Ceylon Tea Trails is comprised of five Colonial tea plantation bungalows spread on the Bogawantalawa valley and mostly connected through walking trails across tea country at an altitude on or above 4000 ft from sea level. The bungalows have been elegantly and diligently converted into a luxury plantation stay that will reveal to you the best of Sri Lanka’s hospital and the remarkable beauty of its tea country. We visited and stayed at two of the more popular bungalows recently, Castlereagh and Summerville overlooking the Castlereagh reservoir.
An express train heading to the tea country is one way of getting here. A 3 hour journey from Kandy on a scenic train ride and you end up in the busy tea country town Hatton. The Tea Trails’ bungalow Summerville is a 20 minute drive from Hatton railway station and Castlereagh Bungalow is another 15 minutes. All the properties are restored planters’ bungalows built between late 1800 to early 1900 with their own unique characteristics. Summerville has five bedrooms including a suite. Castlereagh has five bedrooms including 4 garden suites. As you can see, a stay at these bungalows is an intimate experience, which guarantees personalised service. While Summerville has the most exquisite and stunning views of the Castlereagh Reservoir, Castlereagh Bungalow boasts beautifully manicured gardens all around it with views of the reservoir. Both properties have a pool each, formal and informal dinning space, lounge and a small indoor bar. These luxury stays are all-inclusive, including meals, afternoon tea and drinks.
Out of the rooming, we like the garden rooms and suites as they open up into the garden and have their own private outdoor sitting area. Each room has a fourposter king size bed, writing tables, sofas, wardrobe and other amenities. There is no TV. Being recently refurbished, the bedrooms at Castlereagh Bungalow stands above the rest as the best. All interiors have a great deal of colonial style in terms of furniture, colour and design. The outdoor sitting area is lovely to sit out in the morning at sunrise and enjoy a cup of Ceylon Tea or coffee. The en-suite bathrooms have the same colonial touch and very English. All the required amenities are provided in case you forget to pack some. Each room is attended top by a personal butler during your stay who will bring you bed tea in the morning, run your bath and make sure your stay is everything you could dream of.
Although you may be tempted to sit back and lounge the whole day, there are interesting activities that are offered by the hotel that should not be missed out. We enjoyed our tea factory visit at Dunkeld. This was both fun and educational as Bernard, the in-house planter with years of expertise, guided us through the factory and encouraged us to taste an unfamiliar array of tea. His witty chatter made the tour unlike any other.
The walking trails are also popular and a great way to embrace the beautiful area the bungalows are set in. There are half a day and full day trails with breaks in between to devour a fabulous 3 course lunch at one of the bungalows. These walks are guided and accompanied by the in-house naturalist. Additional you can also kayak across the reservoir if you are feeling adventurous. Cooking classes for both adults and kids, bike rides, private tea tasting sessions are some of the other activities that are offered, though unfortunately we had no time to experience all of them.
There are number of dining options at each bungalow from the more formal dining table to outdoor dining. The weather and climatic factors will largely encourage you to decide which option to pick from. We certainly encourage you to try the outdoor options as they make you embrace the fresh air and breathtaking views of the mountains and the reservoir. You also get to choose between a Sri Lankan and a continental breakfast. We loved the Sri Lankan breakfast, all made from fresh locally sourced ingredients. The dinner is fine dining and its appropriate to dress up. Drinks are all included so enjoy a G&T or a glass of wine in the evenings by the side of the fireplace. Your butler will spoil you with Sri Lankan cuisine infused nibbles including miniature fish cakes (Sri Lankan style – often referred to as cutlets) and cashew nuts wok fried with curry leaves. Forget the afternoon nap and treat yourself to the property’s delicious high tea including homemade cakes and cucumber sandwiches served with a choice of Ceylon Tea.
To truly experience the luxury of Tea Trails we recommend splurging on a three-night stay. You can include Tea Trails in a private tour of Sri Lanka before you head to the South coast or for your wildlife encounters at Yala or Udawalawe National Parks. You can also read more about our experiences at Tea Trails here.