Somewhere along the northern coastline of Jamaica lies the town of Oracabessa. It may be small and unassuming in size but, with white sand beaches, azure-coloured oceans and a rugged green landscape, it is the type of destination where you could imagine James Bond hiding himself away to enjoy a break or evade capture from a far-fetched villain.
So it should come as no surprise that this exotic spot in the West Indies was where the fictional superspy’s creator, Ian Fleming, chose to build his renowned Goldeneye estate.
It was whilst serving in the Navy during World War II when Fleming first ventured to Jamaica, under orders to investigate the activity of U-boats in the Caribbean. The military task only gave him the time to appreciate and eventually fall in love with his tropical surroundings so, when a 15-acre estate close to a banana port in Oracabessa came up for sale in 1946, Fleming jumped at the chance to purchase it.
For an author that was able to dream up such glamorous tales of espionage, you would be forgiven for expecting Fleming’s own estate to boast the same levels of edgy opulence. But, in fact, Goldeneye was quite the opposite – world’s away from the gilded Casino Royale, or any of his iconic villains’ multi-million hideouts.
Instead, Fleming designed the property himself, drawing up a building plan on the blotter at his desk. The author stressed that the structure should be composed simply and, in the end, his ideas resulted in a modest three-bedroom structure fitted with shuttered jalousie windows. And it was in this house that he would go on to write all of his James Bond novels.
However, that’s not to say that Fleming’s house was completely absent of any glitz or allure. Throughout the 1950s, Goldeneye became a social hotspot, playing host to a number of notable figures that flocked to the estate for a sun-soaked escape.
Reading like a who’s-who list of Hollywood hard-hitters, aristocrats and patrons of the arts, past guests of Goldeneye included Lucian Freud, Truman Capote, Princess Margaret and Prime Minister Anthony Eden, who had fled to Jamaica in 1956 following his involvement in the failed Suez Crisis.
In the years following Ian Fleming’s death, the ownership of Goldeneye exchanged hands a few times – in 1976 it was sold to the esteemed reggae musician Bob Marley and, just 12 months later, it was bought by the founder of Island Records, Chris Blackwell. It was Blackwell who made the decision to expand the property, gradually adding various cottages and huts around a stunning inner lagoon so that, today, the estate covers over 52 acres.
In 1980, Goldeneye was finally opened as a hotel, acting as a luxurious Jamaican retreat for holiday-goers. It may now look far from Fleming’s initial interior vision, but his original house is still in tact and the rest of the suites have a host of amazing features that encourage the relaxed lifestyle of which the writer was such a fan.
From a gazebo-style treehouse built for watching sunsets, to private docks where visitors can access the water, the Goldeneye estate offers such an unreal experience of the West Indies that it could almost have been dreamt up by Fleming’s literary imagination. After all, nobody could do it better.