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Sandys Parish/Bermuda

Introducing Sandys Parish

If Bermuda has a hinterland, then it's certainly Sandys (pronounced 'sands'). This westernmost parish, also known as the West End, is made up of five islands connected by bridges.

Sandys has a multi-faceted history born of rich soil and a powerful motherland. It is sometimes referred to as 'up the country' because of its rural roots, and many old-time Bermudians can trace their ancestry back to the family farmsteads that once dotted the parish.

The main village of Somerset derives its name from Sir George Somers, whose shipwrecked crew were the first settlers to Bermuda - this, it is said, was 'Somers seat.' Somers was just the first of many admirals to leave a mark on the parish. Two hundred years after Somers' death, the British Royal Navy arrived in force and began staking its claim.

The parish's main sightseeing attractions include, on one hand, nature preserves with quiet trails that wind through farms and woodlands and, on the other hand, mighty impressive forts. None is more impressive than the 75-acre Royal Naval Dockyard, an immense complex with munitions storehouses, cannon-topped bastions and a moat-encircled fortress.

Sandys' northernmost islands - Watford Island, Boaz Island, Ireland Island South and Ireland Island North - were all once occupied by the Royal Navy. Today, naval cemeteries flank the road leading out of Somerset to the Royal Naval Dockyard.

Ireland Island North, the outermost part of Sandys, was entirely the navy's. Its HMS Malabar naval base closed in 1995, ending the Royal Navy's centuries-old presence in Bermuda.

The Royal Naval Dockyard was also decommissioned but it's not sleeping. This collection of 19th-century buildings, along with the former military dockyard and fort, has been turned into one of Bermuda's foremost visitor destinations, with its own cruise ship dock, small marina, snorkel park, maritime museum, shopping center, craft galleries and restaurants.