When we were planning our trip to Jamaica, despite the rumors of fear and warnings not to leave the resorts we decided that it would be fine, we were going to get a snapshot of the country, hire a car and mix with the locals. As I studied google maps I stumbled on this hotel in a rural area of Northern Jamaica and emailed them after a few emails with the estate manager Elaine, I figured this was doable for our first couple of nights a 2 1/2 hour drive from Montego bay where the airport was then drive to the South coast for a couple of days, one day to see the famous Negril white sand beach and back. We love farm stays it gives you the opportunity to eat local food, and learn about what grows in the region, exposes you to culture and history. Green castle estate has a long history over 300 years, it was an old plantation for sugar cane and you can still see the ruins of a sugar cane mill. It had many slaves at one point and an old British fort near the coast, it has had a few owners over the years and different crops have been grown depending on their success it once grew papaya and banana. It also has an ancient Taino burial ground the first settlers of Jamaica arriving around 600AD.
The land now is over 1600 acres and owned by a British gentlemen. Over the last few years the farm house has been used as a guest house, the home built in in the 1950's by its then American owner and updates in 1980's has a few rooms, amazing gardens and breathtaking views of the Blue mountains and Annotto bay.
So our adventure in Jamaica begins we landed at the airport after a delay, got the car and started the drive stopping for Jerk chicken on the way I spoke to Elaine the wonderful manager and informed her that we were late she reassured us and said the housekeeper had cooked and was waiting. Along the way we took a country road and got slightly lost in fact don't trust the GPS there as when you come of the highways the roads can be very bad, it was dark, and misty and hard to see we were lost, kids coughing in back and trying hard to avoid locals walking on the roads. We pulled into a gas station in Port Maria to ask for directions and were told the area we were going to was bad, and not a good idea with small kids, don't stop on the road and bodies are found there. We decided to pay one gentlemen to lead us to the intersection when you turn off for the estate and we spoke to Elaine who offered to meet us there. Really it would have been OK in the daylight and they were playing on our fear. We met Elaine and the other guest a birder from America who kindly let us follow him up the 3 miles of dirt farm roads to the house!
We got to the house tired and a little shaken but were greeted by Stacy one of the house keepers and a wonderful home cooked meal of chicken curry, roti followed by apple crumble. This made me smile as it was Indian inspired and my Indian hubby loved it with a British dessert.
We retired to bed using the mosquito net I woke up early and marveled at the sunrise over the bay. Breakfast was a selection of fresh local fruits, salt fish and ackee a native fruit to Jamaica that has a buttery texture like scrambled eggs. Beware it is only safe to eat when it opens naturally on the tree. I was told that they don't buy from markets in case it was forced open.
sugar cane growing along Southern coast
We decided not to drive anywhere the next day and relax, there are many trails on the estate and were lucky to have meet one of the cocoa farmers, he even cut a pod open to show me :-)
Its all organic they harvest by hand remove the pods and leave in trays to dry in the sun for about a week, these are then collected and sold. Amazing to think chocolate is made from this.
The trays of Cocoa
of course kids love tractors :-)
This is a Jamaican apple, a lot softer than ours but with a similar taste. I was amazed by the abundance of fresh fruit and new to me varieties on the Island, you can't drive more than a mile without seeing fruit stands, with folks selling local fruits and fresh coconuts to have a drink.
The farm leases land to various folks for different purposes, here you can see cattle grazing, there are also bee's, coconuts growing that are cold pressed to make organic coconut oil for cooking, the coir is used on the orchid farm.
This is a pimento tree or allspice native to Jamaica and a huge part of the culture, traditional Jerk is roasted over the sticks and the leaves used in cooking. The dried berries are ground into allspice an important component of jerk seasoning and other Jamaican dishes.
coconut husks and coir
browned fish stew another one of our evening meals by Jacinth. One of the best part's of staying at Green Castle is trying local home cooked food you are also welcome in the kitchen to learn cooking :-) my kids were always in the kitchen watching and chatting to the staff our daughter drew a picture and it was hanging on the fridge when we left ;-)
The estate is located near the little village of Robins bay a small fishing community here you see a couple of boats and lobster pots made from the coffee plant, you can see wild coffee growing throughout the Island, but of course the most famous is grown in the blue mountains one of the worlds finest. Its expensive though and many Jamaicans struggle to find or afford it. Many in Jamaica don't have much and lead a simple life in the rural areas many in agriculture or working in Tourism.
The locals are friendly and full of life and I just adore the way they say "ya mon" for yes and to reassure :-)
The morning we set off for the south coast we noticed a flat tire more than likely from the bad roads, luckily we noticed at the house and were helped ;-) we headed to the local tire repair shop see below
it was a quick patch with fire of the damaged tire I think its a way of life there :-)
All in all I would highly recommend a visit to The Green Castle estate its relaxing with local walks, pretty gardens, good food and amazing views and I hear its wonderful for bird watching. I would say for foodies too to try local dishes, learn cooking and tour a working farm.
Stay tuned for more of our Jamaican adventures and recipes ;-)