Cockpit Country

  • Cockpit Country - © Copyright Flickr user Scrap Pile
  • Cockpit Country - © Copyright Flickr user maholyoak
  • Cockpit Country - © Copyright Wikimedia Commons, Fabian Tompsett

Key information: Cockpit Country

  • Weird, impenetrable karst country, often described as an inverted egg-box, of pinnacles, humps and sinkholes, all clothed in dense jungle. 
  • Spanish slaves, released when the British arrived, removed themselves here and lived independent lives harassing the British, until granted autonomy in 1738. Their descendants still live here. 
  • Tough and humid walking in landscape that can be lethal (through collapse) if you stray off the path. A guide is necessary. 
  • ANYONE GOT ANY GOOD PHOTOS? WE WOULD BE DELIGHTED TO POST THEM!

Walkopedia rating

(Top 100)
  • Walkopedia rating89.5
  • Beauty30
  • Natural interest16.5
  • Human interest12
  • Charisma31
  • Negative points0
  • Total rating89.5
  • Note: Negs: dangerous walking; heat with no water sources

Vital Statistics

  • Length: Variable
  • Level of Difficulty: Moderate
Top
Cockpit Country - © Copyright Flickr user maholyoak

WALK SUMMARY

Jamaica's Cockpit Country is a landscape of weird, impenetrable karst, a geological phenomenon often described as an inverted egg-box. Water drains below the surface of the porous limestone, eroding underground caverns which can collapse into sinkholes at any moment. Dense vegetation covers the whole, disguising crumbling caverns and forming sometimes impenetrable barriers to walkers. 

This is tough, humid walking, through country that can be lethal if you stray off the paths - and yet its enticing beauty and fascinating history continue to draw a steady trickle of tourists to explore this remote area of inland Jamaica. The curious cave systems which riddle the Cockpits, including 193m Smokey Hole Cave (the deepest on the island), provide an excellent opportunity to indulge in the thrills of cave exploration. 

When the British arrived in Jamaica in 1655 the Spanish inhabitants fled, and their slaves retreated into the wild inlands. These "Maroons" went on to live independent lives, making excellent defensive and offensive use of the difficult topography to harass the British, who were forced to grant them autonomy in 1738. Their descendants still live here. 

Exploring the edges of Cockpit Country is relatively easy, and short day hikes allow visitors a chance to experience some of the splendid scenery. There are only three possible routes which traverse Cockpit Country: of these the most used is the Troy-Windsor Trail, which follows the route of a British military road built in the 1700s, apparently in an attempt to control access to water in the region. 

The road itself, which cuts almost directly across the middle of the Cockpits, was an impressive achievement, both strategically and physically. However, it came at the cost of many lives and ultimately proved unsuccessful for the British, who in 1738 signed a peace treaty with the Maroons. Walking the Troy-Windsor trail now can take anything between 6 and 10 hours, winding torturously along the contours of the limestone hills. The road is overgrown and at times almost impossible to follow without a guide. 

The second possible route, the Quickstep Trail, runs 18km from Windsor to the village of Quickstep, from which hikers can either walk the return journey, or arrange for transport onwards. Heading into the southwest region of Cockpit Country, the place names begin to conjure up the strain and insecurity of the Maroon Wars: "Me No Sen You No Come", and "Land of Look Behind". 

Heading-Pantrepant, the final trail traversing Cockpit, is all but lost: there is an ongoing project to record its path (as of 2013), but it seems unlikely to become a viable alternative to the Troy-Windsor and Quickstep trails. 

There is no water available throughout this karst countryside, heat can be extreme and humidity is almost always very high; getting lost is easy, and the sinkholes can be deadly. Do not underestimate this lethal landscape: we advise a guide. Not only will they be able to keep you on the right paths, they will also be able to tell you more about the area's diverse flora, and intriguing history.

Several non-profit companies heavily involved in protecting the area, and its ecosystem, offer guided tours and hikes as a way of bringing in some much needed funding. If you want a challenging walk, then Jamaican Caves Organisation appear to be the go-to guides; if you're looking for a more relaxed approach, then try Cockpit Country Adventure Tours. Prices are not extortionate for either company, and a day's outing is affordable on $50/£30 (2013 prices). In addition, any profit on the walks will go towards research and conservation in the area. 

With thanks to Rosie Pearson for first bringing this to our attention.

Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

We have a lot of helpful practical information and tips about this walk, covering everything from the best books and maps, to timing and weather, geting there, possible problems, whether you need a guide and where to find them, and useful websites. This section is only open to members.

Membership is FREE AND JOINING TAKES 30 SECONDS. To login or sign up click here

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

OTHER ACCOUNTS
share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

Top

Responsible travel matters, a lot. How you travel will make a real difference - for better or worse. PLEASE consider this when making plans. Read more

Our partners Responsible Travel 

have carefully chosen expeditions 

and holidays around the world.    

Great walking, and much else...

Walkopedia Sponsor

See their site for inspiring ideas

For £50 off your trip, contact them quoting WW50

All material on this website is � Walkopedia Ltd 2008 - 2015, unless specified otherwise.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED