The Saint Bernard's Experience
High above Sopers Hole, further beyond the exclusive properties that dot Belmont Estate’s lush hillsides, exists eight acres of paradise, prevailing on one of the highest points of Tortola. From there, views give way to Virgin Islands eyefuls that extend past St Thomas—to St Croix on a clear day—and along the expanse of the Sir Francis Drake channel to Virgin Gorda and beyond. A 180-degree rotation reveals postcard panoramas that extend over Long Bay and Smugglers Cove past Jost Van Dyke and across a spattering of rocky outposts. From St Bernard’s Hill House—the highest residence of Belmont Estate—the dream-like seascape is mesmerizing. So much so, perhaps, that its occupants may forget that virtually every inch of the surreal playground exists ripe within reach.
The arched entrance welcomes its guests. Photo by Chris Plowman.
The expansive main colonial-style house and four cottages can comfortably accommodate up to ten guests. The property, now fully staffed with all-inclusive amenities, recently opened its doors to guests who wish to experience its beauties near and far—from the pampered privileges on the property to the adventures that exist far beyond.
I was invited to meet the estate’s new manager, Chris Plowman, and experience the property on a balmy day in December. I ascended toward the billowy clouds, and as I drove the gradual climb from Tortola’s West End, St Bernard’s gated entrance opened in grand form, welcoming me to the neatly manicured estate. Past two separate cottages up the long winding driveway, I then entered the palatial property through its main house’s arched entrance. I was taken aback by the tall, cathedral ceilings that peak above its great room. Within, through the main house's interior, local artistry and eclectic fixtures follow a classical, worldly style. The clean and congruent architectural design and traditional décor help to bring a refined feel to the property. Many of the homes I visit tend to follow the trends which seek to import Balinese influence to the Caribbean tropics. St Bernard’s, I found out, instead benefits from a sophisticated sense of class evolved from a rich colonial influence.
The infinity pool beckons for a sunset dip. Photo by Chris Plowman.
Cool breezes rushed through the numerous archways in the main living room, which open wide to generous verandahs. Even before I stepped out from the main house, the miraculous views poured through the arched entrances and opened my eyes wide. Outside, I met with Chris to discuss his vision for the luxury property.
Prior to working with the owner of St Bernard’s Hill House, Chris alongside his wife, resident Chef Joanne, chalked up ten years’ experience working for some of the most renowned luxury catamarans in the British Virgin Islands. Their experience on the water, catering to high-end clientele, has helped to mold standards they now uphold to provide impeccable service from all of their staff to St Bernard’s guests.
The luxury villa dominates Bellmont Hill. Photo by Don Hebert.
“This is not a property where you arrive and have to serve yourself. Our motto is ‘whatever it takes’ to create the perfect luxury vacation,” he comparatively said. “From the moment you step into our care, you’ll have someone take your bag and hang your clothes up; that mega yacht experience.”
That all-inclusive experience Chris described aims to cater differently to each of the estate’s guests. The experienced staff, of course, are eager to impart knowledgeable suggestions for, say, sunset drinks on the newly constructed deck on the property’s edge or its infinity pool, or a romantic couple’s dinner from the great room verandah. I sat and mulled over the possibilities as my eyes bounced along a horizon decorated with islands and ships throughout its expanse.
Views wrap from Jost Van Dyke to Virgin Gorda. Photo by Chris Plowman.
Perhaps the greatest perk about the St Bernard’s Hill House experience lies within the endless possibilities at arm's reach. Gazing deep into the Virgin Islands abyss invokes a sense of serenity, sure. But it also undoubtedly acts as a provocation to the adventurous—the come-hither beckoning of nature. From the property’s gated entrance, it’s a safe five-minute bike ride or 15-minute walk to the soft sands and ample reefs of Smugglers Cove and Long Bay. Ask Chris or a friendly staff member for a ride, and you cut your time to a couple minutes. If the often empty island of Sandy Spit inspires an urge for a secluded beachfront picnic, a 30-foot luxury RIB comes included as a courtesy, docked at the local marina just five minutes away. Captain Chris, a trained divemaster, may even convince you to first explore the Wreck of the Rhone or snorkel the intricate reef systems that surround the Virgin Islands. From the royal treatment from the Belmont nest to the playground possibilities below, the St Bernard’s experience leaves no paradisiacal expectations unfulfilled.
The spacious and inviting main house. Photos by Chris Plowman.