‘Welcome to Necker Island,’ says an all-too-familiar voice. Sir Richard Branson, arms outstretched and beaming, greets us warmly upon arrival at his home and private Caribbean hideaway.
Often in the headlines, thanks to its glittering array of A-list guests, Necker made news for all the wrong reasons in August 2011 when a lightning strike set fire to the Great House. Kate Winslet saved
Branson’s 90-year-old mother as the island’s main building burnt to the ground. ‘The sky was ablaze with 300ft flames,’ says Branson, reliving the night. ‘It was half an hour of sheer terror.’
But now, £9million later, the all-new Great House has risen from the ashes and is open for business. I am one of the first journalists to visit.
After two flights and a speedboat ride, I arrive at the 74-acre island, where the Great House sits perched on the crest of the tallest hill. It is an almost exact replica of the original. The eight guest rooms and huge lounge are packed with antiques sourced from the flea markets of Indonesia and the house even has the same Balinese theme.
There are new touches, too, including a rooftop hot tub, while getting to Turtle Beach no longer means tackling a steep stone staircase thanks to a speedy new zip-line.