Ceylon Tea Trails

Hatton, Kandy & Hill Country, Sri Lanka Book from Book from £632 per night

Five elegant tea plantation villas with impeccable service, fine cuisine and a breathtaking backdrop of emerald peaks
Sri Lanka's hill country, with its lush tea plantations, cascading waterfalls and mist-shrouded mountains, has some of the most awe-inspiring scenery that you'll find anywhere on the island. At 4,000 feet above sea level, Ceylon Tea Trails is a collection of 5 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 4-15km apart, linked by walking and cycling trails. Here you can do as much or as little as you like from guided tours of the working tea estate to whitewater rafting or 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 with wonderful views all around
  • Plenty of activities including the exhilarating helicopter tour; you can also add on a few days at beachside sister resort Cape Weligama
  • Service and attention to detail is impeccable at all 5 bungalows
  • This is a good base for excursions to Adam's Peak, Sri Lanka's most sacred mountain

Lows

  • This level of comfort and service doesn't come cheap, but all meals and most drinks, as well as laundry, are included in the daily room rate
  • The off-the-beaten-track location means bumpy roads and long-tiring journeys (consider taking travel sickness pills) but it's well worth the effort
  • If you're after a lively nightlife scene, this might not be your cup of tea

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
  • Luxury Villas
  • 22
  • 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 5 bungalows have been elegantly refurbished by interior designer Deirdre Renniers to showcase their colonial architecture. 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 area.

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

Summerville, 4 km away across Castlereagh reservoir, is more of a traditional cottage. Some suites have private gardens; all have easy access to the cosy living room with a fireplace and picture windows. High above the lake with views of the hills, it also has an infinity pool, summer house and sunbathing deck.

Norwood is at the eastern end of the valley, 12 km from Castlereagh (15 minutes by car). Rebuilt in the 1940s, Norwood is set away from the lake in the heart of the tea estate. The 5 suites and rooms, some with four-poster beds, are complemented by a library, veranda, summer house, large swimming pool, sun deck, croquet lawn, imposing colonial furniture and elegant bathrooms.

Tientsin, 15 km upriver from Norwood, is named after the Chinese village from where the original tea came. Six airy suites and rooms, polished wooden floors, high ceilings, log fires, four-poster beds, infinity pool, sun deck, tennis court and delightful rose gardens contribute to the ambiance.

We stayed at Dunkeld, nestled in the mountains, high above the lake. The 4 suites have plush four-poster beds, velvet and leather sofas and antique touches, while the secluded Taylor Owner’s Cottage is hidden among the tea fields and has its very own heated Jacuzzi on the veranda.

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 fresh to order, with dishes ranging from Western fare to tea-infused creations and Sri Lankan classics.

Wake up to a full English or a traditional Sri Lankan breakfast served with a fruit platter. Picnic lunch baskets can be provided - perhaps cold roast beef sandwiches with a delicious salad - while 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 for a traditional English afternoon tea.

We loved the sundowners in the garden - there's a different 'cocktail of the day' - or choose from the drinks menu of spirits and Australian wines. Dinner usually has 4 courses: for example, lamb with Earl Grey tea crust followed by chocolate mousse cake. You can dine on the terrace, 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

  • Trek along marked trails through the wonderful Ceylon Tea country, past tea-draped hills, the placid reservoir and pine forests full of wildlife

  • 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 the final 2 nights. Travel at your own pace and enjoy picnics along the way

  • See Sri Lanka from above on the 12-day helicopter adventure - amazing views without the winding roads. The tour includes Galle, Sigiriya, Colombo and 5 nights at the Tea Trails bungalows - click here for more details

  • Enjoy the tea experience: watch the harvest, visit a tea factory and discover the skills of tea blending and tasting

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

  • Get up before sunrise to climb the famed Adam's Peak mountain (1.5 hours away); the huge 'footprint' at the top has been 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

  • Whitewater 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. 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:

Taylor Owner's Cottage is ideal for families as it has 1 master bedroom with 1 small, interconnecting bedroom with twin beds.

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:

Location

Ceylon Tea Trails are situated south of Hatton in the Dickoya region, which is in the hill country of south-central Sri Lanka.

By Air
Colombo Bandaranaike (175km away) is the closest international airport. Click on the links below for a list of airlines serving it.

From the Airport
Most guests come by private car, either as part of a bigger exploration around Sri Lanka or arranged by Ceylon Tea Trails (enquire when booking). The journey time is 3-4 hours from Colombo or 2-3 hours from Kandy.

There is also a seaplane (enquire when booking) to Castlereagh reservoir. This cuts journey times to 30 minutes from Colombo and 15 minutes from Kandy.

Getting around
The hotel can arrange taxis or cars with drivers for day trips and excursions.

Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.com.

More on getting to Sri Lanka and getting around

Airports:

  • Colombo Bandaranaike International 175.0 km CMB

Other:

  • Beach 150.0 km
  • Shops 12.0 km
  • Restaurant 12.0 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 2 independent reviews from i-escape guests

9/10
Room
10/10
Food
10/10
Service
10/10
Value
10/10
Overall

Very colonial and beautiful atmosphere.

10/10,

My family spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at the Norwood Bungalow and memories of that stay will last forever. One room, Irvine I think, had access to a lovely private garden. The bathroom was pristine and the room furnishings simple but elegant. The grounds of the property were simply stunning, with gorgeous views in all directions. The chef utterly spoiled me. His execution of the vegetable curries was absolutely exquisite. For example, where all other dahl curries were mushy, his lentils still had texture. His spice combinations were subtle and complex at once. It was a hard decision not to order Sri Lankan food again, but he did seem so pleased about his special Christmas dinner menu so we went with that and were not disappointed. His lamb loin was super tender and succulent. It seems so unlikely to find haute cuisine in such a remote place, but the chef's aesthetic was delightful. Sankath and Janaka were perfect, highly attentive with dignity. The Norwood staff took pains to ensure that we were well nourished to the last possible moment of our departure from the Summerville bungalow.

10/10,

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