Nine Skies, Demodara, Sri Lanka
06 December, 2019
Set in a working tea estate, stylish bungalow-turned-hotel Nine Skies offers a tranquil Sri Lankan retreat overlooking the verdant valleys of Demodara.
Perched in the hills above the village of Demodara, this stylishly converted planter's bungalow really does put the t(ea) in tranquil. Nine Skies is a place where magic sweeps in with the morning mist, where every view across the verdant valley seems to nourish the soul.
Put on your walking boots (or the hotel's wellies) and hike through tea fields to hidden waterfalls; sink into the slender infinity pool and watch trains rumbling around the mountain, or wander along century-old tracks to the majestic Nine Arch Bridge. The adventurous can clamber up Ella Rock for unparalleled views or borrow a bike and explore the hill country.
Come evening, cosy up by the roaring fire with a board game or book as one of the butlers whips up a refreshing cocktail. There's plenty of pampering to be had here, and many will want to while away days in the garden, breathing in the fresh mountain air. Service is impeccable, too: indulgent but never intrusive. We loved playing with the resident puppies and trying fruit picked fresh from the garden, while the picnic we were packed off with - freshly made samosas and cinnamon rolls - kept us dreaming of Nine Skies all the way home.
The bungalow seamlessly marries old and new: original features rest easily alongside stylish wooden furniture; dashes of colour mean that Nine Skies feels surprisingly modern without losing its sense of history. All five rooms are well-appointed, with high ceilings and pillow-soft four poster beds, baths and private verandas. We stayed in the sprawling Ella Rock suite, which comes with a spacious separate sitting room and a 19th-century writing desk overlooking the valley - the perfect spot to pen your postcards home.
What's for breakfast?
What isn't? Locally harvested teas and cafetiere coffee make sure the eyes are open, while zingy fresh juices and abundant fruit platters get the taste buds tingling. Then it's down to the real business. The classic hotel hits - full English, granola, eggs benedict - are not to be sniffed at, but the Sri Lankan breakfasts are truly out of this world. Having tried egg hoppers, coconut roti and masala dosa, we thought it couldn't get any better, but our special send-off breakfast of string hoppers and spicy prawn curry topped the lot.
How about lunch and dinner?
Meals are à la carte, but chef Danushka is happy to veer away from the menu and craft dishes just for you. Everything is cooked fresh and much of the produce comes from the hotel's gardens. At lunchtime it's hard to look past the superb rice and curry feasts, but if you want to save yourself for dinner, there are tempting smaller bites too - we loved the dahl, salads and sandwiches with chips. Three-course evening meals are indulgent affairs; a melt-in-the-mouth ribeye steak with mash and up-country veg was a particular highlight.
Is there a bar?
Of course. A sleek, fully stocked bar cabinet stands proudly in the sitting room - a nod to the bungalow's history, which adds to the hotel's homely feel. You can play barman yourself or ask the butlers to make whatever you like.
Nine Skies benefits from an infinity pool and croquet lawn. There are books, board games and bikes you can borrow, plus wellies, hats and cashmere shawls should you need them during your stay. The hotel offers a free and fast laundry service. All food and drinks - as well as a tour of a local tea factory - are included.
Things I should know…
The hill country evenings can get a little chilly, so you might want to bring a jumper.
Within a short walk I can find…
Plenty of tea plantations, plus the quaint and historic Demodara Railway Station. From there you can head to Ella on foot or by train, or ride the rails all the way to Kandy - surely the most magical train ride the whole world over.