As a born-and-bred Devonshire resident, I must admit the bucolic, valley-dotted parish, infused as it is with childhood memories, is my favorite parish in all of Bermuda. Spend time here, and you will find yourself not only in the physical crux of Bermuda, thanks to its central position, but also in the heart of the island’s “country” roots.
Devonshire conjures old gardens on rambling estates that tumble down gentle hills and fenced meadows, North Shore cottages clustered in salt-sprayed pastels, the echo of surf on South Shore verandas, and lily fields and footpaths through fiddlewood forests. Historically, Devonshire (pronounced DEV-on-sure, not “shire” as North Americans are tempted to say) is named for the southwest corner of England, birthplace of William Cavendish, the first Earl of Devonshire and one of the prominent London investors behind Bermuda’s early development.
Sparsely populated until the 20th century due to its lack of natural harbors (and therefore disconnected from the boom in maritime industry), Devonshire prospered primarily through farming. Military history runs deep here, too. It was the British Army that had the greatest impact on the parish starting in the mid-1800s, after appropriating a quarter of the land and establishing forts, a military hospital, and a garrison at Prospect.
Montpelier (today the home of the Deputy Governor) and the neighboring Arboretum became part of a huge military complex that covered Fort Hill—a vantage point chosen for its commanding view of land and sea stretching as far as the Royal Naval Dockyard. When the Army pulled out of Bermuda in 1951, the area became headquarters for the Bermuda Police Service. Today it is also home to one of the island’s largest public high schools (CedarBridge Academy) and a well-used cultural center, the Ruth Seaton James Center for the Performing Arts.
Centuries-old families such as the Cox, Watlington, and Dill clans have managed to preserve from destruction or development their impressive historic mansions and large landholdings. Today, these, along with government lands held as open space, contribute to the sense of natural beauty in the parish and help offset eyesores such as the Tynes Bay Incinerator, an ugly tower rising off former North Shore farmland, where the island’s garbage is trucked and burned.
With just one hotel property (the Dills’ Ariel Sands Resort, which is currently closed for redevelopment), few dedicated attractions, and no village or commercial center for shopping or dining out, Devonshire can be considered the least tourist-focused parish. The exceptions are in October and November, when crowds pour in for the annual Music Festival and World Rugby Classic at the National Sports Centre. The rest of the time, residents live and work and enjoy outdoors pursuits here, but despite the lack of advertised sights, visitors will find many corners worth spending time in.
It might be true to say Devonshire is a state of mind rather than a destination. It demands slowing down, kicking back, and soaking in a different time when rhythms of life were connected to the earth rather than the minute or the dollar.
Getting to Devonshire Parish
There is no ferry service to or from Devonshire.
With no taxi stands and just one resort (Ariel Sands), hailing a cab in Devonshire is hard work. A better strategy is to call one of the cab companies to arrange a pick-up.
Regular bus service runs every half hour through Devonshire between Hamilton and Grotto Bay (Route No. 3) in Hamilton Parish via Middle Road, Devil’s Hole, and the caves, making for convenient sightseeing transport. Other Devonshire bus routes include South Shore Road (No. 1) between Hamilton and St. George’s every half hour via Spittal Pond and the Tucker’s Town golf courses, and North Shore Road (No. 10 and No. 11) to and from St. George’s every 15 minutes via the Aquarium and Bailey’s Bay. Bus fare to Devonshire falls into the three-zone tariff, which is $3 adults, $2 children 5–16, kids under 5 free (exact change, or tokens, tickets, or passes required). Transfers are free.
© Rosemary Jones from Moon Bermuda, 2nd Edition