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The great escape
Bob Marley’s homeland is a “stunning union of forest-cloaked mountains, golden beaches and charismatic people”, says Nigel Tisdall in The Daily Telegraph, and there’s nowhere better to get a sense of the singer.
Places of note Kingston has a “scary reputation”, but it’s worth visiting the Coronation Market and Devon House, a mansion built in 1881 by Jamaica’s first black millionaire, George Stiebel, and now a foodie hotspot. The Bob Marley Museum, a large house that Marley bought as his success grew, is full of “fascinating” details, from bullet holes in the kitchen wall to the studio where many of his hits were created. The north coast has the best beaches, including James Bond Beach, where Ursula Andress emerged from the water in Dr No. It’s a scenic hour-long drive from Kingston through “Jamaica’s verdant interior, which is where its soul lies”; closer to the capital is Fort Clarence Beach. A trip to Marley’s humble birth and resting place, Nine Mile, is essential. “Here goats wander, farmers tend smallholdings planted with yams, callaloo and bananas, and it is easy to imagine the slow-moving days when there was time enough to fashion a rudimentary guitar from bamboo, hide and sardine tins.”
Weather Tropical, with little difference in temperature throughout the year. Dry season runs from December to May.
Famous faces Bob Marley is the island’s favourite son, but sprinter Usain Bolt comes a close second. Ian Fleming loved Jamaica and wrote the Bond novels at Goldeneye, his home on the north coast – now available to rent. Meghan Markle’s first marriage took place at the Jamaica Inn hotel, near Ocho Rios.
To eat Miss T’s Kitchen is an Ocho Rios institution, known for Caribbean food, rum cocktails and a reggae soundtrack. The Houseboat Grill, on the water in Montego Bay, is said to serve the best food on the island.
1 To stay
Bob Marley’s family recuperated at Strawberry Hill, in the Blue Mountains, after the singer and his wife, Rita, were shot in 1976. It was turned into a hotel in 1994 by Island Records boss Chris Blackwell, who signed Marley in the 1970s. It has magnificent views, a spa, a restaurant, “wellness treks” and a host of music awards in the Gold Room. Doubles from £230 a night, B&B.
2 To rent
Round Hill has a starry history – Noël Coward was the first shareholder, the Kennedys had their honeymoon there and Oscar Hammerstein wrote the words for The Sound of Music in one of the villas. Nestled in 110 acres of tropical hillside in Montego Bay, on the north coast, it has a private beach and the warm turquoise sea on the doorstep. The villas have private pools and there’s a spa, a gym, yoga, watersports and a choice of restaurants and bars. From £441 a night.
3 To Airbnb
This recently renovated oceanfront villa between Montego Bay and Ocho Rios has four bedrooms, three bathrooms and an open-plan living area, all with sea views. There’s a large garden, a pool and a hot tub. From £1,416 for three nights.
4 To buy
On the cliffs above Billy’s Bay, on the island’s rugged south coast, this four-bedroom villa has an open-plan design, a rooftop deck with views of the sea and hills, two acres of gardens and a pool. The wraparound terrace is right next to the beach. $2.399m.
🇯🇲 🎸 Get Up Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical has just opened in London – see Book it for details.