The peaks of the Blue Mountains rise steeply from the jungle north of Kingston, creating a majestic backdrop for Jamaica’s capital city. Best known as the source of Blue Mountain coffee, these mountains are a favoured destination with nature seekers, adventure travellers, and anyone looking to see what lies beyond the beach.
For the Rolling Stones and Willie Nelson, the mountain top retreat Strawberry Hill has long been a hideaway. First as a private estate belonging to music producer Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, and then as part of his Island Outpost collection of hotels, Strawberry Hill has been a creative refuge for many music greats. Bob Marley, Jamaica’s most popular export, recovered at Strawberry Hill in 1976 after being shot in an assassination attempt. The property’s storied connection to the music industry is visible: framed black-and-white photographs illustrate the bygone days of rock ’n’ roll’s aristocracy and in the Gold Room, Island Records’ gold and platinum records are on display.
In the distance, Kingston seems like another world, especially at night, when the lights twinkle.
Surrounded by tropical forest, 12 cottages with plantation shutters dot the hillside, each charmingly furnished with four-poster canopied beds and French doors that open onto private verandahs. Stone-lined paths lead to the Great House (although the original house was destroyed by Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, the new structure maintains a Georgian-style feel) decorated with intricately hand-carved fretwork, and home to the library, bar, and dining rooms for morning, midday, and evening meals. Traditional fare such as lamb curry, oxtail shepherd’s pie, curried goat, and the national dish, ackee, are served; to visit Jamaica and not indulge in jerk chicken is almost sacrilegious. Sundays are all about brunch, which is accompanied by live reggae, and locals make the trip from Kingston for the feast.
Afternoons at Strawberry Hill should be devoted to spending time in the infinity pool while savouring Blackwell cocktails made with pineapple juice and dark rum. The 360-degree view will leave you uncertain which glorious direction is most worthy of your gaze. In the distance, Kingston seems like another world, especially at night, when the lights twinkle.
Strawberry Hill speaks to the nourishment the mountains serve up. The natural meets the spiritual as the gentle breeze wafts the sound of hallelujahs heavenward during Sunday worship at St. Mark’s Chapel, an 18th-century church located in the parish below.
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