Cinchona Gardens

Kingston, Blue Mountains & the Southeast Coast

A dilapidated old house sits atop these 2.5-hectare gardens, fronted by lawns and exquisite floral beds. It's a little rundown, but the views are fabulous: to the north stand the peaks, but you can also peer down into the valleys of the Clyde, Green and Yallahs Rivers. The Panorama Walk begins to the east of the gardens, leading through a glade of towering bamboo and taking in the juniper cedar, camphor and eucalyptus trees, as well as a striking display of orchids.

It was the cultivation of Assam tea and cinchona (whose quinine – extracted from the bark – was used to fight malaria) that led to the founding of Cinchona Gardens in 1868. The grounds were later turned into a garden to supply Kingston with flowers. In 1903, the Jamaican government leased Cinchona to the New York Botanical Gardens and, later, to the Smithsonian Institute.

Finding Cinchona can be difficult without a guide. From Clydesdale, you can either hike (1½ hours) or drive uphill along the muddy dirt track for about 3km. There are several unmarked junctions; ask for directions at every opportunity. Don’t underestimate the awful road conditions: a 4WD with a low-gear option is absolutely essential. Alternatively, you can drive up the more populated route via Mavis Bank, though the road conditions can be as atrocious.

Most of the trails that snake off into the nether reaches of the mountains are overgrown, but the 16km Vinegar Hill Trail, an old Maroon trail leading down to Buff Bay, can be negotiated with an experienced guide.

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