Dornoch River Head is a secret gem that’s not so much a secret. Truthfully, when adventurers ‘discover’ off the beaten paths we’re normally tempted to keep it a secret for ourselves so it doesn’t become inundated and completely commercialized (a la Blue Hole in Ocho Rios). But I’ve known about Dornoch for a few years based on Instagram posts. So long now, that I went three years ago wanting to see what this spot was that I basically grew up around (been spending every summer at Silver Sands since early childhood) and knew nothing about. So color me a little surprised when I posted a few stories from this past weekend and a bunch of people (i.e more than two for me is a bunch lol) have reached out asking where this is!
So firstly the what! According to Alan Fincham (and taken straight from mysilversands) Dornoch River Head is the largest river rising in Jamaica and is known, by water tracing, to be the resurgence for at least two rivers which flow underground, the Quashies River and the Cave River. Now I have no idea about this flowing underground bit and all this other stuff but it sounds cool AF and Alan is a published author (as opposed to me, a struggling blogger) so clearly, his word must be the gospel! All I know is it’s beautiful and worthy of a visit.
In no particular order here is my advice:
1. to get there type in Stewarts Town in google maps. There are two different routes to get there but I would say (especially if you’re staying at Silver Sands) to take the route from Duncans as opposed to Discovery/Runaway Bay. It’s more beautiful and definitely picturesque going through cane fields. When you get to Stewarts Town there is a NICE church and you keep right at the fork of the church and then figure it out. It’s about a next 15 minutes travel mostly because you’re going offroading which leads me to my next point…
2. Take a guide if you can. My directions are shit and someone from the town can show you! When I asked Yemalla @naturessweetescapes for directions she mentioned that she got to the town and two high school boys took her. When we stopped to ask for directions (after we had already taken the wrong turn and looped back into town) a guy immediately jumped on his bicycle and just told us to follow him. Aside from actually leading us to Dornoch, Andrae AKA Cotton (which Sim affectionately named him from an inside joke) stayed and vibed with us the entire time. Make no mistake about it tho, even though he didn’t ask we were all pretty aware that he had to be tipped as we knew it wasn’t Father Holung that had taken us to the river. PRO TIP: According to Sean when Cotton started to speak people just started dropping out of the bible. His stories dated back to BC where apparently Moses took Jesus to Dornoch to be baptized but Jesus said it was too cold and so only Peter got baptized in the end. Try to find Cotton…
3. Be aware of your surroundings. Nothing about the trip made me feel unsafe or uncomfortable but do note that this is NOT a tourist attraction. It is out in the middle of nowhere. Do NOT go alone. while I would suggest getting someone from Stewarts Town as a guide I, Matthew, do not claim to know all the residents of Stewarts Town or what their intent could be for you. I always say trust your gut! If you happen to speak to someone who is giving you a murder or rapist vibe then mayybbbbeeeee going down to the river with them alone isn’t a great idea. Again, just don’t act like a victim and be aware of your surroundings.
4. There is a bit of offroading to get to the river as previously stated. I’d suggest a Four Wheel Drive. If it’s rained recently I’d actually suggest just not going as the road would be muddy!
5. Hope for the best. Our first trip to Dornoch wasn’t a success in the sense that the water was brown (river and beach snob here, I don’t go in brown water) and it was riddled with Mosquitoes. Assuming we went shortly after it rained I would say to keep this in mind and cross your fingers. Otherwise, I have also heard that the local communities keep parties here so it would be very interesting to buck up into a bashment!
6. Just going to throw this in cause its funny. When rehashing how many mosquitos we saw on our last trip Sean expressed that they must have all gone into the water cause he saw dozens when he swam! Those little creatures you see at the top of the water zigging around are actually water boatmen…NOT mosquitoes.
7. There is a ‘hole’ you can jump from if you’re into those things. According to Cotton, there was never a more beautiful site than Sim in the spot waiting to jump. He called it the million dollar shot. Also, he said Mary (of Biblical fame) conceived in this very spot!
8. Of course, there is also a rope you can swing from. the small path to climb up to get the rope is EXTREMELY muddy and slippery. I for sure thought I was going to fall backward into the river for my friend’s belly full of laughs entertainment. I did not. Thank you Jesus!