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Travel to English Harbour in Antigua and you will find the well known tourist attraction of Nelson's Dockyard. The only Georgian dockyard still in existence, it was given the name Nelson to honour the hero of the Battle of Trafalgar, Admiral Lord Nelson whose base was at English Harbour in the 1780s. The dockyard, once a busy naval port is now a busy tourist destination.
The dockyard was abandoned after being closed as a base in 1889 and its restoration has been carried out with love. Many of the restored buildings contain modern amenities, however, the British Naval heritage of the area is reflected. There are also many ruins from bygone days to explore and plenty of historical artefacts on show.
The docks house different vessels these days, luxury yachts replacing the naval frigates but the port is still a regular stopping point for travellers making their way across the Atlantic. The dockyard itself is part of the Nelson's Dockyard National Park, fifteen square mile of naval history, which also houses two other well known tourist hotspots, Shirley Heights and Clarence House.
Clarence House was built as a residence for the future King William when he was a serving member of the navy under Nelson himself. Above this is Shirley Heights the partially restored fortifications, with a view across the Caribbean to Montserrat and Guadeloupe.
There are a number of tourist facilities available in Nelson's Dockyard, including markets, travel agencies, banks as well as a choice of restaurants. The area is very scenic and everywhere is framed by the Caribbean sea, so visitors are recommended to have plenty of battery left in their camera. The quiet atmosphere gives a timeless quality to the area and the surrounding countryside is covered in lush green vegetation. There is an entrance fee to the Dockyard area, but entry to many of the on site attractions are free. The dockyard Museum tells the story of English Harbour and the men that worked there and also gives a glimpse of the hopes for the dockyard in the future. For those who like to research forgotten family members there is a Library which houses a database of Caribbean Naval History.
Nelson's Dockyard is a living reminder of the Britain's influence in the Caribbean and no visitor from UK shores should leave Antigua without paying a visit. The Dow's Hill Interpretation Centre explores via multi media Antigua's history, observation decks in the centre give visitors incredible views of the harbour and the remains of Fort Berkeley sits on a peninsular. This fortress is home to a twenty four pound cannon which was actually cast in Scotland. A monster gun it is visible from across the harbour and weighs a full 25 tons taking eleven men to work it.
There is plenty of shopping on offer in the Dockyard and English Harbour area and there are many restaurants all within walking distance. Heritage Quay has excellent duty free stores whilst Redcliffe Quay is the place to go for drinks or a leisurely lunch.
One of the busiest times to visit is during Antigua's sailing week, this being one of the world premier regattas. There are a number of hotels in Nelson's Dockyard all reflecting the grace of the colonial Caribbean and offering the perfect place to round off your trip to this remote piece of British history.