Rockhouse Negril – A Gorgeous Stone Hotel in Jamaica

Rockhouse Spa – Shepherd Stoneworks

My wife and I had some free miles to use up, so we were able to book a slightly more upscale vacation in Jamaica at the legendary Rockhouse Hotel.  It sits on a striking line of limestone cliffs and caves on the western tip of the island.  The staff that runs the place is very kind and welcoming, and the town of Negril is charming in a way that allows you to find all kinds of things to explore and enjoy while very much remaining an authentic representation of real Jamaican culture.

I was astounded by the massive amount of detailed stonework, done in the local white limestone.  It is a very soft and workable stone formed by the formation millions of years-worth of coral growth.

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The Rockhouse was started in 1972 by the French design group called Atelier.  The website describes its conception as follows:

“Jean-Henri Morin, the founder of Atelier One, has a strong interest in developing a high quality architecture that has a positive and sustainable relationship with the environment. His wide range of experience and interests embrace the areas of architecture, interior design, landscape architecture and component design. Past and present projects include leisure facilities, commercial buildings, retail and residential projects. Jean-Henri, born and educated in France, qualified as an Architect at the École Des Beaux Arts in Paris. Currently he resides and works in Australia, however his work continues on both an international and local level.

The design principles behind the project at the Rockhouse resort are simple. Evolving directly from the natural surroundings, the beauty of the Caribbean and the location on Pristine Cove provided a fertile source for architectural ideas. Emphasis was placed on simple and strong forms – the hotel is designed to be a harmonious and respectful insertion into its jungle-like environment. Choice of materials also became important – local timber and thatch were chosen to merge with the fully-grown garden. The use of stone was inspired by the surrounding volcanic rock landscape.”

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The main visual attraction on the property is this long cave/ravine that cuts its way inland, separating a couple of the stone cabanas.  Lit up at night, it is a truly magical sight to behold.  During the day, it is (along with several other sea caves of varying sizes) an ideal place to explore with a mask and snorkel.  These caves were carved into the cliffs by the endlessly crashing waves, and the largest of them has the ruins of a once-active stone lounge with a bar and a hidden stairwell up to the restaurant above.  This spot is no longer in use, probably for safety reasons, but finding it back there made for an exciting discovery on our part.

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There are many attractive stone details throughout the property, too many to show here.  The crowning achievement would have to be the Spa, which has a circular floor plan surrounding an incredibly beautiful atrium with a fountain.

One of the things that impressed me about Rockhouse was, in addition to their practice of green principles, a charitable group they formed called Rockhouse Foundation through which they provide support to local schools.  They have donated over $2 million to this cause over the years.

Of all the places we have traveled, Negril and the surrounding parish of Westmoreland is by far the most beautiful and enchanting location yet.  We made several day trips to some of the fresh-water springs and waterfalls and yet still felt like we had barely scratched the surface of all the possible natural attractions.

I hope very much to return there and spend a lot more time in Jamaica.  Maybe they could use some help with their stonework?

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by Mark Shepherd   www.ShepherdStoneworks.com

(206) 618-0558

Bringing the finest in Stone Masonry to the Greater Seattle Area.

Natural stone walls, patios, steps and rockery of all sizes.

Mortared stone veneers, fireplace surrounds, and interiors.


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