Fifty two years ago an island paradise was founded on the principles of privacy, equality, freedom of expression and – hedonism. Located 45 minutes from Barbados in the Caribbean; Mustique is the dream of Colin Tennant, third Baron Glenconner; a wildly wealthy Scottish aristocrat (cousin to the recently departed supermodel Stella Tennant and nephew of Stephen Tennant, one of Evelyn Waugh’s original ‘Bright Young People’) with a vision to create a lush retreat for the ‘Jet Set’ to retreat in luxury bohemian bliss.
Tennant transformed a former mosquito-ridden (thus the inspiration behind the name of the island) sugar plantation into an idyllic get-away, primed for colonisation by his society friends. To ensure that only the great and good could inhabit it, he either sold or gifted plots to people within his close circle.
That circle included key society figures such as Princess Margaret (to whom he gave a prime spot as a wedding present – his wife Lady Anne Glenconner being a close friend to the Royal family, having served as a maid of honour at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II), Mick Jagger, Hans Neumann, Paul Newman, Slim Aarons, David Bowie, the von Bismarck family, Hugo Money-Coutts, Prince Rupert Loewenstein, Christina Onassis, Honor Guinness, and a handful of others.
Back then, to avoid any ‘unsavoury’ characters (including press, or diary photographers of course) no one was even allowed on the island without a prior screening first. The lack of any media-led consequences together with the island’s carefully curated residents and free-spirit ethos created a heady combination where anything was fair game.
Parties and fun have always been baked into the DNA of the ‘Mustique way’ with Tennant hosting the most lavish (his 50th ‘Gold themed’ birthday party featured gilded palm trees on Macaroni Beach and his grand entrance entrance being carried Pharaoh-like by man servants covered in gold paint) and the world-famous Basil’s Bar playing centrepiece to an innumerable list of late night celebrity anecdotes.
Today, decades after Tennant’s death and exile (in a twist of fate, he was eventually forced to sell his majority interest of the island to Venezuelan industrialist Hans Neumann and other residents after years of a pseudo tyrannical reign over them) – the party continues.
New residents and guests have flocked to live the Mustique dream. No longer blocked by its previous ‘no trespassers’ attitude; the new regulars include Kate & William – Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (who had a Basil’s Bar themed wedding reception), Bryan Adams (who now owns Neumann’s villa), Tommy Hilfiger (who boasts a palatial Versailles style estate), Raquel Welch, Jude Law, Ella Sainsbury, Amanda Sheppard, Felix Dennis, Denzel Washington, Johnny Depp, Marc Quinn, Lawrence Stroll, Pierce Brosnan, David Hockney, Hugh Grant, Kate Moss, Paul McCartney, Calvin Klein, among many other luminaries.
Fortunately for all of us, many of the residents now subsidise their lavish homes, which are staffed 365 days a year with maids, cooks and butlers, by letting them out for holiday rentals. Now that we are firmly within the best season to visit (the 24 hour NYE is legendary at Basil’s), DDW selects the best homes to rent – and the best cocktails to order from Basil Charles himself:
Les Jolies Eaux
Princess Margaret’s former villa is a landmark on the island. Les Jolies Eaux (a play on ‘beautiful waters’ and Gelliceaux Beach – the nearby cove) has been the defacto social epicentre of Mustique for almost 50 years, making it the ideal holiday home for those looking to bathe in history and crystal blue waters alike.
Designed in 1971 by British theatrical stage designer Oliver Messel (uncle to Margaret’s husband, Lord Snowden) – this five bedroom villa is set within 10 private acres on the coveted southern tip of the island and features two swimming pools, a gazebo, tropical gardens and a private sunbathing terrace. The list of guests who have stayed here would make for a ‘who’s who’ of global culture’s last 50 year history and include Queen Elizabeth II and perhaps less excitingly, the Kardashians.
The bill: $20,500 and $40,000 a week during the island high season of the 15th of December 15 through to the 30th of April.
One of the island’s most sought after homes, this stunning plantation-style villa comes complete with extensive landscaped grounds and hill-top views that are guaranteed to take your breath away.
Designed by Arne Hasselqvist in 1981 and renovated in 2019 it boasts an impressive 8 large bedrooms and suites, full staff and even a yoga terrace. To top it off, a percentage of revenue is donated to the conservation of the Pangolin via the Pangolin Foundation.
The Bill: This perfect villa ranges from $32,000 to $72,000 per week during peak season.
Du Pont Chemicals heiress Tatiana Copeland’s graceful Moroccan-inspired estate on the island is a thing of beauty. Designed by architect and Oliver Messel’s disciple Arne Hasselqvist, the villa boasts Moorish architecture with a Caribbean twist, showcasing open spaces, huge duplex suites, swimming pools and stunning sea views.
Toucans are regular visitors (although the house is named after Copeland and her husband’s motto: “One can’t, two can”) and the in-house staff are there to cater to your every whim, be it a pool-side cocktail, a romantic dinner or a picnic on the beach.
The bill: A magical all-inclusive rental (with a huge selection of Copeland’s own vineyard Carneros wines in stock) will set you back between $22,000 and $54,000 depending on your dates.
Designed by renowned Italian architect Paolo Piva, this stately, gracious family villa commands the northern end of Mustique from its hilltop location high above L’Ansecoy Bay looks more Slim Aarons than most.
With picturesque retro-styled swimming pool dotted with coral pink chaise lounges surrounded by an imposing colonial-style Caribbean home, this is one of Mustique’s undisputed great summer palaces.
Private terraces for sunning abound as do uninterrupted views from all seven bedrooms. Guests will want for nothing at this luxurious compound and will be served by eight full time live-in staff, including a butler and an assistant butler.
The Bill: This palatial holiday ranges from $37,500 to $72,000 per week during peak season.
Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke, Major Tom … David Bowie may have been known by many names but on the island he was just David. Mustique was practically made for the Brit rocker, its laid-back spirit of enthralled him as did its celebration of creativity.
He built the Mandalay villa as his spiritual respite from the world (on many occasions professing that he would die there), a chance to let loose his design prowess and incorporate influences that inspired him and his supermodel wife, Iman. The result of their collective creative curiosity led to this being one of the most unique houses on the island, featuring Balinese temple design meets Caribbean hideaway.
At the centre are two large ponds filled with koi as well as a large infinity pool, inside seven large bedrooms, an arcade games room and a full service bar called the Bamboo Lounge.
The Bill: Get some of that Bowie magic for $40,000 a week during the off-season and $90,000 during peak season.
Once you settle into your plush new holiday home, you may want to venture out and pay a visit to the island’s patron cocktail saint, Basil Charles, OBE at his namesake bar; Basil’s.
Located at the Cotton House – one of the island’s only two hotels (this being the larger at 20 rooms) – Basil’s seems to have its own gravitational field surrounding it – pulling in all residents and guests for a cocktail or wood oven pizza after midday until late.
Charm Basil himself or one of the bartenders into trying one of their signature ‘Mustique Mules’, a ‘Mustique Whammys’ or even a ‘Hurricane David’ if you dare (this is a famously potent cocktail) and relax as you take in the view of Britannia Bay, meet new friends or go for a swim.
Colin Tennant was right, this is paradise found.