(UPDATE: Included the Somerset Bridge to Evans Bay Section of the trail.)
Bermuda is more than just its beautiful beaches. If you enjoy hiking more than swimming in the sea, then you will have your own place in the island. There are various nature reserves and trails that you can explore by foot. In this post, I will share the first segment of a very long trail stretching from Somerset Island to St. Georges starting at the Somerset Terminal at the west end.
History of the Bermuda Railway Trail
The island used to have a train running daily. Many years ago, it served as the best method to go end to end. The information board standing right where the trail starts in Somerset has the following to say:
“In 1924 the Bermuda Legislature granted permission to The Bermuda Railway Company for the building of a standard gauge railway from Somerset to St. George’s and granted powers in acquiring land for the track bed. To avoid the high prices set by landowners for their property, much of the track were laid on trestles and bridges. Work began on the line in 1926 with a completion date set for 1928.
After many delays, the western section of the Bermuda Railway opened on October 31, 1931, and the eastern section on December 19, 1931. The railway covered 21.78 miles, from the western terminus – Somerset Station, through the City of Hamilton, and on to the eastern terminus – St. George’s station, and carried an estimated 14 million people over a period of 17 years.
At an estimated cost of £1 million, the railway was said to have cost more per mile than any other railway in the world at that time. In arguably, it was also one of the world’s most scenic.”
Fast Forward to Today
Currently, there is no more railway service running in the island. Transportation now are mainly buses and ferries. Read related content here.
Bermuda now created a national park out of the railway track. You can no longer see the track beds, instead, they are now paved with concrete. A few portions remain rugged though.
The Railway Trail as it is called today, is actually nice for hiking. Along the path, you will see various faunas thriving in the mostly limestone terrain of the island. Birds jumping, gliding and chirping on the trees are also a pleasant addition to the park.
Daily, usually early morning or late in the afternoon, it is common to see the locals walking and jogging. It is their favorite fitness activity. The trail is also dog friendly. Some locals walk with their dogs.
If you prefer riding on a bicycle instead of walking, you can certainly do it. But remember, they don’t allow three or four-wheeled vehicles in the trail, unless you are one of the residents along it and you have no other access. Horses if you have one are allowed.
Aside from the railway trail itself, there are other sites, parks or nature reserves you can explore. They are connected with the trail. Perfect for sightseeing.
Springfield Nature Reserve / Gilbert Nature Reserve
Just a few meters from the Somerset Station, you will find Springfield Nature Reserve. It’s a small area with trails perfect to get lost. Don’t worry, you can easily get back on track. Going through all the way, you will reach Somerset Road right in front of a grocery store. The signage just outside the trail says Gilbert Nature Reserve. They are just the same reserve. But maybe, it can also mean that the half of the reserve is Springfield and the other half is Gilbert.
Somerset Long Bay Park / Somerset Long Bay Reserve
Not far from the Springfield Nature Reserve are the Somerset Long Bay Park and Nature Reserve. The park is a vast stretch of grassy land with trees and a few picnic tables overlooking the beach on the far end. The water here is shallow. However, the beach is not as good as the others in the island. Another park feature is a play place for kids on the other corner.
Adjacent to the park is the nature reserve. It is off limits to the public. The pond with overgrown vegetation and trees is surrounded by fence. This exact area used to be a garbage dumpsite. It was restored and now serves as habitat for water birds. If you are lucky, you can see some of this winged creatures from the outside of the fence. Interestingly, there is a big mulberry tree on the road side corner of the reserve. During Spring time, the tree bears fruits. If you like eating mulberry fruits, then watch out. You have competitions.
To go back, you need to back trail and return to the Railway Trail. Continuing your journey in the trail, you will pass by the Somerset Cricket Club, Sandys Secondary Middle School and West End Primary School.
Crossing Soundview Road, the trail will offer you more scenic views. A sizable portion of the trail is overlooking the Great Sound. Somewhere along the way, you will also find signboards explaining more historical facts about the railway system.
Scaur Hill Fishing Ground
The trail also passes right where the locals and expats alike are fishing with their lines. Snappers are the usual catch, but sometimes jacks get hooked too. There are certain species that are prohibited and some have restrictions as to size and total numbers to catch. Pay close attention on the signage right before the stairs going down the fishing ground. A part of the rocky side of the shore is paved so it will be convenient.
Scaur Hill Fort Park
A few steps from the stairs going to the fishing ground is the trail going up to the Scaur Hill Fort Park. It is one of the best place to see a 360° panoramic view of the island. Read related content here.
Resuming your walk through the Railway Trail, you will pass by some houses, trees, vines, etc. At this point, you may already noticed that the trail is peppered by Bermuda Cherry and Loquat. They are delicious and favorite to the locals. When you happen to go during their fruit bearing season, usually between February to May, have some and you will not regret. The cherry may have a weird aftertaste if it is your first time. Get the red ones, they taste sweet! Loquats are also great. They taste sweet as well. Make sure to eat the fully ripe fruits.
Going all through the end of this segment of the trail, a small stretch of unpaved pathway will lead you down the sea. Here, you can see the posts used for the railway bridge. They are the only visible remains of the once great railway.
A few meters away is the Somerset Bridge. The signboard says, “Thought to be the smallest drawbridge in the world. Todays design is the simplest form of drawbridge, a 32-inch bisected plank through the center is opened by hand to allow the passage of a sailboat’s mast.”
Fishing is allowed below the bridge. Just don’t go and stand within the bridge to fish. It is prohibited.
This section of the trail is around 1.7 miles and estimated 1.5 walking hours. Depending on your pace, the trail alone can be as long as 2 hours. Including all the side trips I shared, give yourself at least 4 hours or maybe more.
Somerset Bridge to Evans Bay
Majority of this section of the railway trail does not offer a seaside view. It is mostly dotted by private properties and overgrown shrubs, grasses and trees. If listening to birds as they glide and chirp on the trees are music to your ears, you will definitely enjoy the walk. Depending on your pacing, it may take One hour and 30 minutes to traverse the trail.
A few tracks of farmlands can also be seen along the way. Caroline Bay is also along the trail. However, most of the bay area is offs limit. Fence are everywhere because there is a supposed construction of a luxury hotel in the area but it never materialized up to this date. As you continue walking, you will reach the Rockaway Ferry Terminal. At this point, the visible part of the trail will end. You can walk all the way to the Middle Road and walk towards Hamilton.
Continue your walk until you reach the Vesey Nature Reserve. You can have a few minutes here to explore it. It is a saltwater pond with mangroves and other vegetation. On the otherside of the road, you will see a few steps going up the hill side. This will mark the re-emergence of the trail. It is a rugged path overlooking the road and is lined by trees and shrubs.
A few more meters, you will come out of the main road. As you approach the crossroad, you will see the Emmanuel Methodist Church and the Evans Bay Train Station. In front of them is the Whale Bay Road. If you will follow this route, you will be able to find one of Bermuda’s hidden gem. West Whale Bay Park and Whale Bay Battery.
Evans Bay Train Station
This station handles both freights and passengers. According to the information board, “The Station was also the site of a passing loop which allowed trains to pass on the single track system. The fourteen passing sidings along the line were operated by a key token system.”
The building of the station itself is small. Painted with pastel yellow, it is still standing on the side of the road today. However, I am not just sure if this is still the original structure or it has been restored.
1. Bring your water and trail food. Other than the grocery at the end of Springfield Nature Reserve, you will not find any place to buy within the trail.
2. Bus route #7 and #8 will stop right at the Somerset Station when it is coming from the Royal Naval Dockyard. From the City of Hamilton, buses will stop in front of the Somerset Police Station. These bus stops are just a few meters away from each other.