Jamaica’s most northerly tip, five kilometres east of Oracabessa at the Galina Lighthouse, marks your arrival in Noel Coward country. It was while at his former beach house, Blue Harbour (now a superb if quirky guesthouse) that Coward stumbled upon the historical site that was to become Firefly, perched on the hilltop high above. He bought the land from local politician Roy Lindo for £150, and from its construction in 1956 to the playwright’s death in 1973, Firefly was the Jamaican home of both Coward and his partner Graham Payn. Now it remains the area’s only organized attraction.
The house was built on the site of a former Taino settlement – with artefacts found both here and across the hillside – before later becoming the stamping ground of pirate extraordinaire Sir Henry Morgan, who used it as a vantage point during his reign as governor; gun slits in the bar recall the buccaneer days. Acquired by Island Outpost in 1992 (this arrangement is under review at the time of writing, with the museum’s future uncertain), the house remains much as Coward left it: his studio with a painting on the easel; the drawing room – where illustrious guests from Sophia Loren to Audrey Hepburn and Joan Sutherland were entertained – complete with two polished pianos; kitchen cupboards full of yellowing bottles; and the table freshly laid as it was on the day the Queen Mother came to lunch in 1965. Coward died here and is buried on the property. A statue of him by UK-based artist Angela Conner overlooks his favourite view. Even if you’re not a Coward fan, it’s worth coming up to Firefly for the panorama alone; possibly the best on the island, taking in Port Maria bay and Cabarita Island, with the peaks of the Blue Mountains poking through the clouds. You can even see Cuba on a clear day.