Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka
19 December, 2018
High up in Bogawantalawa - Sri Lanka's Golden Valley of Tea - amid rolling hills swathed in sheets of mist, sits Ceylon Tea Trails, a collection of five elegantly restored colonial bungalows, perched overlooking Castlereagh Reservoir and surrounded by acre upon acre of bottle-green tea.
This majestic estate, once a treasured haunt of the British planters, feels entirely removed from the rush and racket of the modern world. Here, solitude and scenery mingle to send you into a transcendent state of relaxation. If you ever wanted to live the life of a tea magnate of yesteryear (with an extra helping of luxury) this is the place to do it.
The bungalows have manicured gardens bejewelled with roses and dahlias, and alluring pools fed with water straight from the mountain spring. If you can pull yourself from your wicker chair, kayak across the reservoir, enjoy a spot of afternoon croquet or take a tour of the Dunkeld Tea Factory - an insight into the production process from picking to packing, which ends with a tasting that will make you think twice about all that milk and sugar.
That said, we found there to be no greater pleasure than simply walking for miles, getting lost among the winding trails and making the most of the magnificent views. You're unlikely to encounter another soul, and the other bungalows are great stop-off points should you need a little refreshment. As light begins to fade, wend your way home, sink back into that chair and soak up the calm of the evening.
Ceylon Tea Trails
Each of the bungalows have a slightly different feel, reflecting their individual history. Tientsin, the oldest of the lot, dates back to 1888, while the more modern Dunkeld comes with a 180 square metre standalone Owner's Cottage for those who really want privacy. Interiors have a nostalgic charm and a distinctly British feel that chimes with the property's colonial character; expect muted colours, grand four-poster beds and rich Persian rugs. Most rooms have private gardens and some have fireplaces for the chillier hill-country evenings. Walls are adorned with antique prints and antiquated maps, while bathrooms feel drawn straight from a period-drama: sumptuously tiled with double basins and free-standing baths, perfect to sink into after a long afternoon hike. Televisions are done away with to enhance the sense that you're escaping modern life, but one can be set up if you really can't go without.
What's for breakfast?
Whatever you want. Coffee, freshly squeezed juice, a fruit platter, homemade pastries and eggs benedict with extra crispy bacon, sausages and fluffy hash browns should do it. Sri Lankan breakfasts are superb too, but need to be ordered the night before so that the chef can prepare your hoppers and curry fresh.
How about lunch and dinner?
During breakfast, the chef will stop by to discuss what you'd like to eat for the rest of the day. He'll give you plenty of options based on what's fresh from the market - don't be shy to ask if there's something you really fancy. Lunches are three courses while dinner in a more formal four-course affair. The soups are outstanding, our rack of lamb melted in the mouth, and if you ask for curry prepare for a feast. Of course, the chefs like to make use of what grows locally, so expect plenty of dishes inspired by tea.
Is there a bar?
Yes. Fitting with the bungalows' homely feel, you'll find a wide range of spirits set atop a teak butler's tray table in the living room. Help yourself or ask the staff to whip you up a cocktail, then enjoy on the balcony, poolside or in your own private garden.
Each bungalow comes with its own pool, chef and butler. There's also a clay tennis court, croquet lawns and bikes for guests. Food and drinks - plus a tour of the tea factory - are also included.
Things you should know…
As you'd expect from a property set adrift from modern life, the WiFi may be a tad more sluggish than you're used to at home.
Within a short walk you'll find…
Tea, tea and more tea. The rolling, green hills are more or less uninterrupted - you may stumble across the occasional bungalow or tiny village, but that's as much life as you're likely to see.