Set on the high point of Prospect Ridge amidst 43 acres of lush land, the site formerly known as ‘High Tor’, has an incredible history; high profile past guests include The Beatles (who filmed the movie Help! here), Robert Mitchum and Prince Charles, while two fascinating families have been fortunate enough to call the mansion ‘home’.
Englishman, Sir Oliver Simmonds, became the first owner, designer and builder of High Tor back in 1948. The brains behind the revolutionary bi-plane known as the Simmonds Spartan, Simmonds also played a part in the design of the Supermarine Aircraft as well as the Spitfire (the famous fighter plane that defended England in World War 11). In 1963, Simmonds sold ‘High Tor’ to the Tomlinsons; a Canadian couple who had business interests in shipping, shareholds in MGM studios, and as a sideline, were also owners of a racehorse that ran in America and Canada.
Both owners contributed to the community. Sir Oliver served as president of the Hotel Employer Association and then as president of Friends of The Bahamas – an organisation encouraging the recognition of Bahamian creative talent in the hotel and music industries. Joseph and Elodie Tomlinson, in turn, donated fruit from their orchards to the island’s inhabitants right up until late last year when they sold the property to its present owners.
With or without these historical echoes, High Tor – now known as The Balmoral – offers a total escape owing to its spectacular location, spaces and style. Bahamian born developer, Jason Kinsale, has turned the premise into an exclusive gated, residential area and the jewel in the crown of this community is undoubtedly the Club, which quite literally, takes centre stage being slap bang in the middle of the development.
Arriving at the club is akin to entering a fairytale. Step through the beautiful bronze doors and prepare to be wowed; exquisitely designed, the mansion is nothing if not a feast for the senses. A stunning spiral staircase conjures up images of Margaret Mitchell’s heroine, Scarlett O Hara, sweeping down similar staircases in Gone With The Wind and succeeds in filling the club with elegance and drama from the offset. Kinsale and team have kept the 18th century carved wooden fireplaces, oak doors and colossal windows that Sir Oliver introduced – further heightening the history of this nostalgic charmer.
Nonetheless, despite such awe-inspiring features, the mansion is grand without being intimidating. This has been achieved, in part, through the choice of colour palette – earthy oranges, deep beiges and rich, chocolate browns combine to create “a warm, welcoming feeling.”
“The goal,” says Kinsale, “was to generate a warm and comfortable ambience – no arrogance or stuffiness.” Amanda Lindroth – the lady Kinsale credits with the re-design – has been so successful in realising this, that you may feel at first as though you have walked into a convivial house party. Taking inspiration from art and the past, combined with an eye for detail, Lindroth has introduced “lots of couches as well as original pictures taken by local photographer, Roland Rose,” making for a “pleasurable yet practical” environment.
The Balmoral Club also boasts enough eco-credentials to keep even David Attenborough happy, although in many ways, Kinsale’s environmental awareness is to be expected. The green fiend explains: “I was born in The Bahamas but grew up in Vancouver, Canada and in Canada if you cut a tree down, you went to jail.” Consequently the eco commitment is flagged up everywhere; biodegradable products are used instead of plastic bottles while seagrass flooring can be found throughout the club, which has been developed around 400 mature trees. “During the early stages of the development, we tagged over 400 trees which we preserved in an effort to protect the natural splendour,” says Kinsale. And the trees that were removed? “They have been mulched and reused on plant beds.” It transpires that the verdant landscape – in particular the open lawn – is Kinsale’s own favourite spot: “I love the open lawn which is surrounded by royal palms, silk cottons and trees that are 50 feet tall. The area is an oasis.”
It is true that the garden creates a calm, Zen like feel; lost in peace and seclusion, members feel miles away from the hustle and bustle of nearby Nassau. For a change of pace, the club has been kitted out with a billiards room, games room and entertainment room amongst other amenities. Meanwhile the more energetic can work up a stylish sweat in the first-rate fitness centre with its rubber flooring and mirrored walls. However if you would rather work out in the great outdoors, there is the outdoor swimming pool surrounded by pretty poincianas and palms as well as the Mark Knowles Tennis Centre. The latter took “two months to construct and is a major draw”, comments Kinsale.
After something more idle? Watch the sun set while enjoying a light bite or a Balini – the club’s own version of the legendary Bellini – at Café Balmoral & Bar; a hip destination for drinks and early evening socialising.
All told, no luxury has been left out at the mansion, which mixes modern amenities with High Tor’s history and heritage and the island’s lore and legend. Little wonder then that membership is changing hands so fast. What is surprising, given the club is of a sumptuousness that is simply jaw dropping, is that in terms of hard cash The Balmoral community is not outrageously expensive.
“The price point is part of what makes The Balmoral so unique,” Kinsale confirms. “We are offering a level of clubhouse that is on par with developments like Old Fort Bay [a luxurious waterfront community] yet more affordable.”
The question on REALlife’s lips, and we suspect yours, is ‘why?’ One answer is that Kinsale has a keen interest in the “young, professional market which [he believes] is under served.” Secondly, Kinsale did not want Balmoral to be bought by the super rich as a second, third or fourth home in the sun and thereby “stand empty for much of the year.” The prices, are viable for local residents and workers resulting in an occupancy that is “99 per cent Bahamian. We recently acquired our first Canadian.”
A plush property for a non-plush price, that is close to the sand, sea and sun on a tropical island. The Balmoral is a winning combination.