To celebrate the centenary of the birth of Ian Fleming, the man who created the world’s most famous secret agent, James Bond fever hits London this summer.
- © The Kobal Collection
The Imperial War Museum has a year-long exhibition of Fleming’s life, author Sebastian Faulks has written a new Bond novel due out this month and Daniel Craig is donning his swimming trunks for his second outing as 007 in Quantum of Solace.
Some of that attention should rub off on Jamaica, the beautiful Caribbean island where the Bond story began. Fleming wrote all 13 novels from Goldeneye, his house overlooking the sea at Oracabessa on the north coast.
The house is still there today, a simple three-bedroom bungalow with unglazed windows opening on to blissful gardens bursting with frangipani and almond trees and steps down to a private beach.
Today, Goldeneye forms part of an exclusive 18-room beachfront hotel with a loyal, starry clientele including Johnny Depp and the Clintons. The site has a lagoon, tree-packed gardens and 1.5 miles of seafront.
Now owner Chris Blackwell has unveiled ambitious plans for a 90-property, £60-million expansion on this glorious 100-acre site.
Planned property, for sale through Pure International, ranges from one-bedroom Bond suites for about £375,000 (all glass and polished concrete) to four-bedroom Lagoon villas for about £1.6 million.
Two-bedroom island cottages cost about £626,000 and three-bedroom villas are about £1.35 million. Property will be low-level with direct sea access and will come fully furnished with interiors designed by Biba founder Barbara Hulanicki.
'European royalty and American superstars have passed through Jamaica over the past 40 years'
Fleming gave Blackwell his first job, recommending him as a location scout on Jamaica for the Bond film Dr No in 1961. From there, Blackwell went on to found Island Records, signing reggae star Bob Marley and U2.
There’s no doubting his love for Jamaica and its people. He has accommodated 40 fishermen on his land, paying to improve their boats, and is passionate about encouraging local enterprise. So how does he justify such a dramatic change at Goldeneye?
“The benefits to the local community will be huge, with new jobs and opportunities,” says Blackwell, a youthful 72-year-old. “Jamaica has always been an inspirational place for me and I want to give something back. I’m very positive about Jamaica’s future.”
Fears over high crime levels and a lack of suitable property have kept house-hunters away in the past, but things are changing says Nick Simmonds, Goldeneye’s managing director.
“The present government is forward-looking and pro-foreign investment,” he says. “Crime is mainly drugs-related and concentrated in Kingston. Crime against tourists is very rare.”
The Goldeneye development is two hours from Kingston and Montego Bay. Completion of the first villas is expected by summer 2010, when facilities will include a spa, restaurants and bars. This is one to watch with interest as Island Outpost, Blackwell’s company, handle the delicate balance of transforming a piece of paradise into a larger resort.
In the heart of Montego Bay, 10 minutes from the airport, Half Moon is another classy hotel packed with history. European royalty and American superstars have passed through here over the past 40 years: Jackie Kennedy wrote her will on Half Moon notepaper while on holiday with JFK.
Half Moon was established in 1954 when 17 families created their own holiday hideaway around a 30-room hotel.
Fifty years on, the low-level site covers 400 acres, 398 rooms and two miles of crescent-shaped beaches. Guests are well-dressed American and European families who come for the service and exceptional facilities, including new spa, golf course, equestrian centre, tennis courts and even a dolphin sanctuary.
Half Moon Management is planning to build just 30 villas on a beachfront plot of 12 acres. The Colony, due for completion in 2010, will have three- to five-bedroom colonial-style villas with steeply pitched roofs and separate pavilions. Freehold prices, including all furnishings, start from about £1.2 million.
“These are spacious, private villas for sale at prices well below other comparable beachfront Caribbean property,” says Taz Brown of The Colony. “Early buyers from Europe and America want to be part of Half Moon, one of Jamaica’s biggest success stories.”
* Goldeneye: through Pure International: 020 3031 2860; www.pureintl.com
* The Colony at Half Moon Bay: www.thecolonyathalfmoon.com
* Visitor numbers are on the up in Jamaica, rising 14 per cent year-on-year in 2007. The new tourism minister Edward Bartlett has set an ambitious target of five million visitors by 2012.
* The third largest Caribbean island is a place of extraordinary beauty, with waterfalls, golden beaches, the Blue Mountains and dense, lush vegetation. This is the home of reggae and Bob Marley: music is never far away.
* Owners at The Colony have 60 days use of their house annually but then must place it into the hotel rental pool. They have free access throughout the year if it is not rented (within 21 days) and receive 70 per cent of rental income.
* Owners at Goldeneye can choose to put their property into an on-site rental programme.
* Annual maintenance at The Colony is steep, starting at about £36,000, covering three full-time staff, insurances, green fees and electricity.
* Annual maintenance at Goldeneye is estimated at £6,000 per bedroom.