4-bedroom Villas in Hill Country, Sri Lanka

The Hill Country is one of Sri Lanka’s most dramatic regions famed for its soaring peaks, its panoramic views, its salubrious climate, its gushing waterfalls, its rich colonial architecture and its acres and acres of verdant green tea estates.

Once cloaked in thick impenetrable jungle, the Hill Country was opened up by the British colonialists in the nineteenth century who were to first plant coffee, and then clear huge swathes of land to plant the much more successful crop of tea which remains one of the island’s top exports. With an elevation ranging from 850m to 2,500m, the Hill Country is characterised by its climate; cooler and less humid than elsewhere, the region sees plenty of rain but is also bathed in a great deal of sunshine that keeps the spectacular scenery of the area so healthily lush and in bloom.

Piduratangala (2,500m), Sri Lanka’s tallest mountain is located in the hill country however it is the island’s fifth largest peak that is most significant. Unusually venerated by devotees of the island’s four main religions – Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims – Adam’s Peak (2,240m) is a popular pilgrimage spot that’s traditionally climbed in the cooler early hours of the morning to arrive just in time for spectacular spiritual sunrises from its summit.

Walking is a popular pastime throughout the hill country as the climate affords great potential; varied terrains, spectacular vistas, abundant wildlife and refreshing waterfalls are highlights of any exploratory hike in the hills. Traversing the seemingly Scottish landscape of Horton Plains is one of the most rewarding walks for its conclusion at the sheer drop of World’s End.

Whilst roads wriggle their way up and around peaks, the best way to travel in the Hill Country is by train, even if you have nowhere special to go. The railway track, complete with numerous tunnels, bridges and loops is one of the most scenic in the world as it reaches spectacular viewpoints that roads simply cannot.

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Brockenhurst

Brockenhurst

Sri Lanka » Hill Country » Nuwara Eliya

Brockenhurst is a good private base for visiting Nuwara Eliya town and nearby attractions. Although there are few facilities – the kitchen is basic and there is no swimming pool – Brockenhurst does represent very good value.

The house can accommodate up to twelve guests; since the master bedroom has space for five (rather like a dorm room we thought) and the second bedroom can sleep three, it’s a great house for a couple of families. We felt that the ground floor bedroom would be suitable for elderly relatives who weren’t keen on stairs, making the house a good choice for extended family holidays too. Whilst the number of bathrooms equals the number of bedrooms, only two are ensuite, but this doesn’t really pose a problem. We felt that the house reflected bygone days when entertainment was made, not provided, which is certainly part of its charm.

Whilst Brockenhurst has probably changed little aesthetically since its colonial days, it has been updated; bathrooms are modern and have scorching hot showers (although the bathtubs could do with a few touch-ups here and there), and whilst the bedrooms are comfortable, they are sparsely furnished. The Sri Lankan-style kitchen is practical for staff use only. There are no menus, you can discuss meal requirements daily with Godwin, the chef, and buy your own groceries or give money to Karu, the multi-tasking caretaker of Brockenhurst, to buy them on your behalf. The chef lives in and his English is good so we didn’t have any difficulties.

Brockenhurst has been refurbished since our first visit. The hallway and living room floors have been laid with timber, which feels much warmer underfoot and more homely than the previous cement flooring. The sofas in the living room have been replaced, and the fireplace here has also been remodelled. These upgrades all make the room feel more sophisticated than it did before.

There’s a new flat-screen TV, a DVD player (although no DVDs) and WiFi internet (works best downstairs). Karu and Godwin are both still there, and were as warm and friendly as ever. They have a third team member helping them out now too. The kitchen remains fairly basic (although with Godwin cooking there’s really no reason to use this room at all) and we noticed that two of the bathrooms have been slightly upgraded.

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Anilana Craigbank Nuwara Eliya

Anilana Craigbank Nuwara Eliya

Sri Lanka » Hill Country » Nuwara Eliya

Anilana Craigbank is wonderfully warm and welcoming. Décor is contemporary colonial as befits this 160-year-old house which was expertly renovated and modernised by a previous French owner who lived here for many years. Despite the grand feel of the house and the enjoyable formalities of a good staff team, the atmosphere is relaxed. Each of the bedrooms is very comfortable with wonderful garden views. A selection of magazines, books, board games, DVDs and satellite TV kept us well occupied in the evenings. The Drawing Room is a cosy place to curl up with a book, and the DVD library in the TV room will keep the kids amused. It can get quite cold at night, so rooms are heated by working fireplaces whilst heavy curtains, knitted bedspreads and draught excluders all help to keep you toasty and warm.

The staff are friendly, warm and eager to make your stay as comfortable as possible; their natural hospitality also adds to the charm of staying at Anilana Craigbank. On our most recent visit, the house had come under new management. They have refurbished the house, replacing soft furnishings – the dusky walls of the bedrooms are brightened up by a contrasting collection of vibrant Sri Lankan artwork, colonial prints and Ceylonese maps; installed WiFi and brought in a few new staff. There are now a selection of priced menus for all meals, including breakfast. Two to three-course set menus for lunch and dinner always list a local and a western option, and tend to change daily. There is also a snack menu available. No alcohol is served at the house, however guests can bring their own tipples and no corkage will be charged. The house’s two tubby yet adorable labradors – Gin and Tonic – are still popular characters on the property, but can be shut away if guests would prefer. Hot water still takes a little time to work its way through the pipes!

During Sri Lankan New Year in April (typically the 13th and 14th) many Colombo residents flock here for family holidays. During this time the town is in full bloom and has a carnival atmosphere with many events – horse racing, car rallies, motor cross, golf tournaments, garden competitions and discos – being held. Prices often triple during this period and the town can get very noisy and busy. Unless you would particularly like to be here for this occasion, it is probably better avoided.

 
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Dick Oya Bungalow

Dick Oya Bungalow

Sri Lanka » Hill Country » Hatton

The winding road leading up to Dick Oya Bungalow promises something special at the top, and it doesn’t disappoint. From its glorious hilltop location you can eye 360-degree views and revel in four acres of private gardens. As soon as you arrive at the bungalow, you’re transported back in time. Although the bathrooms are quite basic, the rest of the house lives up to its promise of twenty-first century comforts and is wonderfully cosy. There are two generously sized living rooms, and each of the bedrooms come with sitting areas too meaning that there’s plenty of private space to hide away. The staff at the bungalow carry out their roles efficiently, if a little seriously, but this formality provides yet more character to a stay here. The dining room is elegant and meals are a formal affair – multiple courses for lunch and dinner are priced per person, and although they list a small selection of western and Sri Lankan options, efforts are made, where possible, to accommodate any request. The Sri Lankan dishes were our favourite, and were perhaps more in keeping with the chef’s abilities than the western dishes. Siri, the friendly off-site manager drops by daily to visit guests and assist with anything they need.
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Strathdon Bungalow

Strathdon Bungalow

Sri Lanka » Hill Country » Hatton

It’s always a joy to stay in such evocative surroundings and take a trip back in time. Strathdon Bungalow manages to combine the sensitivities of yesteryear – both in terms of ambiance and hospitality – with today’s essential comforts and modernities. The bungalow dates back over a century, however the current management performed the latest refurb back in 2010 so plush sofas, thick duvets, dozens of cushions and bedspreads all nestle nicely into a setting reminiscent of days gone by. The caretaker of the bungalow has worked on the estate since 1983 so if you need to know something about the house, or indeed the estate, he’s your man and more than happy to tell a tale or two! He’s also incredibly courteous and did all he could to make us feel at home. Since he’s also the chef (his curries are absolutely delicious), he loves nothing more than seeing his guests’ plates empty. The bungalow has an unusual layout. Most of the bedrooms and living rooms lead off a central passageway (some with windows into it) and the dining room tucked to the back of the house is not particularly atmospheric as it feels a little out of the way (as does bedroom 2, the smaller of the two triples). You may find it nicer to either sit out on the front veranda to eat (weather permitting), which is a wonderful place for breakfast, or ask for the tables to be set up in the sociable hallway, as this setting feels much more convivial. The manager of Strathdon Bungalow, Siri, also manages two neighbouring sister-properties and he pops in to visit guests regularly and can be called upon anytime. He’s a friendly character and a wealth of knowledge on the local area.
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The Weir House

The Weir House

Sri Lanka » Hill Country » Kandy Region

If you’re looking for a secluded, stress-free environment then this is the place for you. The Weir House celebrates escapism and from the moment we arrived we felt enveloped by the relaxing ambiance of the location and pampered by the small but able staff team who unobtrusively kept the house in order and prepared the most excellent meals for us. Because, breakfast and a three-course set dinner are included in the rate (as well as unlimited coffee, tea and fruit juice) we felt that it represented good value for money for couples and groups alike; especially since the villa rate varies according to the number of people staying. And lunch is only an extra $5 per person. The house itself is contemporary, minimal and although a little colourless, photographs of the owners and their book collection in the lounge did make it feel like a home. We loved the plunge pool. It might be small but it has a great location in the garden; we enjoyed lounging in the Jacuzzi whilst meditating over the mountain views which were at their best at sunset. Although the house doesn’t have internet (this is a place to get away from the world anyway), it does have satellite TV, a good music system, a DVD player and a few board games. There’s a children’s play area on a lower lawn and benches in hidden spots in the garden for reading and relaxing away from everyone else. As there are a lot of steps and slopes we don’t recommend The Weir House for the elderly or disabled (for similar reasons the owners do not deem it suitable for children below six years old). The villa has good eco-credentials: waste is recycled; showers are solar-heated; some of the fresh veg comes from its organic garden, and tap water comes from natural mountain springs.
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