SAINT CATHERINE

If your sense of adventure is to experience places that authentically represent the stories and people of the island’s past, then the parish of St. Catherine is where you should be headed. It has a long and fascinating history. It became the location of choice for the early Spanish settlers who considered it a healthy site with its large tracts of open land for farming and rearing cattle. It was here that they established their capital, St. Jago de la Vega, (City in the Fields), on a ford on the major river, the Rio Cobre. They lived there for 120 years, until the British troops invaded, destroying everything in their path and establishing it as their military base. It would later be renamed Spanish Town and become the colonial capital of the island, with its grand public buildings and town mansions. The capital was later moved to Kingston in 1872. St. Catherine has the most heritage sites on the island, and there are many places for the cultural explorer to discover. The largest concentration of historic buildings and ruins is in Spanish Town – further afield you can visit bridges, prisons, barracks, churches, sugar works, great houses, railway stations, forts and even a castle!
There are also several small towns and villages of historic interest, including Linstead Market, regaled in local song and poetry. Sligoville, the island’s first free village; and Ewarton, one of the early bauxite mining towns. There are places of great natural beauty including the Bog Walk Gorge, one of the most scenic spots on the island; the picturesque agricultural lands of Lluidas Vale; the Juan de Bolas Mountains, that rise to almost 2,500ft; and the Hellshire Hills, a vast expanse of limestone forest that dominates the landscape in the south. There are several beautiful white sand beaches, popular with both locals and visitors, including Fort Clarence and Hellshire Beach; and offshore, there are the Goat Islands, natural habitats for endemic species. But St. Catherine is not all about history – it is also one of the largest parishes and most densely populated. It is the fastest growing urban centre and is the major industrial and manufacturing hub. Portmore, regarded as the ‘third’ city on the island, is one of the largest residential developments in the Caribbean, and is built on reclaimed land.
HISTORIC SITES AND CULTURAL TOURS

Spanish Town

Spanish Town is a unique and special historic town, that has been inhabited continuously by all generations of settlers. If you turn off the main bypass, it will take you into the centre of the old capital. Although there are no visible remains of structures built by the Taino or Spanish, layers of their history lie beneath the buildings constructed by the English colonists. There were several phases of construction by the British, each time grander as they tried to anchor Spanish Town as the capital of the island.

Today much of what remains is in ruin, lost to fires, neglect and vandalism - but some buildings have been restored and give a fascinating glimpse into the past. Places of interest include the town square where there are some of the finest remnants of historic architecture in the Caribbean. There is the Parade with its Victorian-style park; the Rodney Memorial with its famous marble statue and cannons; the Island Records Office and Archives; the brick colonnaded courthouse; the House of Assembly; Kings House; and several town mansions. Other buildings of interest include the impressive cathedral, one of the oldest on the island.

Colbeck Castle

Colbeck Castle is one of the most imposing architectural ruins in Jamaica. It is located in a remote area about a mile from Old Harbour. Built at the end of the 17th Century by Colonel Colbeck, of the original army that invaded Jamaica in 1655. It is an impressive two-storey structure, 114 ft. long and 90 ft. wide, with four towers connected by a stone arcade on both floors. Interesting architectural details include the decorative circular windows and loop holes. There is also a long, narrow, vaulted dungeon, as well as several out-buildings.

The Iron Bridge

The old Iron Bridge across the Rio Cobre in Spanish Town was constructed in 1801. Built of
cast iron sections manufactured in England, it weighed 87 tons and used the innovative device of diminutive circles to spread the load. Two contemporary designs were built in England around the same time, and both collapsed shortly after. The Jamaican bridge has been restored and still stands, but is only used by pedestrians.

Ferry Inn

Built in 1677, one of the earliest taverns in Jamaica, it was where travellers would stop for refreshments and change horses. Part of the old stone foundation remains, and it is now part of a school complex, located just off the newly- constructed highway.

Fort Augusta

Situated on the coast, between Port Henderson and Passage Fort it was built in the 1750s and was originally part of the island’s defence system and housed over 80 guns. It was converted into a prison for women, and is the only one of its kind in the island.

Pinnacle

Located on a hilltop in Sligoville, said to be the birthplace of the Rastafarian movement, it is the site of one of the earliest Rastafarian settlements. It was founded in 1940 by Leonard Howell, known as the ‘First Rasta’. It was frequently raided during the 1950s, and most of the Rastas moved out. It has recently been restored as a Rastafarian Heritage site. There are old stone ruins of the great house.

Rodney’s Look-Out

Built by Admiral George Rodney on a summit of the Port Henderson Hills between 1780- 1782, it was an old signal station west of Port Henderson.

Sligoville

It was once a popular summer retreat for the colonial elite, and later became the first ‘free village’ established in the West Indies after slavery was abolished. It is a scenic route, and there are several historic sites.

Old Harbour Fishing Village

For a colourful slice of local life, this large fishing village has a bustling and lively fish market, the largest on the south coast.

ADVENTURE TOURS, LANDSCAPES AND SPORTS

Worthy Park Estate

Producing sugar since 1670, it is one of the largest sugar estates in Jamaica, and spreads out over 10,000 acres with breathtaking views of Lluidas Vale. The estate produces Rum Bar rums.
876-903-6103

Caymanas Golf and Country Club

Opened in 1957, it is ranked amongst the best in the Caribbean. An 18-hole championship golf course it has a a pro-shop, club house, swimming pool, chipping green, driving range and golf school. Tournaments are held throughout the year, and it is a venue for major music and party events. 876-746-9772

Caymanas Race Track

The 196-acre premium race track facility accommodates the Sport of Kings and hosts over 900 races a year. 876-988-2523

Goat Islands

Just offshore, Little and Great Goat Island are a nature-lovers paradise and are protected habitats for endemic species. During World War II the larger island was a US naval base.

Hellshire Hills

A rugged and sparse terrain, home to the Jamaican Iguana and numerous caves.

Two Sisters Cave

Located in Hellshire Hills, each cave has a large sink hole, which contain reservoirs of fresh water. The caves also have Taino carvings. 876-322-9692

BEACHES AND RIVERS

Fort Clarence Beach

A beautiful wide stretch of white sand beach. Clear, calm, shallow water. Well-maintained with facilities. Great fish, fried on spot. A favourite place for locals and visitors. 876-364-3628

Hellshire Beach

Although the sandy beach has been greatly eroded, it’s still a popular spot for locals, especially for the seafood, prepared by vendors who operate out of shacks all along the beach.

Bog Walk Gorge

A scenic route, best seen in the early morning when the mist comes down. It stretches for almost 12 miles, and the deep river gorge is faced on either side by towering rocks. The road runs alongside the river and was cut in 1770. There is also the historic Flat Bridge, which has no side railings.