This vast property (sunrise-sunset daily, admission free) in Hamilton Parish, held largely by a private family trust but open to the public, incorporates coast and forested land from Blue Hole Park to Tom Moore’s Jungle (as Walsingham Nature Reserve is more frequently called). Of the whole area, government-owned Blue Hole Park is the only designated public park, with the best access and parking. Although each area of interest can be accessed by its respective entrance—a half mile or so apart—all are linked, so they can be explored on foot from any entry point.
A highlight of the so-called jungle are the swimming grottoes, fed via subterranean tunnels by the tides of Castle Harbour; turtles and fish can often be seen in the turquoise depths.Tom Moore’s Jungle (Walsingham Ln., off Harrington Sound Rd.) is a tangle of cherry forests, crystalline caves, and mangroves surrounding Tom Moore’s Tavern, a four-star restaurant housed in a 1652 waterfront inn. Both the tavern and jungle take the name of Thomas Moore, an Irish poet and bon vivant whose mediocre romantic verse during a brief stay as court registrar (January-April 1804) managed to keep him very much alive in local legend.
A highlight of the so-called jungle are the swimming grottoes, fed via subterranean tunnels by the tides of Castle Harbour; turtles and fish can often be seen in the turquoise depths. The Castle Harbour coastline here is also perfect for snorkeling; the shallow bays, reefs, and mangroves invite hours of exploration. Bird-watchers will enjoy spotting not only the many herons that stalk crabs on the shore, but also finches, cardinals, and doves. Caves honeycomb the woodlands, like a children’s fairy story. Part of this chunk of land, the 1.25-acre Idwal Hughes Nature Reserve, is owned by the Bermuda National Trust and contains indigenous palmettos and cedars, along with unique geological formations.
The region is also riddled with underwater caves, including the most famous, Crystal Cave and Fantasy Cave, which are open to the public. Tom Moore’s Jungle connects to Blue Hole Park through a woodland trail leading under diminutive bush archways, quaint enough to have been fashioned by elfin folk. Blue Hole Park, home to a popular dolphin show in the 1970s, is honeycombed with caves, including a cave mouth called Causeway Cave and caverns along the shoreline filled with seawater. Bermuda’s oldest rock, a very hard limestone estimated to be 800,000 years old, can be found at the surface in the Walsingham area.
Bermuda’s most famous tree, a calabash, is located here. Tom Moore sat in its generous shade to compose his poems, and on November 4, 1844, members of the nascent Royal Bermuda Yacht Club held their first meeting and a celebratory lunch under its branches; the iconic club has celebrated key anniversaries at the spot ever since. Tragically, Hurricane Emily in 1987 nearly destroyed the tree, but cuttings were replanted and it has now sprouted to several feet in height. Follow the trail left of the tavern about 200 yards to a clearing, where you will see the surviving sapling.
Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Bermuda.