Discover Montego Bay
Home |  About the City |  City Map
Accommodations |  Attractions |  Car Rentals |  Restaurants
TOURS - Seaford Town |  Montego Valley |  Trelawny

Tour 11 - Into Trelawny and along the Coast
Excerpted from the book, Tour Jamaica, by Margaret Morris

Westgate shopping centre, south east of the town centre has a supermarket, wholesale liquor store, bank, green grocer, gas station and other necessities. Take the road just north of here towards the Queen of Spain Valley in the parish of Trelawney: narrow, winding and shady it is punctuated at regular intervals by rusty signs proclaiming "Bus Stop" though sightings of a bus are mercifully rare. At Portobello Heights crossroads the office building on the R is the business place of local member of Parliament and civil engineer Arthur Nelson. Take the R fork towards SIGN where the SIGN GREAT HOUSE may or may not have completed its refurbishing. On a breezy hill it offers fine views, pleasant cottages, a swimming pool, bar, restaurant and landscaped grounds. At ORANGE a sign painted on the wall of a small shop announces "Welcome to Me Ameego".

At SUDBURY the old Baptist church - cut stone with quaint peaked windows of coloured glass -has been desecrated fore and aft with squat concrete additions. The road branches 10.5 miles out at GLASGOW; your landmark is a stone farm house on the hill L of the road. The L fork will take you to the coast at Rosehall, continue straight ahead for ADELPHI where the courthouse is conveniently located on top of the police station. The road L past the Shell gas station takes you back to the coast at Salt Marsh; the R fork continues to Hampden. At LIMA there is a large pond on the L and the way R leads to the hills of SOMERTON, home village of Reggae star Jimmy Cliff. Bear L to Hampden and enter the broad QUEEN OF SPAIN VALLEY - with cane fields on both sides and in the distance the low conical hills that herald the start of the COCKPIT COUNTRY.

The HAMPDEN junction is marked by a large cut stone facade, sans legend, and an antique sugar mill. Turn L here about a mile along a bad road towards the factory and great house. Hampden estate has been in the sugar business for over 200 years. An ancestor of the present owners-in-residence David and Richard Farquharson, purchased the estate in the 1830s. Prior to that it belonged to Archibald Stirling, a practical and apparently devout Scotsman who imported missionaries from Scotland to convert his slaves to Christianity and built the tiny Presbyterian church, the first in the island, in the nearby village. The great house located immediately beside the factory was built by Stirling in 1779 and originated as a functional stone and mortar dwelling, the ground floor of which served as a rum store until the early 1900s when remodelling created spacious verandas and a graceful profile. Hampden is one of the 9 remaining sugar factories on the island. It processes cane from its own 3500 acres and from surrounding small farmers and is famous for its high ester rum, all of which is exported to Europe. Factory and great house tours can be arranged. (Telephone: 954-3262) Beside the greathouse driveway a tiny graveyard commemorates former proprietors and their families. The inscription on the tomb of John Stirling who died in 1793 aged 25 attests to his many virtues and the affection of his brother Archibald.

In the early days each sugar estate, no matter how small boasted its own factory, slave-built from limestone quarried in the island. Many of these were architectural gems - like the factory at nearby GALES VALLEY which was donated by Hampden owners and removed stone by stone to the University at Mona where it was reassembled as the Chapel. The road circles the Hampden factory and passes through a cool avenue of bamboo on its way to the village and coast. Your route heads towards WAKEFIELD a sprawling village on the edge of the Cockpit Country. The Queen of Spain Valley is the largest aquifer in the island and the water table here is very close to the surface making Wakefield prone to floods and small ephemeral lakes.

By the Wakefield Police Station turn L and keep L towards BUNKERS HILL. After about 2 miles, at a sharp bend there is a stone ruin on a hill overlooking the Martha Brae river - the boundary of Good Hope estate. The next cross roads with a shop and church is FRIENDSHIP where you turn L again and travel past Ugli orchards turning L again at the next junction for GOOD HOPE GREAT HOUSE. Once the domain of John Tharp (1744-1805) the largest land and slave owner in the West Indies, Good Hope is now owned by a group headed by MoBay businessman Tony Hart. The great house and stone coach house have been faithfully and lavishly restored to create an exclusive small hotel and the land produces export crops: anthuriums, papayas and Uglis. The last, a cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine was named (the story goes) by the then Princess Royal who on being offered one exclaimed "What an ugly fruit". Delicious uglis are now marketed by Hart as Uniques.

A slave-built stone bridge crosses the Martha Brae into the old slave village where one building is still in use as a packing house and leads up the hill below an eighteenth century house currently the residence of the farm manager. This was built by Tharp for his illegitimate son and farm manager Alexander Harewood - the only one of his children who inherited the father's energy and acumen. Through a gateway flanked by two more elegant old buildings, one slated to be a pottery studio, you get your first glimpse of the great house on the hill L and pass R the Good Hope Stables. The great house has a magnificent 360 degree view and exquisite informal garden - with the contemporary bonus of a swimming pool and barbeque tucked away behind shrubbery. The house is replete with priceless antiques from an original painting of the estate by J.B. Kidd to Tharp's anti-arthritis lead bathtub fed by a copper cistern. Good Hope is unique in almost every way. For example one luxurious suite is in Tharp's counting house above the former slave dungeon and staying here is predictably pricey. Manager is gourmet chef Tammy Hall. Tours, meals and horseback riding can be arranged through Half Moon Hotel or by phoning Good Hope.

An intriguing history of Good Hope written by a former owner Patrick Tenison, reveals that John Tharp was beloved by his slaves, so much so that in 1802 he wrote in a letter "My negroes have increased and are happy. They kill me with their constant visits and attentions. It gives pleasure though I am fatigued to death before the day is half gone, for I must talk and shake hands with every one of them." His favourite child was the daughter he had by one of his slaves who with the help of a generous dowry married well and went to live in England. The tradition of integration was carried on by a nephew William Tharp who was rumoured to keep a mistress on every one of the family's numerous estates.

Return approximately 2 miles to the (so-called) main road and bear left for SHERWOOD CONTENT. About 200 yards onwards a sign nailed to a telegraph pole points R down a dirt road to PANTREPANT which has some caves with Arawak petroglyphs (incised rock carvings). Sherwood Content is a straggling village which the Waldensia Baptist church built in 1836. At the crossroads with the Post Office L and a promising-looking bar and grocery R, another road doubles back into thickly wooded hills and a sign directs you to the WINDSOR CAVES the largest caves in the island. To explore them you will need an experienced guide, several, including a gentleman known as 'Sugar Belly' live in the vicinity. Also necessary are dependable lights and a measure of caution because several cavers have been lost in the outer passages. The cave has many levels, one source of the Martha Brae river rises in a subterranean cavern and the roar of water is said to echo through the caves in rainy weather. Like most Jamaican caves this one is inhabited by bats (known locally as ratbats). Bat manure, an excellent fertilizer used to be mined here. The caves are now owned by Mike Schwartz, a retired airline mechanic who lives in the Windsor great house. Campsites and accommodation may be available here soon.

The road straight ahead will take you to CLARKS TOWN via KINLOSS. Take the left fork towards PERTH TOWN another small straggling village and on to the MARTHA BRAE RAFTING VILLAGE. Situated on a low hill almost encircled by the green waters of the river this is a pleasant place with a bar and restaurant, restrooms, craft shop, swimming pool and itinerant calypso band. From here you can float down the emerald river on a bamboo raft with trees arching overhead and cows grazing beside the banks. Each raft accommodates two persons. Your captain will stop on request to allow you to swim, picnic or swing from jungle creepers like Tarzan. En route you will glide past the MARTHA BRAE ESTATE RIVERSIDE PARK shortly before the disembarkation point just above a stone bridge. From here, transportation is provided back to Rafter's Village and security is provided at their car park.

Retrace your raft route, this time by road downriver to the MARTHA BRAE ESTATE RIVERSIDE PARK, which offers something for everyone: swimming, boating, mini-raft rides, fishing, picnic areas, hammocks under the trees, entertainment, food and drink and a mini-island devoted to souvenir shops. The most refreshing option is the riverside nature trail along the old stone aqueduct (different lengths for different tastes) and a hike through limestone forest up a low hill through groves named Land of Look Behind, Me No Sen, you No Come, Rest and Be Thankful after districts in the Cockpit Country. At the top of the rise the nature trail merges with a heritage trail offering re-creations of a Maroon settlement and a slave village complete with 'obeahman' and meeting house.

Past the potter's shop and kiln you get a fine view of the river and open air mini-museum where a number of relics and artifacts are on loan from the National Heritage Trust. These include tombstones, some with fascinating inscriptions. Pride of place here is taken by a poignant statue of a little slaveboy who is crowned with a metal band commemorating the abolition of slavery. This ambitious holistic park is the brainchild of former parliamentarian Keith Russell and his family. Historian/sociologist Basil Ferguson acts as cultural consultant and supervises a genealogy service which can research and supply the convoluted family trees of Jamaicans. Access to the park is via a pontoon raft and the all-inclusive entrance fee covers everything except food, drink and souvenirs.

Back on the main road and over the stone bridge brings you into the village of MARTHA BRAE. The river, legend says, was named after an Arawak sorceress who drowned a party of greedy gold hunting Spaniards in it. On the Falmouth side of the bridge is the Persian Water Wheel installed in 1798 to supply water, gravity-fed in an aqueduct, to a large tank in the town square - hence the name Water Square. Its installation made Falmouth the first town in the New World to have running water. Nearby, a new attraction at THE ISLAND is scheduled to offer swimming, canoeing, and 'tubing' down the river. An expanse of wet- land extends from here to the coast and man-made fish ponds produce tropical fish for export. The Trelawny Environment Protection Association had plans to use some of the ponds as a snook and tarpon nursery in an attempt to rebuild the decimated fish population of the Martha Brae estuary.

An interesting artist-in-residence in the village of Martha Brae is Caspar Robinson, many of whose works include biting political commentary.

The original settlement gravitated towards the harbour about 1794 and was later christened FALMOUTH. It became a thriving port, exporting sugar and rum and importing slaves and other commodities. In 1830 the Baptist missionary William Knibb described Falmouth as a 'pleasant, fashionable seaport'. Emancipation of the slaves (which Knibb did much to engineer), and the subsequent decline of King Sugar stunted Falmouth's growth but it remains the best laid-out town in the island with numerous examples of fine Georgian architecture - most of them neglected or obliterated with ill-conceived renovations. MARKET STREET is lined with historic buildings including the erstwhile school of the Misses Knibb, the post office and the BARRETT TOWN HOUSE. The last was just one home of a family whose sugar estates stretched over thousands of acres in St. Ann, Trelawny and St. James. To date all attempts to preserve the town's architectural treasures have proved futile but the Georgian Society continues to have high hopes of restoring the Barrett house and Tony Hart has endowed a trust to restore and maintain the BAPTIST MANSE. The PARISH CHURCH on Duke St. dates from 1796 and has some interesting tombs. Craft vendors and stilt walkers sometimes congregate at the entrance. FORT BALCARRES on Charlotte Street, named for a governor Earl Balcarres, was originally sited in the centre of town, but was relocated when citizens complained that firing the salute set their roofs ablaze. It is now an All Age School. The former prison and workhouse on RODNEY STREET now houses the police station and the archaic eighteenth-century lock-ups are still in use. On the foreshore at Tharp St., the once elegant town house of John Tharp is now a tax office and public works yard. The old ALBERT & GEORGE MARKET in Water Square (named for two of Queen Victoria's sons) has been leased by the Custos of Trelawny, attorney Roy Barrett, and transformed into a Craft complex. The market was removed to the east outskirts of the town where on Wednesdays it draws thousands of shoppers and higglers from all over the island - to the weekly 'Bení Down' market so-called because most goods are spread on the ground and you have to bend down to make your selection. Clothes, shoes, hats and other drygoods are purchased by higglers (small traders) in freeports like Panama or San Maarten and resold here, sometimes to smaller higglers who then re-sell them in other markets.

An optional excursion east begins at the Shell Gas station opposite the cone shaped Phoenix Foundry, one of the earliest built in 1810. It will take you to ROCK and the former studio of the late Muriel Chandler, a celebrated artist who developed ingenious batik techniques. The cool stone building displaying her silk batik works has the atmosphere of a shrine. The workshop is now closed, but pricey batik garments are on sale in the showroom.

Just next door is the phosphorous lagoon of OYSTER BAY where the water teems with microscopic luminous sea-creatures: at night these create spectacular underwater fireworks when disturbed by boats, fish or divers. Night boat rides to witness the phenomenon start at US$6 per person. Perched on the edge of the lagoon with their own mini-marinas are: FISHERMAN'S INN a pleasant small hotel and GLISTENING WATERS an informal yacht club and restaurant both very popular with locals and people who like "messing about in boats". Deep-sea charters are available here. Fisherman's Inn has a Scuba package and Glistening Waters has good seafood at very moderate prices.

One mile east TIME AND PLACE is worth a pause. Run by Sylvia and Tony it is low-key, rustic and yet sophisticated with hammocks and swimming from a still deserted beach, a bar and restaurant and piped music for all tastes. Next on your L is the TRELAWNY BEACH, a large hotel offering a semi-inclusive package. Opposite the entrance is the COUNTRY CLUB bar. Just past the residential subdivision of CORAL SPRING with a cluster of cottages and a lovely lonely beach there is a long steep hill. At the top a sign may (or may not) point you left down an unpaved road towards STEWART CASTLE. Built by James Stewart, Custos of Trelawny in 1880, the homestead comprised a great house and stockade heavily fortified against pirates. Neglected for years, - the ruins are now seldom visited.

R of the approach to DUNCANS there is a rootsy pub, the SOBER ROBIN INN which claims to be the childhood home of Harry Belafonte. Opposite here OCEAN POINT/DUNCANS BAY sprawls across 750 acres with three miles of pristine oceanfront land. Plans are afoot for a comprehensive residential resort with marina, hotels, golf course and shopping area. Residential lots are already on sale. Near the ruins of an old great house there are two caves with traces of Arawak occupation. It is said that the emancipator Rev. William Knibb and his family were hidden in these caves by church members when irate slave owners burnt his manse and were seeking to arrest and arraign him for treason.

A road L of the main leads to SILVER SANDS, a cottage colony perched above a fine private beach. Visitors are welcome at the Beach Club where there is a bar and restaurant and a charge for water sports and swimming. Some of the houses here are owner occupied, others are the weekend retreats of business tycoons and most can be rented.

To the east of Silver Sands a secluded beach front property is being converted into SWEPT AWAY TRELAWNY, a luxurious sports-oriented allinclusive hotel cloned from the original in Negril.

In the small town of DUNCANS the town clock seldom tells the right time and the bakery makes delicious coco-breads & huge roll, spread with margarine before baking and very sustaining. At Stupart's gas station, head east towards RIO BUENO. On your left the Kettering Baptist church built in 1893 commemorates the famous emancipator William Knibb who, in 1840, founded a village here for freed slaves, naming it after his native town in Northamptonshire, England. He died here in 1845.

The road runs between pastures and pimento groves. In season youths will flag you down to sell bunches of guineps - resembling large green cherries. They are tart and stainy and said to be full of iron and enzymes. Descending the hill at BRACO, the great house R has been tastefully remodelled and L is an erstwhile government airstrip, formerly the site of several ganja plane crashes.

At BRACO GREAT HOUSE R Queen Elizabeth II took tea on one of her visits to the island. The seafront at Braco has been transformation into BRACO VILLAGE a large environment friendly. Large fishes are the specialty of the woodcarver's stall at the foot of the hill. L at PLANE STOP, the remains of one of the crashed ganja planes is the centrepiece of a kiosk advertising cold beer, jerk pork and clean restrooms. The Braco stone crushing plant R processes limestone quarried from the hill behind. There is another traveler's rest stop at RIO BRAC on the R, and L as you enter RIO BUENO another rootsy oasis called YOW overlooks the harbour.

Most historians believe that Rio Bueno is the place where Christopher Columbus first landed in Jamaica. Having been chased from St. Ann's Bay by Arawaks in war canoes, he put in to Discovery Bay, but when his scouts failed to find fresh water he weighed anchor for the next horseshoe shaped harbour west where he found a fine river hence the name Rio Bueno.

A natural harbour, Rio Bueno was once a busy sugar and banana port. Among its historic buildings, the Wellington Hotel, described by Monk Lewis in 1816 "as a very good inn" is in an advanced stage of decay. The old tavern at the cross-roads is still a popular drinking spot though its eighteenth century character has been obliterated by repairs. On the beach opposite is a rootsy reggae centre and bar. On the hill above is an eighteenth century Baptist church. The photogenic St Mark's Anglican church on the seafront built in 1833 was frequently visited by Her Royal Highness Princess Alice, aunt of King George VI and the first Chancellor of the University of the West Indies. Beside it at the HOTEL RIO BUENO artist Joe James and his wife Joy operate an interesting complex: art gallery, small hotel, craft shop and restaurant. The airy dining room in an old wharf displays several of Joe's powerful canvases.

At the other end of the village, the RIO BUENO TRAVEL HALT provides snacks, beers, good craft items and clean restrooms. Spanning the Rio Bueno and marking the boundary between the parishes of Trelawny and St. Ann is the Bengal Bridge an impressive example of stonemasonry which was built in 1789. The Rio Bueno river rises dramatically a few miles south in the hills near STEWART TOWN and is actually a continuation of the Cave river which sinks abruptly in the centre of the island. A species of eyeless fish inhabit its subterranean waters.

Return to Montego Bay along the coast road from Falmouth. At JAMAICA SWAMP SAFARI you can see captive crocodiles. These ferocious-looking but shy reptiles were once abundant and are depicted on Jamaica's Coat of Arms. Today, with most of their habitat destroyed they are a protected species and the fine for killing one is hefty. Wetland areas like this are nurseries for many marine species and the islandwide dumping of wetlands and destruction of mangrove forests is a major cause of depleted stocks of fish and crustaceans. Unfortunately, as demonstrated by ROI'S TRAVEL HALT (craft shops and cottages) R of the road, the reason for this type of eco-destructive development is usually tourism. SALT MARSH is a village of fishermen and woodcarvers. A wide range of carvings some raunchy, some excellent) are displayed along the road and you can negotiate a price minus the middleman's mark-up. Your route passes L on a high hill GREENWOOD GREATHOUSE Further on R SEACASTLES is a condominium hotel with its own chapel and commissary. At the junction just before ROSEHALL BEACH & COUNTRY CLUB R, the road L to BARRETT HALL passes the SOS CHILDRENS VILLAGE created many years ago on the initiative of Heinz Simonitsch, Managing Director of Half Moon Hotel.

Another sponsor of this excellent home for needy children is country singer Johnny Cash who restored an eighteenth century great house at Cinnamon Hill nearby. Past the Rosehall golf course, the next landmark is ROSEHALL GREAT HOUSE owned by U.S. millionaire John Rollins, a controversial figure here, whose plans to develop an upmarket resort in this area have been in limbo for thirty years. The homes of wealthy winter residents overlook L the golf course of HALF MOON CLUB. The Disneyworld confection R of the road is Half Moon's luxurious Shopping Centre and the next palatial building R is actually the stables for the hacks at ROCKY POINT RIDING STABLES. Elaborate landscaping R embellishes the entrance to HALF MOON HOTEL, the most enduring and progressive of Jamaica's elegant resorts and currently in the process of major expansion.

A more functional shopping centre, frequented by locals and tourists alike is the BLUE DIAMOND SHOPPING PLAZA L of the road with numerous shops, 4 restaurants, and a cinema. Opposite the HOLIDAY INN the HOLIDAY VILLAGE has a variety of shops, nearby the very popular DISCO INFERNO is the scene of beauty contests, fashion shows and international dance concerts. As you approach the outskirts of Montego Bay the planes taking off from Donald Sangster airport roar overhead.

Go-Jamaica Discover Jamaica Daily Gleaner
Go-Jamaica Discover Jamaica Gleaner Online

• Copyright © The Gleaner Company Limited, all rights reserved.
• E-mail to report problems or request assistance.