Jamestown, St Helena cruises

Napoleon’s exile to St Helena was one of isolation, with the island being more than 1,250 miles from its nearest neighbour. Somehow that adds to the air of mystique you feel as you sail to Jamestown.

Jamestown is the capital of St Helena, a volcanic and tropical island in the South Atlantic Ocean. The British garrisoned Jamestown in the 17th century as the island was mainly used as a refreshment station for British ships travelling to the East. The city was founded in 1659 by the British East India Company and was named after James, Duke of York. The town is framed by the harbour in one direction and a beautiful archway in the other. Beneath this archway is the coat of arms of the British East India Company.

There is something almost other-worldly about Jamestown, a city so rooted in its famous past. The architecture in town is classically Georgian, built in the heyday of the island’s maritime history. Main Street is often described as one of the best unspoiled examples of Georgian architecture anywhere in the world. The buildings’ perfect symmetry and understated elegance wind up the sharp incline from the azure blue Atlantic towards the contrasting rugged cliffs which form the town’s backdrop. However, the Museum of St. Helena is somewhat understated, looking more like a 19th Century warehouse in contrast to the majesty of its neighbouring Georgian manses.

As you approach the island from the ocean you can see the major conurbation of ‘Half Tree Hollow’, clinging to the mountainside. As you get closer, it somehow disappears and hides within the steep cliff face.

Napoleon’s presence is certainly a major influence in much of the town and the island as a whole. His life-size effigy, in full military regalia, gazes down from the first-floor balcony of the Consulate Hotel.

Jamestown is home to the oldest Anglican Church in the Southern Hemisphere, the Saint James Church, built in 1774. You will need some binoculars to spot it from the water, particularly since the spire was removed in 1980 for safety reasons. Near to the church, you will be able to see the castle, built by the British to house the government when they took over the island in 1659. Just behind the castle is a tropical garden, home to many indigenous plants and throngs of songbirds that swarm around an enormous Ficus tree.

The food on St. Helena delivers a medley of flavours, a consequence of its multi-ethnic population. Malay, British and Chinese seem to exert the greatest influence with mild spices and curries. A traditional Sunday roast is very likely to include a curry dish alongside the roasted meat; such is the fusion of cooking style. Fish and seafood play a big role on most menus in restaurants, particularly tuna.