Ocho Rios: a Caribbean hideaway on Jamaica’s north coast

On the opposite coast to the island’s busy capital, Kingston, ‘Ochi’ is a tranquil but thriving haven with plenty to do, see and eat – and some characterful places to stay

‘The rhythm of Jamaica has always had an influence on my music’

Growing up, saxophonist YolanDa Brown’s Jamaican parents always told her their homeland was like paradise – and the food, beaches, culture and music were everything she’d dreamed of

Usain’s bolthole: life in the slow lane in Trelawny, Jamaica

Laidback Trelawny Parish in Jamaica is the birthplace of many Olympic sprinters, including Usain Bolt, the fastest man on earth, as well as Veronica Campbell-Brown and Ben Johnson

Welcome to the world of travel

Firstly, the musician and maker of Reggae Reggae sauce, Levi Roots, lists the best experiences in his homeland,

http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2014/aug/09/levi-roots-jamaica-the-way-i-see-it

Secondly the Finnish Aland Islands are a lovely destination during the White Nights of summer

http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2014/aug/09/finland-family-breaks-aland-islands

Thirdly, France’s secret riviera near Narbonne.

http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2014/aug/09/south-france-narbonne-coast-holiday-guide

Rose Hall Great House, Jamaica

 

The Rose Hall Great House is associated with the infamous ‘White Witch’ of Rose Hall, Annie Palmer. Annie moved to Haiti when she was 11 with her English mother and Irish father. Annie immediately took a keen interest in voodoo. Her parents died from Yellow Fever soon afterwards, but Annie was coached in the art of voodoo by her nanny, who perished when Annie was 18. People close to Annie dying was a familiar theme during her short life. She moved to Jamaica and married John Rose Palmer, the owner of Rose Hall.

After 7 years, Annie Palmer murdered her husband, a pattern that was repeated twice more in the next three years with her two more husbands. Each was killed in a different bedroom using a different method. Annie Palmer also had many slaves lovers during her life and they helped Annie dispose of the bodies via a secret passage that led to the beach. Annie was hated by the slaves for her cruelty towards them, indeed one of her favourite pastimes was to watch them being punished from an upper window.

Annie Palmer was killed during the Christmas Insurrection of 1831 by the slaves on her estate. A brutal ending to a cruel life. Rose Hall is haunted with many sightings of ghosts. Indeed people’s cups have been moved from one room to another while their backs were turned. In the cellar are a number of letters from previous visitors, who have taken photographs in different parts of the house. The images contain an apparition in either a mirror or a shiny surface.

Rose Hall is recommended simply because of the fascinating tale of Annie Palmer. It is almost miraculous that the house is still standing at all given that it lay derelict for 130 years, before being restored by John Rollins between 1965 and 1972 at a cost of $2.5 million.

 

My thoughts on Montego Bay

Montego Bay is a party town. I am sure the rest of Jamaica is too, but I will just write about where I have been.

The centre of the city is worth looking around once but there’s nothing outstanding to see other than perhaps Sam Sharpe Square and the Gallery of West Indian Art. Don’t let anyone show you around and act as your guide – they will want some money from you for this service. The usual line they give is that they work in the kitchen or act as a waiter in a restaurant or hotel that you have frequented. If this happens to you either stand still and tell them to go away politely or go along for the ride and expect to be asked for money.

Doctor’s Cave Beach is on Mobay’s hip strip and you will find you’re not the only tourist around, which is quite heartening if you have been to the centre of the city where tourists are scarce. Restaurants change their names quickly here – the Twisted Kilt has become Biggs and the Groovy Grouper Bar and Grill has become The Sands Bar and Grill. Biggs is like walking into an American diner and The Sands is actually right on the beach (you enter the Doctor’s Cave Beach bathing area and then head to the right along the wooden boardwalk – a fact some guidebooks neglect to mention).

I stayed at the Wexford Hotel. This is a very noisy location as there’s a disco to the left of the hotel as you face the sea, but if you don’t want to sleep until 1:30am then that won’t bother you. The Wexford is situated on Gloucester Avenue, which is the main road out of Montego Bay towards the east of the country. Their Internet Wi-Fi is like an elevator (up and down all the time), however they do offer a complimentary shuttle service to the airport and the breakfasts are good and hearty, although don’t help yourself to the fruit juice otherwise the waitress will scold you in a friendly manner. To serve the juice and tea is her job.

Other recommendation are to go to Scotchies on the road to Falmouth to try jerk and visitors must go up to Richmond Hill and admire the view over Montego Bay.

Jamaica, Greenwood and Rose Hall Great Houses

The Greenwood Great House is on the north coast of Jamaica east of Montego Bay. The house was built primarily for entertainment purposes by Edward Barrett, who was the father of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The Barretts were one of the wealthiest landowners in Jamaica and by the time of emancipation owned over 2,000 slaves, who worked in the sugarcane plantations.

A tour of the house takes about 30 minutes and will almost certainly be personal as the house receives few visitors. One reason is the road to the house, which is heavily pot-holed, This is in sharp contrast to a former owner of Greenwood who received an award from the Jamaican government for having the finest tarmac’ed road on the island.

There are some fascinating pieces in the house including a polyphon, a working barrel organ, and a piano that was owned by Queen Alexandra, the wife of King Edward VII. A recent delegation from the Danish government tried to buy the piano, but their offer was rebuffed.

The upper verandah gives an almost uninterrupted view of the Caribbean Sea and, if you use your imagination, you can almost see the curvature of the earth.

Greenwood Great House is set in attractive gardens and is worth every cent of the entrance fee.

The Rose Hall Great House is closer to Montego Bay and is associated with the infamous ‘White Witch’ of Rose Hall, Annie Palmer. Annie moved to Haiti when she was 11 with her English mother and Irish father. Annie immediately took a keen interest in voodoo. Her parents died from Yellow Fever soon afterwards, but Annie was coached in the art of voodoo by her nanny, who perished when Annie was 18. People close to Annie dying was a familiar theme during her short life. She moved to Jamaica and married John Rose Palmer, the owner of Rose Hall.

After 7 years, Annie Palmer murdered her husband, a pattern that was repeated twice more in the next three years with her two more husbands. Each was killed in a different bedroom using a different method. Annie Palmer also had many slaves lovers during her life and they helped Annie dispose of the bodies via a secret passage that led to the beach. Annie was hated by the slaves for her cruelty towards them, indeed one of her favourite pastimes was to watch them being punished from an upper window.

Annie Palmer was killed during the Christmas Insurrection of 1831 by the slaves on her estate. A brutal ending to a cruel life.

Rose Hall is also recommended simply because of the fascinating tale of Annie Palmer. It is almost miraculous that the house is still standing at all given that it lay derelict for 130 years, before being restored by John Rollins between 1965 and 1972 at a cost of $2.5 million.