The former sugar plantation that played host to the marriage of Nelson and Fanny Nisbet and provided a paparazzi-free retreat for Princess Diana, is up for sale. With a clutch of cottages nestled in beautifully landscaped tropical gardens, a sparkling pool surrounded by palms and trailing splashes of bougainvillea, and a one-of-a-kind private restaurant within the ruins of a former sugar mill, this is an extraordinary opportunity for anyone looking to redefine and reimagine their lives.
It’s a rare thing for any Caribbean hotel to be put on the market, and one as extraordinary as Montpelier is rarer still. High up on the single jungle-clad peak, positioned to take advantage of the Tradewinds that once made this tiny jewel of an island the Queen of the Caribees, this is a place where history has been made. Buying the hotel means acquiring its past - and that means accepting it was once a place at the heart of the slave trade.
But the handful of owners in recent decades have set about transforming the ruined mill into something quite different. The island of Nevis is known for its exclusivity and possibility of privacy, and has long been a favourite with celebrities looking to escape the limelight for a few raucous nights at a sandy-floored beach bar. Montpelier itself adds a further layer of privacy to that already afforded by the island. The cottages are scattered across a vast area - and indeed of the fifty acres of land that come with the property, only 10 acres have been developed. In its present form, it is already spectacular. Future owners have a multitude of possibilities awaiting them.
Take the two acres of private beachfront land, with its bar and handful of cabanas. Guests are shuttled down there from the mountainside, free to play in the warm Caribbean waters and while away an afternoon searching for sand dollars. But there are already suggestions in place for how to redevelop this area, such as the inclusion of a lagoon-style pool edged with a natural-rock sea wall.
And the appeal to potential investors is obvious. A Master Plan created by the current owners includes adding a further 125 guest rooms, villas and estate lots. New owners are in no way tied to this Master Plan, but it definitely helps to open up the imagination.
Many people on the island - both residents and visitors - choose to visit Montpelier for the food alone. It plays host to the only AAA Four Diamond restaurant in the Federation, and the poolside Indigo bar provides welcome snacks and cooling drinks during the day and a sea of colourful cocktails at night. Couples will book the private sugar mill dining experience sometimes months in advance, taking care to ensure that the enchanting, romantic restaurant is theirs and theirs alone for the night.
The first hotel in the Caribbean appeared on Nevis in the 1600s. As the slave trade boomed, so did the curiosity of the English. Stepping aboard boats that would take weeks of a dangerous crossing to arrive, those first visitors were hardy, determined adventurers. There have, of course, been changes in the interim centuries: today, most of the former plantations are ruins that are now being consumed by the jungle. Walk up to find them and you’ll come across trees bearing tiny calamansi limes waiting to be plucked and added to a sunset cocktail; these trees were once there to provide supplements to the slaves’ meagre rations.
The history of the island is inescapable. The new owners of Montpelier will be those who can look beyond the past, recognise its significance, and look towards a new future. With so much land undeveloped, so many ideas yet to be played with, the possibilities are as exciting as they are diverse.