Trust Andrew Strauss to do something a little bit different. When England cricket captains buy Caribbean property, you expect them to plump for the Royal Westmoreland in Barbados, a luxury resort where every other villa seems to be owned by a celebrity sportsman. Michael Vaughan has a villa there. So does Freddie Flintoff.
Not Strauss. The man who has just led England to world domination on the cricket field by crushing India 4-0, is a mild-mannered, retiring type who seems happier away from the limelight than hogging centre stage. He lives in the quiet Buckinghamshire town of Marlow with his Australian wife, Ruth, and their two small boys.
Instead of the glitz of Barbados, Strauss has opted for the understated chic of St Lucia. It is the most beautiful island in the Caribbean to its admirers, but not one where you would expect to find Simon Cowell chatting to Sienna Miller under a palm tree.
“I could have gone for Barbados,” Strauss tells me. “It is certainly an island I love. But St Lucia is more unspoilt and offers greater privacy. I want somewhere I can go and relax in peace with my family.
“I won’t be England captain forever, and it is in the nature of Test cricket that you can’t know when you’re going to have gaps in your career.”
A wry reference, perhaps, to the time when he was dropped by England after a poor run of form, only to return in triumph the following year. Top cricketers need downtime, too.
Strauss is launching Freedom Bay, a luxury hotel, spa resort with private residences located within the Unesco World Heritage Site of the Pitons, the two conical volcanoes which are St Lucia’s most famous landmark.
It is the best address on the island and, with other luxury resorts due to open in the vicinity, could be a canny investment. High-end purchasers will doubtless be happy to buy there once it has achieved sufficient visibility.
“The setting could hardly be better, while the people are among the friendliest in the Caribbean,” says Strauss, who is an ambassador for Freedom Bay.
He is also an early-stage investor in the development, having acquired a small part-share in a hotel villa under a fractional ownership scheme.
Entry price for the villas is just over £880,000, with a 25 per cent discount for those who get in early and an 8 per cent rental guarantee for the first three years.
“I haven’t spent ages agonising over whether this was the best possible way to invest my money,” says Strauss. “At the end of the day, you just have to go with your gut instinct on these things. But I hope I have chosen wisely.”
There is quite a bit of smart money going into St Lucia these days. Freedom Bay is just around the corner from Sugar Beach, another high-end development, while the involvement of the prestigious Six Senses group in the project – its first foray into the Caribbean – is another coup for the developers.
The days when the St Lucia sector was dominated by three-star resorts, with little to offer high-rollers, are firmly in the past.
If the Freedom Bay development sounds enticing, with its dreamy location and its luxurious facilities, the Andrew Strauss Cricket Academy, which is going to be an offshoot of the development, is even more intriguing. Well, certainly to cricket fans anyway.
Located at Choiseul, in the south of the island, the academy will provide specialist training to dozens of young St Lucians and, it is hoped, produce West Indies stars of the future.
“It’s obviously not part of my brief to help restore the West Indies to their former glory,” says Strauss. One of his cricketing heroes is fellow left-hander Brian Lara, whom he watched score 400 against England in 2004. “But I do see an opportunity to help kids who might otherwise not get the chance to develop their talents. I’m always amazed at the number of great cricketers who emerged from the Caribbean, given the paucity of first-class training facilities on the islands. It would be nice to help plug that gap.”
But should he be dabbling in property now, at the peak of his powers, captaining the most successful England cricket team in memory, officially ranked the No 1 test side in the world? Shouldn’t he be in the nets night and day, working on his backlift and his trigger movement and the other tricks of the batting trade?
“Don’t worry, I haven’t taken my eye off the ball,” says Strauss. “And I certainly don’t plan to get directly involved in the development of the resort. It would only distract from my duties as the England captain.
“I simply want a place where I can chill with my family from time to time. This secluded corner of St Lucia seemed the perfect place to do that.”
The island may look small on the map, but the roads are uneven in quality, so getting around will take longer than you think.
There are no bars on non-residents buying property in St Lucia, but you will need to budget for the cost of an Alien’s Landholding Licence, at approximately £1,500.
Major hurricanes are rare, but make sure that your property is fully insured against storm damage.
The area around Rodney Bay, to the north of the island, has the busiest shops, restaurants etc. The most exclusive developments are in the less populated south, close to the spectacular Pitons.
If you are looking to buy a second home for winter sun, make sure you house-hunt at that time of year, rather than in the autumn, when the weather is more variable.
The St Lucia government is actively encouraging investors and there is currently no VAT or capital gains tax on the island. Make sure you get up-to-date tax advice before signing on the dotted line.
If you are buying to let, don’t expect to achieve year-round occupancy. There are more visitors in the winter, and in school holidays, than other months.
Yachties should check out the yacht haven at Marigot Bay, on the west coast, where there is an attractive mix of properties.