Small, run-down, yet utterly charming, SPEIGHTSTOWN (pronounced "Spikestown") is Barbados's second town. It was once a thriving port and three major forts were erected to protect it. While the place has declined precipitately over the last century, and remained largely untouched by tourist development, recent years have seen attempts to preserve some of the town's historical character. The narrow streets are lined with old-fashioned Georgian-style shops, their galleries propped up on wooden pillars, projecting over the pavements.
Buses running up the west coast normally terminate at Speightstown bus station at the eastern end of Church Street. From here, head down towards the sea, passing on your right St Peter's Parish Church (daily 9am–5pm; free). Across from the church, facing the sea, you'll find locals chatting, enjoying a bite to eat or reading the local paper in the shade of the redeveloped esplanade. You are now in Queen Street, Speightstown's main drag, which has several grand old buildings that have survived the town's decline. Midway down the street on the left-hand side stands ArlingtonHouse (Mon– Sat 9am–5am, B$25; BNT), a classic example of the island's early townhouses – narrow, tall and gabled, with a sharply sloping roof and balcony. The state-of-the-art interactive museum inside the house is a must, offering fascinating insights into to the town's bygone times, including audio memories and chronicles of the port's illustrious history. Up in the attic, the port's wharf has been re-created with appropriate light and sound effects, complete with imported sand and virtual fish and turtles. There are also several entertaining hands-on exhibits: steering a ship through the Caribbean, or experiencing a hurricane, or, if that all sounds too energetic, chill out on the veranda with a sandwich and a glass of wine from the adjoining Café Mojo.
Directly across the street from Arlington House is the Gallery of Caribbean Art (Mon– Fri 9.30am–4.30pm, Sat 9.30am–2pm), which features three rooms of sculpture and paintings by artists from Barbados and the Caribbean. Most pieces are for sale.