The smooth coastal highway towards Negril hugs the shoreline and offers beautiful views of the turquoise, reef-studded water. By contrast, the roads heading inland are overhung with the dripping foliage of the jungle-smothered interior, and pass over swift streams towards the Cockpit foothills with the tarmac barely gripping the edges of steep valleys. If you have your own transport, you’ll be able to appreciate how spectacular the scenery is in places.
The principal road south from Montego Bay veers away from the coastal highway by the traffic lights at Reading, a couple of kilometres east of Hopewell. The well-signposted B8 road heads straight up the tortuous ascent of Long Hill into the verdant St James interior, parallel to the Great River valley with occasional glimpses of lush palms and ferns in the chasm below. Most visitors venture here to tube the Great River or sail through the treetops at Lethe, though the area also offers less contrived sights such as the eco-oriented Animal Farm or Rocklands Bird Sanctuary. The B8 rises to 2000ft before Anchovy and passes through the citrus groves of MONTPELIER (look out for rows of seasonal ugli fruit, a cross between a grapefruit and an orange), before the road forks; a right turn takes you over the interior mountains on an incredibly pretty route to Shettlewood and Sav-la-Mar (via the excellent Border Jerk stop), while a left fork passes through marvellous countryside to the unique German settlement of Seaford Town.
The rolling hinterland pastures of the St James interior was prime plantation territory under the British, and a few of the old estates have kept their land and opened it up to the public. Polished boiling pots and repointed stone mills illustrate the mechanics of the sugar industry, and lavishly restored great house interiors gloss over the planters’ lifestyles. Regrettably, Kensington, the key flashpoint of the 1831 Christmas Rebellion, is just a tiny hamlet with nothing to commemorate its role in one of the most significant phases in Jamaican history. The insurgency began here in St James and set the wheels in motion for the abolition of slavery.