The ascent to Strawberry Hill is one of the most thrilling rides ever. Leaving the oppressive heat of Kingston behind, winding upwards through the narrow roads, lush green vegetation and occasional hairpin bend of Jamaica’s Blue Mountains to an elevation of 3100 feet above sea level, is quite a journey. The mountains rise to these elevations in the space of approx. 16 km, producing one of the steepest gradients in the world. If you prefer, a helicopter will pick you up from the airport and swiftly deliver you to the hotel reception where a perfect rum punch will be awaiting your arrival.
If you do opt for the drive, be sure to stop off at Cafe Blue to stock up on Blue Mountain coffee (I purchased a three-month supply!). Coffee aside, it really is worth navigating the steep cliffs; on the summit is nothing short of a self-contained mountaintop paradise. Strawberry Hill’s main house is surrounded by twelve handcrafted Georgian style cottages, complete with awnings and verandas dotted with bird feeders to attract the resident Vervain hummingbirds. All cottages have their own pretty gardens nestled in the shade of Locust, Mango and Trumpet trees, and the interiors are filled with beautiful island antiques, including the solid colonial comfort of a mahogany four-poster bed.
Unfortunately I didn’t experience the best weather during my stay, but when the mist cleared, this was a typical view from my cottage:
Strawberry Hill is one of Chris Blackwell’s Island Outpost properties. And as with its sister Jamaican hotels: The Caves, Goldeneye and Geejam, Blackwell, the founder of Island Records, has created a boutique hotel and spa that reflects his own laid back easy charm. The service is unique and very personal and as can be expected, the magic of music is prevalent. From the melodious birds, to Blackwell’s own personal collection of Island Record gold and platinum discs.
Strawberry Hill was originally an 18th century coffee plantation owned by the British Royal Family. In 1972 it was purchased by Chris Blackwell, then famous for launching the career of Bob Marley. In fact when Marley was shot in 1976, he came to Strawberry Hill to recover.
Here’s the lovely infinity pool at dusk, overlooking the twinkling lights of Kingston bay.
The Living Spa, one of the highlights of the property, specializes in stress relief and organic healing based on the five elements practiced in Ayurvedic philosophies. The spa offers five treatment rooms, including a specialized hydrotherapy room as well as a deck for yoga.
The food is outstanding. The chefs combine traditional Jamaican dishes and spices with international recipes to create their very own ‘New Jamaican Cuisine’. Which basically translates to a fusion of tanginess, hot pepper, rich sauces, the flavourful spice of curries, and the cool sweetness of tropical fruits.
I’ve been fortunate enough to visit all of the Jamaican Island Outpost properties, and whilst there, I’ve never once felt that I was staying in a hotel; rather as the house guest of a very cool friend, with an innate sense of beauty, fun and style.
For further information please visit: www.islandoutpost.com/strawberry_hill
All images by Julie Eagleton
Julie was a guest of Strawberry Hill.