Would Nelson recognize it?

Stone pillars are all that’s left of the 1796 boathouse. Stone pillars are all that’s left of the 1796 boathouse. (Patricia Borns for The Boston Globe)
December 6, 2009

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ENGLISH HARBOUR, Antigua - What was Admiral Horatio Nelson thinking when he called Antigua’s English Harbour “a vile place and a dreadful hole’’? The circa 1725 dockyard bearing his name - formerly the Caribbean operation-central of the British Royal Navy - is today a national park of history, natural beauty, and sophisticated fun.

If it’s April, you’ll rub shoulders with a global village of sailors here for Antigua Sailing Week, one of the 10 largest regattas in the world. At all other times, Patrick O’Brian fans will find a trove of nautical geek treats in the Dockyard Museum, an elegant West Indian-style house that once served as the officers’ quarters.

Shoppers, head to Nancy Nicholson’s Rhythm of Blue gallery for one-of-a-kind ceramics that will forever recall Antigua’s electric blue sea. Fashioned from a latter-day work bench, the Admiral’s Inn bar is de rigueur for a drink or iced tea. For lunch, water-shuttle across the harbor to Catherine’s Café for light Brittany-infused fare. After touring the dockyard buildings, take the footpath behind the Copper and Lumber Store up and around to Fort Berkeley, strewn with ruins and iPhone-camera-popping views. Just beyond is where you’ll want to end the day at Shirley Heights Lookout, with a rum punch, live steel pan music, and the sun setting over Montserrat and Redonda.

Find details about Nelson’s Dockyard National Park attractions at PATRICIA BORNS