This beautifully built wooden lodge is situated on a hillside off the quiet Scarborough to Plymouth road. It looks out over mature trees across the valley to the green hills on the other side, and at the rear of the premises there’s a garden laid to lawn with pretty shrubs, at the top of which is a chain link fence and a line of palms giving privacy to the house, its garden and pool. A concrete walkway leads to the pool with its large deck - ideal for barbecues and al fresco dining, a wooden deck along the back of the house, is where you’ll find the washing up area. The deck is roofed, and the large eaves of the house protect it from the heavy rains that are part of the Caribbean experience. The other, much larger part, of the Caribbean experience is the heat and as a result houses need to be airy and breezy. To this effect the main room has a large ceiling fan and at the front there is glass louvers, giving a lovely vista of green trees and hills. Similarly the bedrooms all have fans and a large area of louvers and lattice allowing the rooms to be breezy but protected from rain and private.
Mary's Hill Lodge is located, unsurprisingly, in the village of Mary's Hill, halfway between Scarborough and Plymouth. This is the real Tobago; there's nothing the remotest bit touristy about this small Tobagonian community.
The turning to the cottage is clearly marked. A narrow lane winds the short distance up a steep hillside to remotely controlled electric gates that guard access to the property. The steep ascent to the parking area may seem daunting initially but will not faze experienced drivers.
The lodge is situated on the steep slopes of a picturesque glade. Very few neighbouring properties can be seen, so effectively does the lush foliage mask everything. Your own transport is essential, however. There is a small mini-mart around a five-minute walk away, but this supplies only the most basic things. Ground coffee and fresh bagels are not essentials to rural Tobagonians. The closest supermarket is a 10-minute drive away, on the outskirts of Scarborough.
Turtle Beach, considered to be one of the finest beaches on Tobago, is also a 10-minute drive away. Several other popular Caribbean-coast beaches can be reached in around 15 minutes. The central location makes the cottage an ideal base for tours of all parts of the island.
Given the steep hillside on which the lodge is built, this property would not be suitable for wheelchair users or those with mobility difficulties.
Mary's Hill Lodge is a wooden house of open design. Those who enjoy feeling 'at one' with nature will love it.
The house is built on two levels, but the overall impression is of a single-level building. Constructed on a steep hillside, the lower floor is primarily a plinth to support the upper level. UK-based owner, Louis, has his own joinery business in London, so it is not surprising that the quality of the woodwork and general construction is very much higher than normal Tobagonian standards.
The two main bedrooms, kitchen and living area are located on the 130m2/1,400ft2 upper level of the house. The layout is simple and comprises of a large central open-plan living space with a bedroom at each end. Internal stairs lead from the living room to the lower floor and the small third bedroom, bathroom and laundry/utility area.
The living area is dominated by a magnificent south-facing window-wall with stunning views over the surrounding lush valley. The decorative wooden balustrade is backed with acrylic Perspex panels and topped by 18 sets of wide glass louvers and wooden window shutters.
The living area is reasonably spacious and should prove adequate even when faced with the maximum occupancy of six adults and three children. The house is nicely furnished, and the décor has improved dramatically since our last visit. Every room really looks a treat. The overall feel is both comfortable and homely.
The seating area is furnished with leopard-skin-print upholstered chairs and sofas, grouped around a coffee table. A small flat-screen satellite television is provided and there are board games and amusements for children. There is also a small CD/tuner unit and a comprehensive folder of visitor information.
The extendable wooden dining table with cushioned dining chairs offers wonderful views over the valley. You will never tire of the panorama. It is like dining among the tree tops.
The kitchen is basic but functional and equipped with a six-ring gas stove with grill and oven, electric toaster, liquidiser, electric kettle and a large American fridge/freezer unit with icemaker. A microwave oven has been fitted since our last stay. Everything was clean and in working order.
A double-drainer stainless steel kitchen sink straddles the covered veranda. This is not as strange as it may at first appear because with the kitchen door open, it is effectively an extension of the main kitchen worktop and is a surprisingly practical solution. All wash basins, including the kitchen sink, are plumbed for cold water only.
A fast Wi-Fi Internet connection is available, plus a strong cell phone signal, so guests will not be cut off from the world.
In addition to standard Tobago 110v 2-pin electric sockets, Mary's Hill Lodge also offers UK 3-pin 240v sockets in the master bedroom and kitchen.
The master bedroom is spacious. It keeps nice and cool, particularly when the exterior doors to the private balcony and rear veranda are left open.
Since our last visit, the bed has been upgraded to a 5ft queen-size mattress. The bed has a decorative mosquito net. We felt no need to use the net and simply followed our normal practise of positioning an electric bug mat between the fan and the bed.
The room also has an attractive recessed single bed, mounted above storage drawers. This is ideal for a young child.
Bedroom furnishings include a bedside table on one side, and a wall-mounted bookcase and shelf on the other.
Louvered double doors provide access from the master bedroom onto the veranda. The veranda wraps around three sides of the cottage and is fully protected from rain and sun by a deep roof overhang. It is a lovely private spot to enjoy an early morning cup of tea, while overlooking the mature mango trees and lush gardens.
The master room's en suite bathroom is relatively small, but perfectly serviceable. It is dominated by a large walk-in tiled shower.
A washbasin and toilet complete the bathroom fittings. There is a raised unit, intended for baby changing. However, in our case, this proved more useful as a storage area for bathroom toiletries.
The second bedroom is smaller than the master bedroom, but still of adequate size. A locally-made four-poster double bed with mosquito net dominates the room.
A small built in wardrobe with fabric curtain front provides 0.75m of full-length hanging space. The room is furnished with a small chest of drawers, a wooden chair, a single bedside table and a floor-standing electric fan.
The room also has a recessed alcove containing twin bunk beds, with mosquito net frontage. I bet the kids really fight over who gets the top bunk!
As in the master room, the second bedroom has louvered cedar doors giving access onto the wrap-around veranda. Being adjacent to the swimming pool, it is literally just a few steps from the bed to the pool. Alternatively, the chairs and loungers on the pool deck make a convenient sport for an early morning cuppa.
The second bedroom has an external bathroom that is shared with users of the swimming pool. It is situated immediately adjacent to the bedroom, so this arrangement is reasonably convenient. The bathroom is equipped with the usual trio of cold-water washbasin, toilet and walk-in shower with water heater.
Measuring 3.2x1.8m (5.8sq.m.), the small third bedroom could be used by adults, but is possibly best suited to children. I imagine that this room would have great appeal to older children and teenagers. It is a wonderful little 'den'; just far enough away to give a feeling of independence, while close enough not to feel isolated.
The room has a built-in full-length double bed with mosquito net 'curtain' across the front. A small built-in wardrobe offers both hanging space and shelves and is supplemented by a five-drawer chest. There are shuttered windows and a double louvered door leading onto the rear veranda, plus an electric fan for cooling.
Adjacent to the third bedroom is a spacious bathroom fitted with a large tiled walk-in shower with instantaneous water heater, washbasin and toilet.
Utilities & Services
The general utility area on the lower floor of the lodge is equipped with a large washing machine, tumble dryer, electric iron and an ironing board, plus a linen cupboard. A baby cot and highchair are available.
The lodge is serviced prior to the arrival of new guests and then only intermittently, depending upon the length of stay. The manager, Daniela, is a cheery soul and she made us feel very welcome, as did Curtis, who looks after the gardens and pool.
Two well-hidden security safes provide storage for smallish cameras, documents, cash and other valuables. The grounds of the property are secured by a high retaining wall and fence. The main gates can be controlled from the living area and the electric gates proved reliable in operation. A small side gate is protected by a 4-tumbler combination lock. The property has found a nice balance of common-sense security whilst not leaving the occupants feeling imprisoned within their own accommodation.
Pool & Gardens
Although Turtle Beach is less than 10-minutes away, there are times when it is nice just to stay at home and lounge around the pool.
The 20x10ft pool is charming, secluded and private. Topless or nude sunbathing is illegal in Trinidad and Tobago, but Mary's Hill Lodge is somewhere that ladies (and gentlemen) can get an all-over tan without risk of upset.
The pool deck is furnished with a large sun umbrella, four light all-weather chairs and four cushioned sun loungers. It is something of a suntrap and high-factor sunblock is an essential. Fortunately, there is always shade and a place to cool off on the deep veranda around the house.
The property sits in half an acre of garden and grounds. Being located on quite a steep hillside, much of the garden is inaccessible but it does provide a lovely backdrop. The gardens have matured nicely since our last visit and will undoubtedly continue to improve with age.
An ingenious small coal-fired barbeque has been created on the edge of the garden, adjacent to the kitchen.
Mary's Hill Lodge has unique charm. The inland location and rustic nature of the accommodation offers an ideal base for those wanting to get away from the touristy parts of Tobago and experience something resembling the real Tobago.
Other than a single trip to stock the larder, we found the lodge so relaxing and peaceful that we felt no inclination to go touring or even to visit any beaches. That says an awful lot for the place. It really is a wonderful place to chill and relax.
This review was written in February 2013 therefore there is changes / improvements to the lodge since then.