Explore STJ: Leinster Bay Trail to Murphy House

The view from Murphy Great House

Hello everyone, and happy Monday! We are so happy to tell you all that the beaches and trails reopen today. And to celebrate that, we’re going to take you all on a little hike over to the Murphy Great House, which is located off the Johnny Horn trail, high above Waterlemon Cay.

But first, I’d like to tell you a bit about James Murphy, the man who the Great House was named after. James Murphy was a St. Thomas merchant, shipowner and slave trader. Murphy bought Waterlemon Bay in in 1796 and renamed it Leinster Bay, according to David W. Knight, Sr.’s writing on the St. John Historical Society’s website. “Within the year, Murphy also went on to acquire the neighboring Annaberg and Mary’s Point estates, along with a portion of the former deWintsberg property known as Betty’s Hope that joined the two parcels.” Following the acquisitions, Murphy started to construct what was then considered a state-of-the-art sugar factory at Annaberg.

“In 1803, James Murphy once again set out to expand his landholdings with the acquisition of the Munsburry plantation, which lay along Annaberg’s southern boundary,” David W. Knight, Sr. wrote on the St. John Historical Society’s website. “Then, in 1807, he purchased the Brown’s Bay estate on the far eastern boundary of Leinster Bay — thereby amassing a total of 1,245 contiguous acres, of which 494 were planted in sugar cane. It was the largest amount of sugar land ever controlled by a single individual in the history of St. John.”

The Great House was Murphy’s residence perched high atop a hill overlooking Annaberg, Leinster Bay and Tortola. The hike to the Great House takes roughly 30 to 45 minutes from the Annaberg parking lot, depending on how many times you stop to take pictures or enjoy the beautiful scenery. You could wear flip flops for this hike, but I recommend wearing sneakers and bringing a bottle of water.

So as we mentioned, please park at the Annaberg parking lot when visiting the Murphy Great House. After parking, proceed to the Leinster Bay Trail which starts beside the water at the bottom of the hill to Annaberg.

The parking area at Annaberg is to the right of this sign.
The beginning of the Leinster Bay Trail that leads to the Murphy Great House.

Follow the trail alongside the water until you get to the beach.

The path is sometimes rocky.
Sometimes it leads through beautiful, tree-covered spots.
The beach area

When you reach the beach, walk to the far end. There you will see an opening in the trees. This leads to the Johnny Horn Trail. There is a large rock near the entrance of this trail.

This path leads to the Johnny Horn Trail.

“The Johnny Horn Trail was named after Johan Horn who was second in command to Governor Gardelin in St. Thomas and Commandant of St. John around the time of the slave rebellion in 1733,” according to seestjohn.com. “He was the Chief Bookkeeper and Chief Merchant of the Danish West India and Guinea Company on St. Thomas. According to John Anderson in his historical novel, Night of the Silent Drums, Englishman John Charles, a former actor who became a small planter on St. John, said the following of Horn:

“He had a grimace for a face, lies for eyes, noes for a nose, arse cheeks for face cheeks, fears for ears, whips for lips, dung for a tongue, and to all who knew him it seems strange that he has but one horn for a name.”

Well clearly he wasn’t the most liked individual…

Once you get to the rock, walk to the left. You will then follow the trail uphill. The first set of ruins you will reach is of the Guardhouse. It’s purposefully located in a strategic location where guards could keep an eye on the the Fungi Passage, between Whistling Cay and Mary Point, and the Narrows, which separate Great Thatch and St. John. The Guardhouse was complete with cannons and was manned by 16 soldiers, according to See St. John.

The entrance to the Guardhouse site
Guardhouse ruins

Continue uphill once you leave the Guardhouse. You will come to an intersection with a sign for the Murphy Great House. Take that left. The Great House is right around the corner. (If you continued straight on the Johnny Horn trail, you would eventually reach Coral Bay near the Moravian Church. This is a very challenging hike.)

Take a left to get to the Great House
The steps leading to the Great House

Views of St. John’s north side, the Sir Francis Drake Channel and Tortola
One of the most picturesque picnic spots on the island…

Check out this quick video we took:

How gorgeous are those views??!! Not a bad way to start the week!

As you can see, there is so much to do, see and learn about on St. John. The next time you are on island, you should definitely Explore STJ.


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12 thoughts on “Explore STJ: Leinster Bay Trail to Murphy House”

  1. Wow, very cool. You should start offering guided hikes in addition to the island tours. The hikes are great but knowing the history makes them even better.

  2. Thank you Jenn for another beautiful excursion. I can’t wait to take this hike and enjoy this view on next visit to St. John. It was very much appreciated on a rainy day here in NC.

  3. I love this area and have explored it often. Thanks for taking us there. Make sure to adjust your spellcheck to not auto-correct WaterLEMON to WaterMELON.

  4. Jenn…another great article you posted here today. We did this hike several years ago and was one of our favorites on the island. We then went on to snorkel Waterlemon Cay and found it to be one of the best ever. The shallow reefs held tons of fish and coral and the further out we went we discovered lot’s of turtles. Our last visit to the Island we did not do this so I wonder how the shallow reefs held up to the Hurricanes in 2017.

  5. Thank you! We are SO missing St. John since leaving last Thursday. Your gorgeous photos and video help take the edge off.
    We extended our stay due to fear of flying home during the pandemic so instead of two weeks we had four weeks with the gorgeous view from Harbor View above Cruz Bay. We miss it very much.

  6. Johnny horn trail is a nice hike. Recommend you start early, the sun can get hot quickly on the trail from the church in coral bay. The ruins off the main trail are very interesting. It’s fun to try to put together what they looked originally.

  7. We hiked all around the rocky Leinster Bay trail back in early March but didn’t take the Johnny Horn Trail to the Murphy House. Putting that on my must-do list for our next St. John trip that’s booked for 2021. Thank you!
    Jill
    New Hampshire

  8. I’ve been coming to STJ for 40+ years and had never done this hike until this past March. The views overlooking Waterlemon from the Murphy house were the most stunning I’ve ever seen. It will become my go-to hike whenever I’m on island. My thoughts & prayers are with everyone on The Rock and hoping you all stay healthy & safe!

  9. Wow! Thanks, Jenn, for the wonderful video, beautiful pictures and interesting history lesson. Love St. John.

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