Ceylon Tea Trails

Hatton, Kandy & Hill Country, Sri Lanka Book from

Reviewed by Laila Ram
Four luxurious tea plantation houses set in stunning hill country, all with impeccable service and fine cuisine, linked by walking and cycling trails
Sri Lanka's hill country, with all its spectacular scenery and lush tea plantations, is a must-see. Until recently, chances are you'd have to stay in a tired old colonial hotel or a musty bungalow with school dinner food, bad plumbing and service to match. At last someone has upped the stakes. At 4,000 feet above sea level, Ceylon Tea Trails is a collection of 4 beautifully restored plantation bungalows set around the picturesque Castlereagh lake. Originally built for British tea managers during the Raj, they now offer modern comforts with a dash of style, fine cuisine and excellent service without losing the sense of history. Each house comes with its own chef, butler and manager and up to 6 luxurious guest rooms, which can be booked individually or collectively.

The houses are set between 4 and 15km apart. Here you can do as much or as little as you like, from strolls, bike rides and guided walks around the working tea estate to rafting and a sunrise trek to Adam's Peak. After a day's activity return to a refreshing pool, afternoon tea with scones and a crackling log fire. This could well be the highlight of your trip to Sri Lanka.

Highs

  • The hill country setting is both magnificent and tranquil
  • This is the region's first luxury boutique accommodation
  • Guests have the option of walking or cycling from one bungalow to the next (availability permitting)
  • Plenty of activities, including the helicopter tour - and you can add on a few days at beachside sister resort Cape Weligama
  • Service and attention to detail is impeccable at all 4 bungalows
  • This is a good base for excursions to Adam's Peak, Sri Lanka's most sacred mountain

Lows

  • All this comfort and service doesn't come cheap, but all meals and most drinks, as well as laundry, are included in the daily room rate
  • This is a somewhat off-the-beaten-track location with bumpy roads, and journeys can be long and tiring

Best time to go

All year round. Because it is so high up it rarely gets unbearably hot. The months of December to April are probably the best as temperatures rise to around 28C during the day but cool down at night. During the monsoon season from October to December you can expect heavy downpours. June to September are the driest months here, when there’s almost no rain at all.

Our top tips

Head to Castlereagh, Norwood or Tientsin for a relaxing game of croquet on their manicured lawns, then sip afternoon tea on the veranda and hark back to the days of the Raj.

Great for...

Eco
Foodie
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Luxury Villas
  • 20
  • All inclusive
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
  • Tennis Court
  • Bicycles Available
Room:

Rooms

Surrounded by manicured gardens, the 4 bungalows have been elegantly refurbished by interior designer Deirdre Renniers to showcase their colonial architecture. Colours are creamy and warm; beds are large and deliciously comfortable; furniture is tastefully modern yet in harmony with the bungalows' heritage. Victorian features meet the 21st century: you get old-fashioned rolltops baths (no separate showers), as well as internet connections.

Each bungalow has a choice of 3 room types: the Luxury Rooms are the simplest (though still very comfy), the Garden Suites have verandas onto the garden and the Master Suites have a separate living room. You are normally assigned to whichever bungalow has space for your chosen dates, but if you have a preference you can but ask.

The Castlereagh bungalow is an imposing century-old house overlooking the reservoir, which has 3 superb garden suites and 2 luxury rooms. It features beautiful parquet floors, summer houses, a library, a swimming pool and open fireplaces in the dining and living rooms.

Summerville is 4 km away across Castlereagh reservoir and is more of a traditional cottage. Here you can book the Master Suite, 2 Garden Suites and 1 Luxury Room separately or together. Some suites have private gardens; all have easy access to the cosy living room with a fireplace and picture windows. High above the reservoir lake with views of the hills, it also has an infinity edge swimming pool, a summer house and a sunbathing deck.

Norwood is at the eastern end of the valley, 12 km from Castlereagh (15 minutes by car). This newer house (it was rebuilt in the 1940s) is set away from the lake in the heart of the Norwood tea estate and is sheltered by bamboo stands. The 5 suites and rooms, some with four-poster beds, are accompanied by a library, veranda, summer house, large swimming pool, sun deck, croquet lawn, imposing colonial furniture and elegant bathrooms. There are polished stone floors throughout and lovely black and white photographs adorn the walls.

Tientsin is 15 km upriver from Norwood and is named after the Chinese village from where the original tea came. One of the first houses to be built in the tea country, its magnificent gardens pay tribute to the English tea planters' wives who created 'a little bit of home' by planting glorious roses and arbours. Six airy suites and rooms, wonderful polished wooden floors, high ceilings, log fires, four-poster beds, an infinity pool, a sun deck and a tennis court contribute to Tientsin's delightful ambience.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Fireplace
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Plunge pool
  • Terrace

Eating

Each bungalow has its own chef and staff. Meals are cooked to order using fresh produce, with dishes ranging from western fare to tea-infused creations and Sri Lankan classics. Choice is the watchword here - you arrange with the chef when, what and where you want to eat.

Wake up to a full English or a traditional Sri Lankan breakfast along with a fruit platter and toast. Picnic lunch baskets are provided for those on expeditions - perhaps cold roast beef sandwiches with a delicious salad - and for those who'd rather savour the views back at the house, there's soup and a range of curries. Just make sure you return by 5pm when a full English afternoon tea is served.

Sundowners can be taken on the terrace or in the garden - there is a cocktail of the day. Dinner usually has four courses - lamb with an Earl Grey tea crust followed by chocolate mousse cake, for example - and you can select your favourite tipple from the Australian wines and spirits on the drinks list. You can dine on the terrace (overlooking the pool if in Castlereagh), in the dining room, in your suite, on the veranda or in one of the summer houses in the garden (weather permitting).

Features include:

  • All meals included
  • Bar
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Go trekking along the marked trails through the wonderful Ceylon Tea country, past tea-draped hills, pine forests and the placid reservoir. You can walk from one bungalow to another if you like: Castlereagh and Summerville are 4 km apart along an 'Easy' trail, and there are 'Intermediate' and 'Adventurous' options as well

  • Ask about the 4-night Tea Trails Package - spend the first night at Castlereagh, walk to Norwood for the second night, then head on to Tientsin for final two nights. You go at your own pace and enjoy picnics along the way

  • If that sounds too terrestrial, book the 12-day helicopter adventure to see the best of Sri Lanka from above and avoid all those slow, winding roads. The tour includes Galle, Sigiriya, Colombo and 5 nights at the Tea Trails bungalows - click here for more details

  • The spectacular landscape of hills and forests is home to a wide range of flora and fauna - the birds and plant life are particularly good (but beware of leeches)

  • Each of the 4 bungalows has it's own swimming pool and Tientsin has a clay tennis court for all to use

  • Enjoy the tea experience - watch the harvest in adjacent fields, visit a tea factory and discover the skills of tea blending and tasting; it's especially easy if you're staying at Norwood, next to a tea plantation

  • Take the boat across the lake for tea from Castlereagh to Summerville or vice versa. The more adventurous can try kayaking with well-trained guides (only available sometimes)

  • Tea Trails is perfectly positioned for sunrise climbing expeditions to the famed Adam's Peak mountain, which is just 1.5 hours away. At the top is a huge 'footprint' claimed by Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus as a place of pilgrimage for more than 1000 years

  • The reservoir and nearby rivers provide excellent fishing

  • Mountain biking excursions are easily arranged and guests can bike from one bungalow to another

  • White water rafting is available at Kitulgala, about 1.5 hours away

  • Spend an afternoon golfing in Nuwara Eliya

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Kayaking
  • Mountain biking
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Rafting
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Trekking

Kids

Children of all ages are welcome and cots are provided free of charge. Two children up to the age of 12 can share their parents' room and extra beds can be provided for a fee.

There are lots of fun activities for kids, including swimming in the lakes and exploring the grounds, as well as boating, cycling and nature trails for the whole family. There is even a Junior Tea Experience especially for children.

Note that Ceylon Tea Trails is primarily set up for couples and an older clientele, they try not to have several families staying at the same time.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Baby equipment:

Baby cots available on request

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kids Activities on site:

Swimming, tennis, croquet and cycling

Kids Activities nearby:

Nature trails, boating and the Junior Tea Experience

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
10/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
10/
Overall

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