The trail to Carpenter’s Rock up to Shirley Heights is a beautiful walk, not least because in places you won’t see one building or one person probably. You can easily imagine that it is just you, the ocean and probably a few goats in the world.
Carpenters Rock is a flat shelf of rock just above sea level although on rougher days it can be covered, and is so named after Henry Carpenter the Secretary General of the Leeward Islands from 1701 to 1711 who lived nearby,
There are two ways to start the trail – the official way which is along the beach (Freeman’s Bay or Galleon Beach out towards the left as you look at the seas) as far as you can walk, where you will see a trail sign. From there the trail climbs uphill to Fort Charlotte. The unofficial route is to walk through Galleon Beach Resort as far as you can go, and bear to the right in front of the very last villa, There is a metal barrier across the track, pass to the side, and you walk up a wide track which also leads to Fort Charlotte.
There are some beautiful view points on this hike, Fort Charlotte, with views across to Fort Berkley and English Harbour, Carpenters Rock, with its cave and often fisherman sitting on the rocks looking for a catch, and Nanton Point where the rugged coastline can be seen at its best.
The trail is maintained by The Royal Naval Tot Club of Antigua and Barbuda, who regularly cut back some of the more offensively sharp pieces of Acacia and cactus which can cause such damage if fallen or stepped on to help keep you on track you will notice white dots on rocks, or white stripes on trees. These help lead you along the pathway so if you think you have lost the path, stop, and take a look around you will soon spot the trail again.
Once you reach the top of the trail, you have a choice of three routes back to Freeman’s Bay:
- The Lookout Trail, which is definitely the quickest. For this route once you are back on the road take a left up to Shirley Heights Lookout and bear right down the marked trail.
- The Jones Valley Trail which is just across the road as you reach it. The trail starts by passing a brick sluice head and sediment trap from the old barracks. The only warning note on this trail is that the lower part of the walk involves walking on loose rocks and some clambering. If you are not steady on your feet, or have weak ankles it can be quite hard going. Personally I prefer walking UP this trail than down, as it’s easier to fall up hill then down hill on the knees :).
- Take the road down – if you do this route you also have the option of detouring up to Blockhouse for some more beautiful views, and to Dow’s Hill Interpretation Centre. If you do follow the road down, take the left for Galleon Beach Resort and Calabash Restaurant that are well marked on the road and you won’t go wrong.