Touring the Greathouses of Jamaica has become a bucket list item for many tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of the rich culture of the island and move beyond playtime on the island’s spectacular beaches. These reminders of our colonial heritage are in all states from the opulent top tourist spots like Devon House in Kingston or Good Hope in Trelawny, to the ruins like the small Salt Spring Great House in the parish of Hanover or Folly Ruins, home of a strange love story.
Greathouses can be found all over Jamaica and many have organized tours, like Devon House, Good Hope and Greenwood Estates. The tour of Rose Hall and the nightime interactive tour of the haunted Greathouse is a big favourite. These former seats of power of the plantation era of the island are a must see for history buffs.
Montego Bay, St. James
Rose Hall Great House story reads like a novel. Torrid love affairs, witchcraft and murder all set in colonial days. Built in 1770 by John Palmer and his wife, it eventually became the residence of their grandnephew, John Rose Palmer. In 1820, Palmer married Annee, an English girl, whom it turns out practiced ancient “black magic”. While mistress of the plantation, Annee would murder two more husbands after the first as well as countless lovers. Her perch on her “widow’s walk” overseeing the flogging post gives you chills. “The White Witch of Rose Hall” is one of Jamaica’s greatest legends, with Hollywood vying for rights to tell the tale. Dare to walk the grounds at night to join those who claim to have seen her ghost passing through the Great House.
End your tour with a sip of “Witches Brew” in the dungeon tavern to still your beating heart.
Good Hope is one of the most stunning great house tours in Jamaica. It is probably one of the best tours to allow visitors to the island to see what a real plantation layout may have looked like during the height of its productivity (without the buzzing slave population of course!) Only 50 minutes from Montego Bay, the estate sits atop a slight elevation which offers sweeping views of the surrounding Queen of Spain Valley, and beyond to where the undulating Cockpit Mountains rise stretch out in the distance, while the Martha Brae river, the largest in Trelawny, winds its way through the property.
The 2,000-acre estate, which is located about 8 miles from Falmouth, the capital of the parish of Trelawny, has remained unmarred by encroaching development. Good Hope is almost the same as it would have been when Col. Thomas Williams built it in 1755 for his wife, Elizabeth. John Tharp, was the next owner who expanded the property and, as one of the more benevolent plantation owners, he provided a church, a 300-bed hospital, and even a school to teach his slaves to read and write.
If you’re looking for fun group activities to do near Montego Bay, Chukka Caribbean operates the tour and also offers ziplining, river tubing, horse and buggy, dune buggy rides, and more relaxing activities like high tea. There is practically something to do for all ages and is a great choice for a family fun day.
Good Hope Estate Tour with Chukka
Recently closed to public use, is the Bloomfield Great House, a 200-year-old Georgian-style coffee plantation main house built before Mandeville became a town. This property went through many incarnations; a coffee plantation, a citrus plantation, a cattle rearing farm and a dairy. Most recently, it was a site for spectacular meals and a bar with a good selection of wines and the perfect dining experience to take in the stunning view of the surrounding area on the giant veranda. Although you can’t visit, it’s always worth driving by to catch a glimpse of the National Heritage Trust site.
How to Get Here: From Mandeville, take Perth Road and the house is located at 8 Perth Road. Don’t worry, everyone in Mandeville knows where it is so you can always easily ask for directions.
A smaller, picturesque 300 year old great house mostly catering to the dream of a beautiful colonial destination wedding setting and luxurious private catered events, the serenity of the property transports visitors back in time. Tours are intimate affairs with a journey through the legacy of the family who first owned the property, Sir Francis Kerr-Jarrett and his role in establishing Montego Bay as the heart of Jamaican tourism.
There is a place called Barrett Street, just north of Selfridges in London, named after the Barrett family. This is the same family of the great poet Elizabeth Barrett-Browning, whose father owned a great house in Jamaica. Greenwood is this estate, home of the Barrett family for many years. Run as a museum by today’s owners, this traditional great house has been preserved beautifully as it remained fairly unscathed from the slave rebellion of 1831. Boasting an extensive collection of an extensive collection of Jamaican antiques, we also have the largest and rarest assortment of musical instruments and plantation library books on the island.
This great house is a part of the ultra-luxurious Tryall Club. Available for special events like weddings and private catered affairs, it also houses a superb restaurant and bar and a strong tradition started in the 1930s of a genteel afternoon high tea when the floundeirng coconut plantation became a guest host to supplement its income. Art exhibitions are also hosted here a few times a year promoting established and up and coming young Jamaican artists. Its beginnings are still visible in structures like the famous waterwheel on the Tryall Estate, the only one still operational in Jamaica today.
St Anns Bay
This 200 year old great house is not only a designated National Treasure but the history of this site stretches even further back. Pottery found here dating back to the native people of Jamaica, the Taino, is believed to be from the very midden where Columbus himself was thought to have eaten.
Built in 1740, Liberty Hill Great House sits 1200 feet above sea level on 25 acres, just minutes from the historical town of St. Ann's Bay. This old pimento plantation offers a unique place to stay in Jamaica as it actually offers accommodations for up to 10 singles occupants. Tours are available as is an onsite spa, dining on the veranda overlooking the spectacular garden and an even more breathtaking view extending from Seville, the original Spanish settlement on the west, as far as Port Maria on the east, including Don Christopher's Cove.