SOUTHAMPTON, BERMUDA - I can get lost in a phone booth. So it came as no surprise that the Waterlot Inn where we had made dinner reservations was no where in sight.
“It was right across from the hotel (the Fairmont Southampton) the last time I was here,” I said as my partner (her in stilettos) and I meandered down the road trying to find the chicest little dining spot in Bermuda.
The woman smoking a cigarette on the balcony of the Henry VIII pub told us we were on the “wrong road” but “wasn’t quite sure” how to get us back on the right one.
Enter Bernie and Mandy – a lovely middle-aged British couple who offered to drive us to the Waterlot, whose history dates back 320 years to when this island nation was a safe haven for pirates.
As a gesture of thanks, I invited the newly weds – “we’ve been married just three years” – for cocktails.
Over drinks spiced with local rum and cranberry juice, Bernie, a retired British policeman, and Mandy, an executive with an international accounting firm based in Hamilton, Bermuda’s capital, told us that the Waterlot wasn’t just a fine dining spot, but it was believed to be haunted with the ghost Claudia Darrell, the last of the Darrell family the own the ancestral home built in 1670.
The Waterlot’s cellars, where now elegant women in colourful printed dresses and men wearing Bermuda shorts, shirt, tie, long socks and jacket pull up a chair to enjoy steak delicacies and island favorites like sticky date pudding, were once used for cargo storage by the seafarers who moored their ships offshore.
But the Waterlot legend started long before Claudia Darrell was born in the pretty pink cottage tucked away on the tip of Jews Bay.
According to local legend, says Bernie, a hard-living man named “Diamond” Darrell, who was inspired by wine, women, whiskey and treasure, built the Waterlot and welcomed such infamous cutthroats like Captain Kidd. On one visit to the Waterlot, Diamond Darrell noticed Captain Kidd was holding a beautiful young woman captive aboard his famous Wildflower and began bargaining for her. The notorious pirate refused to part with the beautiful, dark-eyed woman but did grant Darrell time to speak with Claudia Maria. In just those few minutes, Darrell and the women who would eventually become Claudia Darrell’s great grandmother fell madly in love and Diamond Darrell promised to rescue her one day.
“The story gets better, though,” says Mandy.
Claudia Maria eventually won her freedom from Captain Kidd and Diamond Darrell sent a ship to fetch her back to Bermuda. The rescue ship, though, fell victim to the dreaded Bermuda Triangle and was destroyed. Claudia Marie was among one of only six survivors and two weeks after drifting on the sea without food or water, she was rescued and finally united with Diamond Darrell. They were married shortly after and the “love legend” of the Waterlot was born – along with lots of Darrell children and descendants.
Left: The Waterlot has many ghosts in its closets. Right: The charming Waterlot Inn is in a Garden of Eden setting.
“That’s why this place is such a romantic rendezvous ’till this day,” says Bernie.
So, the “spirits” you can enjoy now at the Waterlot don’t just come in bottles.
Claudia Darrell wrote her own romantic history while ruling over the family home until her death in 1949. By the time of her death, she had become such a local legend that flags on all buildings flew at half mast on the day she died.
One incident in particular cemented her folk hero status with Bermudians – the Pollackshields shipwreck of 1916. The merchant vessel ran aground on the reefs at Elbow Beach and an attachment of British forces from the Royal Naval Dockyards was sent to rescue the crew. However, the fog that night was so thick the sailors were forced back to port. Claudia Darrell refused to give up and mounted her own rescue party with sailors out of local pubs. The Darrell-led task force managed to rescue just about everyone on board – the Pollackshields’ captain was unfortunately swept overboard – including a few cats.
Claudia Darrell, a woman well ahead of her times who, until her death, was seen riding a bike along the highways of Bermuda and counted Mark Twain, Eleanor Roosevelt, playwright Eugene O’Neill and humorist James Thurber among her friends, was the last of the Darrells to own the historic inn, which Fairmont bought and now operates as part of its fabulous collection of dinning spots at the pink Southampton resort.
The Southampton was built 35 years ago on a hilltop overlooking the azure Atlantic and the best executive golf course on the planet, and is now as much a part of Bermuda’s history as the Waterlot.
The resort hotel has a sister property, the Princess, in Hamilton, which is every bit as delightful as the Southampton. The two are connected by a ferry service that allows guests to get a spectacular view of the country’s ocean vistas and its renowned crayon-coloured homes.
The Southampton is favoured by families for its beach, part of Bermuda’s famous Horseshoe Beach, and its attention to children, who are supplied free buckets and shovels to help make sand castles along the Southampton’s sugary shore. The hotel also offers a full range of aquatic sports, including diving, snorkeling, jet skiing and kayaking, and the laughter of children is always in the air around the hotel’s outdoor swimming pool.
The Southampton’s Willow Stream spa is the best in this part of the world and its excellent therapy staff and top-of-the-line amenities is a treat one must enjoy to truly appreciate.
The Southampton offers shuttle service to the beach and Waterlot Inn, a fact we only discovered after our wayward walk.
However, had we not gotten lost, we never would have met Bernie and Mandy and never would have heard the legend of the Waterlot Inn.
•The Southampton is located 101 South Shoe Road in Southampton.
•The Waterlot is located on Middle Road.
•The Waterlot offers a varied menu and its prices are all five star.
•The Waterlot is open for lunch and dinner.
•For reservations at the Southampton or the Hamilton Princess, go to www.fairmont.com.