From Jamaica With Love

Goldeneye is the place to “Bond” with a loved one

By: David Swanson

Only moments after entering the unexpectedly simple, white stucco house I encountered the desk. Lacking the clutter of most hectic workplaces, the handsome old writing table had a raffia blotter, reproduced newspaper clippings from the 1950s and a book, “How to Write a Best Seller.”

It was the kind of desk that one might happily discover at a garage sale. But for anyone with more than a passing interest in characters with names like Blofeld and Miss Moneypenny, this furniture serves as a kind of Holy Grail. It was here and at a smaller built-in desk in the master bedroom that Ian Fleming sat down in 1952 and wrote “Casino Royale,” the first of 13 books featuring a hero named after an obscure ornithologist, James Bond.

Located about 10 miles east of Ocho Rios, the Fleming House isn’t part of a dusty museum. Instead, Goldeneye as the estate was named now lives as a discrete inn for well-healed explorers seeking a slice of both Jamaica’s history and its local culture. And a bit of secret agent panache.

Fleming owned the 15-acre property from 1946 until his death in 1964, writing all of the 007 books here. Chris Blackwell bought Goldeneye in 1977 and initially used it as a place for entertaining friends. In 1997, Goldeneye was folded into the Island Outpost collection of unique hotels (now four in Jamaica, one in the Bahamas), and additional guest cottages were built.

For the three-bedroom Fleming House a pool was added, plus outdoor bathrooms with claw- foot tubs and big-headed rain showers. The garage was converted into a media room with a futon mattress large enough for 12. The four newer units range one to three bedrooms, and each of the bedrooms named after Bond girls is disconnected from the others in its cluster, creating a hamlet of independent wood cottages that sits along the sea. Privacy is created with thick tropical vegetation and bamboo fences, and outdoor showers adjoin most of the bedrooms.

Inside, the look is rustic chic, with batik and other Asian accents. The overall design is courtesy of Ann Hodges, probably the island’s most influential architect, and she also has a taste for colorful patinas on wood, jalousie shutters, creaking floorboards and hovering mosquito nets. The bedrooms each have their own minibars, CD and DVD players. (A diverse library is at the hotel’s front desk.) Plus each of the villas has a kitchen guests can arrange for meals to be served at their villa and a media room with plasma screen TV.

But Goldeneye is not about being obviously entertained, especially in the evening. There’s no live band or bar scene not even a shop to invest in logo merchandise. Instead, Goldeneye seems to be designed to create a space for guests to entertain themselves, effortlessly. So, comfortable chairs are positioned to maximize sunset views, and hundreds of candles illuminate the walkways and bedrooms, setting a highly seductive mood.

Walking the grounds at any time of day I almost always felt like I had the property to myself (two of the other four units were occupied during my two-night visit) staff seemed to come and go invisibly, allowing me to admire the gardens of African tulip and cannonball trees. It was only at the dining gazebo where I interacted with the other guests, which included a vacationing family and a honeymooning couple.

Dining offers an array of Jamaican specialties, dressed up modestly for visitors. It’s not flashy cuisine, but it’s satisfying and most of it locally sourced.

Pretty much any of the services one would expect at a high-end resort were available. Massage? How about a treatment on the dock fronting my room. Watersports? A fast-paced Jet-Ski excursion down the coast was put together on a few minutes’ notice. Sightseeing? I could travel to privately owned Laughing Waters, the beach where Ursula Andress made her unforgettable entrance in “Dr. No,” or stop by Noel Coward’s house Firefly, also owned by Blackwell.

That celebrity cache definitely has its hooks into Goldeneye. Fleming’s original callers included Elizabeth Taylor and Errol Flynn; more recent lodgers include Martha Stewart, Johnny Depp and Harrison Ford. The latter I know because guests are invited to make a donation to the Island Sport Trust and plant a tree their names and many others are on plaques at the base of the trees, sprinkled throughout the property.

Although bedrooms are air conditioned, one of Fleming’s touches in the original house was distinctly Jamaican: Jalousie shutters on the windows, allowing the breeze to flow through. It’s said Fleming would close them when writing, so as not to be distracted by the scenery outside.

That’s understandable. But I didn’t have a spy novel to write, and as a temporary guest, I loved allowing the outside in.


Rates for two start at $750 low season, $950 high (Dec. 19-Apr.18) for the one-bedroom villa, including all meals and drinks, taxes and service charges. The three-bedroom Fleming House is $2,800 low season, $3,800 high season.
Adventure Travel JDS Africa Middle East JDS Destinations