Wanderlust

St. Kitts Is Taking Island Charm To A Whole New Level With This Cool Day Trip

Katy Holland

Get the lowdown on St. Kitts’ vibrant past and charming present on a one-of-a-kind historic train ride.

Picture this: you’re basking in the sunshine on the top deck of an open-air train, watching the spectacular scenery of St. Kitts roll by. A warm Caribbean breeze caresses your skin as you sip frozen daiquiri, serenaded by an a-capella choir singing gentle Caribbean folk songs as you rattle along.

This may sound like the stuff of dreams - but it’s exactly what it’s like when you take a journey on the St. Kitts Scenic Railway. It’s surely the quirkiest and most authentic way to see this ravishing island, easily accessible with British Airways from London Gatwick.

The railway line follows the north-eastern coastline to expose ever-changing, awe-inspiring vistas. With the majestic volcanic cone of Mount Liamuiga rising above you and the sparkling Caribbean Sea below, this is some of the loveliest scenery in St. Kitts. No wonder, then, that it’s considered one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world.

When you climb on board, you’re not just embarking on a delightfully idiosyncratic tour of the island’s most celebrated beauty spots; you’re also travelling back in time, immersing yourself in the rich history of the island. This is brought to life with an entertaining narration from the Tour Director, who spills all the secrets of the island, past and present, as well as the compelling story of the “Sugar Train”.

Completed in 1926, the narrow-gauge railway was built to make sugar production more efficient - and it transformed life for everyone on St. Kitts. The tracks made a circuit around the whole island in order to bring in the annual raw cane harvest, or ‘crop’, from the scattered estates, transporting it to the sugar factory at Basseterre. As you roll along, you’ll see old plantations with abandoned windmills and chimneys, travel across tall steel bridges spanning deep “ghauts” – canyons that open out to the sea – and pass over level crossings where villagers stop to wave.

Today, just over half of the original track remains, and a coach takes you on the final part of the loop. Highlights of this incredible journey include a view of the staggering Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This British “Gibraltar of the West Indies” is an extremely well-preserved example of 17th- and 18th-century Caribbean military architecture and one of St. Kitts’ most treasured landmarks.

The St. Kitts Scenic Railway is the only one of its kind in the Caribbean, a living relic of the sugar cane industry, when huge slices of the island were given over to its cultivation. Not surprisingly, Kittitians are immensely proud of it. The double-decked rolling stock, sometimes described “paddle steamers on wheels”, decorated in the green, red and white of the national flag, have become a national icon and a lure for holidaymakers. Below the wonderful open-air viewing platform, the lower deck is a blast from the past. Its air-conditioned viewing parlour has huge picture windows and rattan chairs, as well as a waiter on hand to bring you complimentary rum punch, frozen daiquiris or fruit juices. Surely all train journeys should be this much fun.

Sugar production may have ended on St. Kitts - but the railway lives on, proudly carrying the national flag as the “Last Railway in the West Indies”, a living link to a fascinating past.

If you’re dreaming of a St. Kitts getaway, British Airways can help, with flights from London Gatwick. To find out more visit ba.com/stkitts.

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