Old World Luxury at the Ceylon Tea Trails

Set amidst the rolling green of Sri Lankan hill country, Ceylon Tea Trails offers an experience off the beaten path without compromising on style. A Relais & Chateau boutique hotel, the property is a collection of four (soon to be five) colonial tea planters' bungalows: Castlereagh, Norwood, Summerville and Tietsin (and coming soon, Dunkeld). 

Each bungalow has a unique architectural style, tastefully restored and featuring modern comforts with an old world charm. Castlereagh and Summerville are situated on opposite sides of Castlereagh Lake offering stunning water vistas, while Norwood and Tietsin are located at a higher altitude up in the steep tea tree lined hills. 

Norwood Bungalow
The pool at Summerville Bungalow
For travellers (like the hubby) who prefer the most luxurious of amenities and high-end designer finishes, let me just warn you that Ceylon Tea Trails is not that kind of vacation. With a home-stay feel, the property has oodles of rustic charm and character and numerous nature trails to explore. Reminiscent of colonial times, neatly manicured and cheerful English gardens surround each bungalow, there are croquet lawns and guests are given their own personal butler.

The garden from Trevaldwyn
We were thoroughly pampered on the food front, with the room rates inclusive of all meals and drinks, including alcohol. The upfront payment policy means you can holiday without the hassle of bills to sign after each meal or on check-out.

During our stay, we opted to divide our time between two bungalows, Norwood and Summerville.

Norwood Bungalow

Norwood Bungalow was built in 1890, but its rejuvenation mid century makes it feel like a 1950s homestead. It has been more recently renovated with a large conservatory-like dining room. The floor to ceiling glass capitalises on the lush green scenery outside and the exposed wood and feature stone fireplace give the room a warm atmosphere.

The Norwood conservatory
The shared living spaces continue with a traditional formal lounge and a more casual area equipped with a pool table for rainy days spent indoors.

Norwood lounge
Norwood pool table
We were initially booked into the Jeffery Luxury Room (despite the name, the luxury rooms are the entry level rooms) but our butler kindly upgraded us on arrival to the Trevaldwyn Garden Suite. The benefit of staying in a garden suite is the direct access to the English gardens surrounding the property.

The furnishings are basic but comfortable. As we were visiting during the off-season, the weather was a bit chilly - so ask ahead to secure a room with its own fireplace if you can! Each room is unique, but four poster beds seem to be a recurring feature, along with clawfoot bath-tubs.

Trevaldwyn Garden Suite

Much to the hubby's dismay, the rooms do not come with television sets. However, he gleefully discovered that you can request a television to be provided in the room; and our butler happily obliged. For TV addicts, make sure you ask in advance, as each bungalow has a limited number of screens. Otherwise, you'll have to share your TV time (and perhaps compromise on channels) in the shared lounge room, which is equipped with a set.

Summerville Bungalow

The second half of our stay was spent at Summerville. Built in 1923, it is the smallest of the bungalows and has a charming country cottage appeal with views of the lake.

Summerville Bungalow
Summerville pool
We were placed in the Goddard Garden Suite and while our room in Norwood had been larger, I preferred the warm hues and cosy feel of the room at Summerville. The bathroom was also smaller and did not have a separate shower and bath - instead, there was a shower/bath-tub combo (one of the hubby's pet hates) but it did the job.

Goddard Garden Suite

Similar to our room at Norwood, the Goddard Garden Suite has direct access to its own garden. The garden connected to our room in Summerville was larger and more private than the one at Norwood, and we had our own private glimpse of the lake!

Goddard Garden Suite - garden
Goddard Garden Suite - view back to the room from our private garden
Goddard Garden Suite - garden
The shared living areas of the Summerville bungalow included two sitting areas, a formal dining area and a covered outdoor verandah, which is where we chose to have all our meals. The view from the deck is a pristine view of the lake - the perfect place to relax, unwind and meditate.

While the bungalows are effectively shared houses and the hotel was close to full capacity, we did not ever feel pressured to mingle - with the freedom to organize your day and meals to your individual wishes, we found that our itinerary for the day would rarely match another couple's plans so there was no constant bumping into other guests. The property is also extremely large, so if you wander off on a hike or mountain bike ride, the experience is likely to be very peaceful and private.

While the home-stay style may not be for everyone, I grew to really enjoy being woken by "breakfast tea" and having afternoon cream tea daily. It was also almost too easy to become accustomed to having a butler review your daily plans and arrange lunch and dinner menus. One tip here is that if you do wish to have Sri Lankan cuisine for breakfast or dinner, you need to let the butler know the day before (for breakfast) or in the morning (for dinner).

Stay tuned for my next post for reviews of the food I experienced at the Ceylon Tea Trails!

xx Amanda


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