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Panorama of the King's Wharf in Bermuda (Photo: Just dance/Shutterstock)

Top 10 British Touches on the Island of Bermuda

Panorama of the King's Wharf in Bermuda (Photo: Just dance/Shutterstock)
Natalie Taylor

Feb 20, 2020

Read time
7 min read

As the United Kingdom's oldest colony, the island of Bermuda retains a strong British flavor, and that heritage remains strong. You'll see U.K. touches everywhere, such as drivers on the left side of the road, police officers in British uniform directing traffic and Bermuda shorts, which were originally borrowed from the British military's uniform and adjusted for the island's warmer climates. The Bermudian accent can be directly traced to Elizabethan English; Shakespeare referenced "Bermoothes" in "The Tempest."

Even Old World manners are in practice with the friendly islanders you meet. Make sure you greet everyone with a "Good morning" or "Good afternoon," as standard practice. If you're looking for more British touches on the island of Bermuda, here are some of our recommendations.

1. Pub Crawl

If you're craving British comfort food and a good ol' pint, there are a few places on the island for pub grub. The Frog & Onion pub in the Royal Naval Dockyard serves up shepherd's pie, bangers and mash, and Cornish pastie. (Head to the back patio to maximize the sunshine.) Housed in a mid-18th-century Cooperage, it's also home to Bermuda's only microbrewery, the Dockyard Brewing Co. In downtown Hamilton, Flanagan's Outback Sports Bar in the basement is the spot to watch FA Cup, cricket and soccer (er, football) matches on the screens while noshing on fish 'n' chips with mushy peas. Around the corner on Burnaby Street is Bermuda's oldest licensed establishment, The Hog Penny Pub, where you can chow down on pot roast and chicken pot pie while knocking back a John Smith's extra smooth ale and listening to some live music.

2. Cricket & Cup Match

England's national sport, cricket -- the bat-and-ball game that's a mix of baseball and bowling -- has a huge following in Bermuda. The sport is so popular that its main event, Cup Match, is declared a two-day public holiday, designed to coincide with Emancipation Day (held on day one) and Somer's Day, named after Bermuda's founder, Admiral George Somers. Fans wear their team's colors -- red and navy for Somerset in the west and pale and dark blue for St. George's in the east -- to prep for the ongoing rivalry that has existed since 1902. Introduced after slavery was abolished on the island, the match and annual trophy were the result after men from the two parishes played in friendly matches of cricket at picnics.

3. Afternoon Tea

Sweet P's tearoom at the Bermuda Perfumery offers a lush garden retreat in Stewart Hall for the English tradition. Indulge in tea, scones and an assortment of finger sandwiches, mini-pastries, and petit fours, all served on fine floral china. The Chantilly cream is locally sourced, but a Bermudian twist incorporates honey, rum syrup and loquat jelly. Sweeten the experience with a tour or a workshop to create the signature Lili Bermuda scent at the Perfumery. Tea time hours are 1 to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays; reservations are recommended. Bermuda's Fairmont Hotels also offer tea.

4. St. George

There are more than enough British landmarks to keep you busy for a day in this parish. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Town of St. George, is the earliest English urban settlement in the New World. There, you can stroll down cobblestone lanes, past bright limestone buildings and a handful of British-themed historic attractions. Catch the reenactment of the Ducking Stool, a form of punishment used against female gossips in colonial times. Perpetrators -- placed in a chair located at the end of a long wooden handle -- would be dipped into the sea for their scolding. Peek into the 18th-century furniture collection, including the English mahogany of the famous Tucker family, at the Tucker House Museum. In the Town Square, channel your inner George Somers, and climb atop The Discovery, a replica of the ship that transported original Bermudian settlers to Jamestown, Virginia, in the early 1600s.

5. Fort St. Catherine

Begin or end your tour of St. George at Bermuda's oldest and largest fort, which towers over St. Catherine's Beach and Achilles Bay. Near the entrance, you'll find a replica of the British Crown jewels. Continue along the maze of tunnels to discover antique weapons and artillery used for Bermuda's early fortification and protection. The site is where Bermuda's original settlers of the Sea Venture came ashore in 1609. (The fort was built in 1614.) Just make sure to bring a bottle of water, as the site isn't ventilated. At the top of the fort, you'll be rewarded with a spectacular view of the island and surrounding azure waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Get your snapshot on one of the cannons.

6. St. Peter's Church

Located in the Town of St. George's, this historic church is known for being the oldest Anglican church in the Western Hemisphere. It continues to operate for regular service and events. The church turned 400 years old in 2012 and was given a new title of Their Majesties' Chappell by Queen Elizabeth II. Through the cedar doors, Bermuda's nautical past is evident, as the wooden ceiling beams are similar to those of a ship's hull. The red cedar alter is Bermuda's oldest example of woodwork. The churchyard's separate section for slaves and free blacks is a piercing reminder of black segregation in Bermuda and is one of the sites on Bermuda's African Diaspora Heritage Trail.

7. Royal Naval Dockyard

Your first introduction to Bermuda if you're disembarking at the King's or Heritage wharfs, the Royal Naval Dockyard is now synonymous as an activity hub for tourists, as well as remnants of Britain's nautical and storied past.

Established in 1809, the Dockyard was the largest British naval facility outside the U.K. At the time, the Dockyard was accountable for more than 15 percent of the island's income. The Royal Navy left the main Dockyard in the 1950s, and it eventually closed in 1995 after the area was transferred to Bermuda's Government.

The Dockyard's former fortress, The Keep, is now the Bermuda Maritime Museum. On display are seven bastions and eight exhibit buildings. The Shifting House showcases artifacts recovered from various shipwrecks, including that of the Sea Venture, whose collapse was the basis for Bermuda's existence in 1609. You can also see the entire history of Bermuda -- including the story of Britannia's past and present ties to Bermuda -- in the Hall of History at the Commissioner's House. The mural, painted by Graham Foster, took three years to complete and offers a visual history of the island.

One of the most significant cemeteries, the Royal Naval Cemetery is dedicated those who died in service of the British military. The tombstones share the stories of the lives and deaths of the deceased and offer a fascinating look into this culture.

8. Queen Elizabeth Portraits

Fans of the Royal Family will be delighted to see Queen Elizabeth's portrait reimagined by iconic pop culture artist Andy Warhol in the lobby of the renovated Fairmont Hamilton Princess. On loan from the new hotel owners (the Green family), the four colorful screen prints are a nod to the Queen in a modern way.

9. The Government House Grounds

The official residence of the Governor of Bermuda, the Government House is also the official residence of the Bermudan head of state. (Currently this position belongs to Queen Elizabeth II.) A flag appointed specifically to the Governor is at mast and flies on the property when he's in town. Visitors can enjoy the Government House gardens for the summer via a picnic or stroll. Entry and exit is via North Gate on North Shore Road via foot, bike or the No. 11 bus, which stops near the gate.

10. House of Parliament

Bermuda's government is based on the British "Westminster Model" of democracy. The system relies on previous organized political parties and their policies. For those interested in British history, current Governor George Fergusson is appointed by the executive authority and advice of the Queen and the British government.

Tours of the Parliament are conducted by the sergeant-at-arms Monday through Friday at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., except when Parliament is in session. Visitors will learn more about the history of the Parliament and view the portraits of former speakers, as well as the Mace and Gavel used in sessions.

Updated February 20, 2020
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