With a rich maritime heritage and charming colonial influences, the Bermuda of today has evolved from a truly unique history. Creative muse to many and much loved by even more, while on the surface it may be defined by its idyllic pink sand beaches and aqua oceans, it’s taken 400 years of customs, culture and tradition to create the heart and soul of this beautiful place one can’t help but want to get to know better.
There are very few places in the world I’d rather be than Bermuda and I consider myself extremely fortunate that, for the past three decades, I’ve been able to visit on a regular basis. It’s not hard to put your finger on the reasons this beautiful part of the world has such a magnetic draw – not just to me but the many tourists who visit every year. It’s the beaches, of course. It’s the array of luxury accommodation, absolutely. It’s the laid-back good nature of the locals, most definitely. But more than that, for me, it’s the utter certainty that there is nowhere in the world quite like it. No matter how many times I visit, I find out new and interesting gems of its culture and history.
Vestiges of a Colonial History
While most people know Bermuda’s status as a British Overseas Territory, many are surprised to learn that it’s actually our oldest colony. When George Somers and his men were wrecked off the island in 1609 they became the vanguard of its colonisation. Along with shiploads of British settlers, the multi-ethnic population of the island grew through both the travesty of the slave trade and the establishment of industry at the Royal Naval Dockyard.
A Clash of Cultures that Simply Works
The island is irrevocably and charmingly steeped in British influence, upholding the traditions of everything from high tea and sundowners, to the famous shorts (based on the British military uniform) and driving on the left side of the road. But it’s the rich vein of influences from West Africa, the Caribbean and the North American Indians that makes the island’s culture so endearingly different. And yet, in a way that I’ve never quite been able to describe, it’s also utterly cohesive. The local people know exactly who they are and the rest of the world loves them for it.
A Curious Vernacular
Spend any time here and you’ll notice the locals have their very own way of speaking. It’s English but not quite as you might know it. The accent and cadence of the speech reflects both the heritage and geography of the island, and while British visitors think it sounds Americanised, Americans think it sounds very British. Nobody’s wrong because it’s a little bit of both, with a smattering of Caribbean thrown in. The most noticeable difference for me is the transposition of the letter ‘v’ for a ‘w’. (So if a local Bermudian read the heading of this paragraph aloud it would be “a curious wernacular“.)
It’s certainly not hard to understand but, for a little bit of fun, if you want to make sure you blend in with the locals, let me share a few words that might come in handy on your holiday.
The island’s architecture is another aspect of the culture that provides an endless source of pleasure and inspiration to me. Its evolution has continued over the past four centuries and, while its roots definitely lie far over the sea in Old Blighty, the original British Colonial style has developed into its own, very distinct school of design – blending form and function in the most creative of ways.
The pastel-coloured houses with their dazzling white rooftops that decorate the island are not just aesthetically pleasing. The terraces of the roofs are designed to collect rainwater, while their colour helps keep the interiors cool. The majority of the houses are constructed from local limestone, which is able to withstand the toughest of weather conditions – and the medium also lends itself perfectly to those lovely pastel colours.
A Few of My Favourite Things
One quirky detail often seen in the houses is the inclusion of low, curved limestone walls on either side of the front steps. The feature has been nicknamed “the welcoming arms”, because that’s just what they look like.
Many of the local homes are under the protection of the National Trust and are open for public viewing. While there are many well worth seeing, my favourite is Verdmont House (Smiths Parish), a beautiful Georgian manor dating back to 1710. It now operates as a really interesting museum and the rose gardens are truly sublime.
If you’re interested in exploring the culture of the island on a deeper level beyond simply the sun, sea and sand (although there’s certainly nothing wrong with that), I can highly recommend a couple of areas in particular.
Hamilton is the cultural centre of the island and the capital city is compact enough to explore on foot. We’ve got a number of superb properties that will place you right in the heart of things, with access to the Royal Naval Dockyards, King St, Fort Hamilton, St. Georges and all the other cultural attractions.
Paget Parish is centrally located on the island so makes the perfect base from which to explore as far and wide as you have time for. Our lovely properties put you within arms’ reach of culture, the magnificent beaches, and the lush natural surrounds of Paget Marsh.