delta and Caribbean Airlines from New York’s JFK; American Airlines from Miami and Air Canada from Toronto. Inter-island carriers include LIAT and SVG-Air offering scheduled and charter flights with connections through Barbados, Trinidad and Antigua.

By Sea

St George’s picturesque harbour is the main port of call for yachts and many inter-island vessels. Boats can also clear customs at various other points around Grenada including the Port Louis Marina which accepts boats up to 120 metres with full customs and immigration services.

Money

The currency is the Eastern Caribbean (EC) dollar which is linked to the US dollar. US$1 = EC$2.67. Major credit cards are accepted at most hotels, car rental companies and shops.

Land & Climate

Grenada lies in the south-eastern Caribbean, south of the Grenadines and just west of Barbados; 12 miles wide by 21 miles long, the total land area is 3,133 square miles. The coastline is dotted with white- sand beaches and sheltered bays. The highest point is Mount Saint Catherine at 2,757 feet. A considerable amount of the landmass is preserved as parks encompassing tropical rainforests, natural wildlife sanctuaries and numerous waterfalls. Average year round temperature is 23 degrees Centigrade (80 degrees Fahrenheit) with cooling north-east trade winds.

Lush and fertile, Grenada is often referred to as the Spice Island of the Caribbean because of the abundance of nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, cloves and ginger whether growing wild or cultivated. Other important crops are cocoa and bananas along with a wide variety of exotic fruit and vegetables. Main roads are paved and mostly well-maintained. Driving is on the left and visitors can tour the island by private car hire or taxis. Guided tours of the island are a good idea as there are very few signposts although Grenadians are charmingly helpful to “lost’’ visitors.

It’s probably better to explore the picturesque capital of St Georges on foot as the streets, many of them cobblestoned, are narrow and steep with many one-way only signs. Driving through outlying towns such as Grenville, Sauteurs and Gouyave can also be challenging as pedestrians compete for limited road space with motorized traffic. Grenada’s sister islands of Carriacou and Petit Martinique make up the three-island state and are located 20 miles to the north of the mainland. They can be reached by express ferry, The Osprey, taking about two hours. There are also scheduled 20-minute flights to Carriacou only aboard a nine-seater SVGAir plane.

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