Barbados Hideaway

Old-style glamour and obsessed by the new

The Sandy Lane hotel's recent $400 million renovation may be stealing headlines, but on Barbados there is a new and extremely chic alternative: Villa Nova, a peaceful 28-room country-house hotel deep in the island's interior, wrapped by glorious tropical gardens and set on a hill among fig trees. Views sweep down through sleepy cane fields and villages. The eastern coastline—and its undeveloped, sandy beaches—lies just ten minutes away.

What a boon to find old-style glamour in a place so obsessed by the new. Unlike many other hotels on Barbados, the Villa Nova's main building, considered one of the Caribbean's finest 19th-century sugar plantation houses, has a history that goes back further than 1980. Formerly the home of British Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden, it has hosted Sir Winston Churchill, playwright Noël Coward, and Queen Elizabeth II.

In its new incarnation, great care has been taken to preserve the original architecture: its wraparound veranda, louvered storm shutters, wooden floors, and coral-stone facade (avoid Park House, the newly built accommodation at the property's rear). The generously sized rooms have a more contemporary edge. Conceived by British designer Nina Campbell, they are appointed with tall, sculptural vases and decorated in simple colors. Colonial accents like antique Chinese mahogany armoires complete the decor. The suites are grand, especially the Churchill, with its canopied bed; but either of the corner rooms (three and nine), waited on by a staff of 85 and overlooking the pool and banyan trees, is fiefdom plenty. Better still, for some at least, Villa Nova permits children under 12 only during Christmas, Easter, July, and August—not during the rest of the year. Villa Nova, we're happy to report, has one of the best restaurants on the island. Rates include breakfast as well as airport transfers. Doubles: $395-$850. Suites: $575-$1,425. St. John, Barbados; 246-433-1524;