Falmouth, Jamaica Timber-Frame houseFalmouth, Jamaica, is a sleepy little town on Sunday mornings, with few shops open and not many people out and about.

It was founded in 1769 and touted as an architectural gem, with its collection of Georgian-style buildings.

Nowadays, it is best known as Jamaica's newest cruise port, developed by Royal Caribbean and opened in February 2011.

When the port debuted, Wykeham McNeill, Jamaica's minister of tourism, described Falmouth as a "town steeped in history, but one which few tourists until recently have even known about."

McNeill promised that new systems and programs would be put in place to make Falmouth's history come alive for both cruise passengers and land-based travelers.

That's not a done deal yet. Falmouth remains a bit rough around the edges, although Water Square fronting the pier has new brick pathways, a fountain and flowers.

The side streets, however, are tricky footing, and many buildings are in need of renovation.

"Not everyone has seen the benefits of the port," said Marina Delfos, director of Falmouth Heritage Walks, my guide during the visit. "A lot of the cruise passengers go off on island tours and don't spend time in Falmouth.

"I offer guided walking tours for history buffs," Delfos said. "On the culinary tour we stop at food shops and sample yams, coconuts, Jamaican patties and sweets. My newest tour visits the 200-year-old Jewish cemetery here, one of 21 on the island. The best way to experience Falmouth is to explore it on foot."

And so we did.

We passed St. Peter the Apostle Anglican Church, a working church built in 1796.

A large clock on the side of the church was restarted by Britain's Prince Harry when he visited Jamaica in March 2012.

"The clock had stopped working but was repaired before Harry arrived," Delfos said. "He climbed the stairs inside the steeple and pushed some buttons to get it ticking again."

We strolled by several 19th century brick merchant houses and small, timber-frame houses and stopped to look at the 18th century Thomas Neale Tavern, which is in serious disrepair but may be restored.

Falmouth has several churches, a lot of bars and many historical homes in need of repair.

"I want to create a maintenance fund to help preserve some of the Jewish heritage monuments and artifacts," Delfos said.

The cemetery, our last stop, had 116 tombstones and graves. The oldest readable grave was dated 1850, and the most recent was 1944.

"There is a treasure trove of history here in this graveyard and in this town," she said.

Visit www.falmouthheritagewalks.com.

Follow Gay Nagle Myers on Twitter @gnmtravelweekly. 


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