For four decades, I have been a James Bond fan, from the first time I saw From Russia With Love on the ABC Sunday Night Movie when I was a pre-teen but it wasn’t until I started reading the Ian Fleming books in my early 20’s that I became a ‘fanatic’. I adored Fleming’s colourful prose making the Bond novels more of a travelogue with some sex and violence thrown in than a straight ahead thriller (imagine my lack of surprise when I later found out that he had written travelogues as well!). After I had read the books several times, I turned to biographies about Fleming himself because with his World War 2 exploits, his life was almost as exciting as Bond’s.
It was in these that I discovered his Jamaican hideaway villa, Goldeneye where every winter from January to April, he would sequester himself to write the books (other than the occasional party and houseguest like Noel Coward, Errol Flynn and former British Prime Minister Anthony Eden…who actually made Goldeneye the temporary headquarters of the British government during the Suez Crisis in 1956).
This quite obviously gave Goldeneye a high place on my bucket list, more so when I found out that it was now a small resort with the original villa relatively intact. Other than this, I had never had the inclination to visit Jamaica but an opportunity presented itself recently on short travel agent trip to the area for hotel inspections. We were to spend an evening in Ocho Rios, 20 minutes from the resort (and 10 minutes from Ian Fleming Airport)…
…and we had a window of free time in the late afternoon so I reached out to the property for a ‘inspection’ and with the help of the Jamaica Tourist Board (shout out to Dan Hamilton…you da man!), I and two other agents spent a (for me) shiver-inducing hour touring this gorgeous property including the Fleming Villa (good fortune shone on us because if the villa were booked, we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to see it!).
We left our hotel, the immense Moon Palace Jamaica Grande and in 15 minutes we were passing through the community of Oracabessa and a sign signifying James Bond Beach…
…and I knew we were close. We suddenly pulled over to a small, unspectacular gate surrounded by forest and I inquired with an element of doubt in my voice if we had arrived and was informed that we had (there was no way I would have found this on my own, no signage, nothing to signify that a resort lay behind this gate).
Once inside we drove along a winding path through a dense forest of tropical foliage until we came to what appeared to be a small house, the resort offices where we met the manager who had been looking after the property in one capacity or another for 28 years (even though he didn’t look a day over 30 himself, I joked).
As we made the short walk to the Fleming Villa, he filled us in on some of the history, most notably that when Ian Fleming rather suddenly passed away in England in 1964 at the surprisingly young age of 56, the property was left uncared for (as it was never a favourite spot for his wife Ann who felt so ignored when Ian was ensconced at his writing desk that she stopped accompanying him on the trips).
Over the years locals ransacked and carried away anything that could be carried and the villa was left in relative ruins until it was purchased in 1976 by Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records (Bob Marley, Emerson Lake and Palmer and U2 amongst others recorded on the label), whose mother Blanche was a neighbour and frequent houseguest during the Fleming years. He then set about creating a small boutique hotel around the villa. That hotel has grown to a 52 acre property with 22 units of varying sizes.
The storied main villa was to be our first stop as we came upon a small bar and lounge with a wide entryway opening onto a small man-made lagoon-style pool. This lounge we were informed was Fleming’s original garage, formerly housing his 2 Aston Martins and as we turned to our right we saw the Fleming Villa itself. I walked through the entrance and the history was palpable.
A large bamboo-framed sofa sits in the centre of the large main room and along one wall, Fleming’s original desk with his typewriter (formerly in what is now the tree-house restaurant where he would write after a morning of snorkeling) surrounded by Fleming and Bond books. There are Fleming and Bond books everywhere on the property, a great way to get caught up…or start if you’re unfamiliar.
A door and windows face the breathtaking cliff-top view of the Caribbean, a view so distracting that Fleming famously had his desks facing in the opposite direction so he could get his work done. Neighbour and close friend Noel Coward painted this view and the painting hangs along the front wall. Fleming’s bedroom (the first of 5 as the villa sleeps 10) adjoins the great room and contains his original bed frame (the mattress is newer!) as well as another original desk…
…then beyond that is one of 3 amazing outdoor baths with rain shower, clawfoot tub, sink and vanity.
The other bedrooms are in the back of the villa separated by a quiet Japanese-style reed garden.
This villa is stunning in its beauty and simplicity and it’s no surprise that a long list of celebrities have stayed in the villa including Sting (who wrote Every Breath You Take while staying here), Jay Z and Beyonce, Daniel Craig and Pierce Brosnan (of course!), Melissa Etheridge, Bono, Michael Caine and Harrison Ford. Many have even planted trees in the villa area during their stay with small sign denoting the year with their name.
There are smaller villas, next to but separate from the main (guest’s privacy is paramount), aptly named 001, 002 and so on. The rest of the resort is separated from the villa section by the Fleming Room which doubles as reception and concierge area and is filled with Fleming paraphernalia with comfortable couches and views to die for (every view here is to die for, who am I kidding?).
A walking bridge leads to the resort proper…
…with well appointed 1 and 2 bedroom cottages…
…and the latest additions, 1 bedroom beach ‘huts’. (just a note of warning: most of the lodgings have no air conditioning as the ocean breezes naturally refresh).
We walked out to the end of a long promontory, offering us an unparalleled view of the full property and were told that private candlelight dinners could be held out here…nothing could be more romantic!
The Bizot Bar offers a la carte breakfasts and lunches as well as a spot to relax with a drink made with Chris Blackwell’s rum (he has his own distillery!) and the treehouse-style (and former Fleming writing spot) Gazebo restaurant is the ideal place to unwind for the evening around dinner.
Unlike most other Jamaican resorts, there is no entertainment or music on site (with the exception of the iPod in each room loaded with reggae) so peace and quiet is the name of the game here (during our one hour tour, we saw only one other person…and the resort was at 35% capacity).
I spent years building up great anticipation in fulfilling this bucket list item, just seeing the villa where Ian Fleming created so memorably the books that I love and this actually exceeded my expectations but although I was able to check off a bucket list item by seeing it, I’ve now added another by wanting to stay here!
For more details and rates, go to the Goldeneye site or better yet, message me and I would be glad to book it for you!