Ceylon Tea Trails
What We Love
- The Castlereagh and Summerville houses have prime perches overlooking Castlereagh Lake
- Swiss-trained butlers are Sri Lanka’s finest
- Led by the Planter in Residence, the free tea experience—which takes you from the field to "liquid gold"—is fascinating
What To Know
- The resort is at an altitude of 4,000 feet
- Expect a four-hour ride from the Colombo airport, sharing the snaking road with some seemingly kamikaze truck drivers
- The Norwood bungalow has the resort’s most enticing swimming pool, but the decor is modern 1960s, not colonial
- Monsoon season is June to July and October to November
- Free WiFi
A scout was hired to scour the velvet-green countryside north of Colombo for authentic 19th-century planters bungalows scattered within a few miles of one another. Having located four—built between 1890 and 1939—Dilmah restored the cobwebbed relics into an innovative collection of accommodations linked by walking trails through the lush greenery. Intended to introduce guests to the planter’s life (albeit with modern luxuries), each villa is divided into four to six rooms and suites filled with period antiques, cane furnishings and plush beds. No two guest rooms or houses are alike. Colonial enthusiasts gravitate to the Summerville and Castelreagh bungalows, both built in the 1920s, while the croquet lawn and larger swimming pool at the Norwood work well for families. The romantic Tientsin, named for the Chinese village from which this estate’s original tea seedlings came, has four-poster beds, an aromatic rose garden and a black-and-white-tiled bathroom with a clawfoot tub. Tea, of course, is available at every meal—Dilmah’s single-estate Watte range is fantastic—while food includes a broad selection of delicious Sri Lankan curries, classic British fare and a tea-infused food menu with such quirky dishes as prawn and asparagus rolls with spicy berry tea sauce, and jasmine green tea chicken breast with tomato salsa. Mountain biking, whitewater rafting and sunrise hikes up the local pinnacles are on the daytime menu. Or stroll between the villas via walkways that cut through dense jungle and gently rolling tea slopes and follow the Planter in Residence on the signature tea tour.
How to Get There
Arrived early evening after a long journey to find that the road around to Castlereagh was not in good condition ( slight understatement! ) but we were too late to take the boat crossing from Summerville so not the best start. However, warm welcome from the butler and staff . Room was pleasant with doors opening to the gardens. Food was excellent with good choices given by the chef. Grounds were superb with fantastic views.
To travel out with our driver we had to walk down a fairly steep hill to the boat and travel across the reservoir and walk up a hill to Summerville where our driver was waiting. Would have rated as excellent if the journey in and out had been better.
perfect place and wow the views and service would recommend to any one who has the time and money to stay. very happy with the visit and the facilties and nothing was to much trouble. food was great and rooms beautiful
We reached the Castlereagh bungalow after a long drive through the mountains and felt like we had walked into Shangrila! This was by far the best experience on our Sri Lankan holiday. The staff and setting were superb and we would have loved to stay for longer. Absolutely a must if you feel like a little bit of luxury in the cooler mountains. Would go back ina heartbeat.
My wife and i spent two nights in the Norwood bungalow as part of our honeymoon and to say that this experience was one of the highlights really shows how much we enjoyed our time at the Ceylon Tea Trails. The staff couldn't have been more helpful and provided first class service from the moment you arrive. This involved providing tea in the morning to your room, having your own butler at assistance throughout your stay and regular discussions with the chef on what food you would like at breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food was incredible and having breakfast outside with the incredible views was a moment i wont forget in a hurry.
It was an incredible experience made even better in the bungalows with other people staying that you can talk to over your stay during meal times and throughout the day. The tea factory tour was excellent as well and a great insight into how tea is made. It is also very easy to visit the other bungalows and see how they compare as well.
Overall i would recommend anyone to the Tea Trails if visiting Sri Lanka and in particular staying in one of the bungalows. The only thing i would say is in the rainy season, you might feel a bit stuck inside but with them having a pool table and board games, that certainly helps. It simply is a remarkable, peaceful and thoroughly pleasant place to visit made all the better by the service the staff offer.
We stayed at Summerville bungalow as part of a tour of Sri Lanka in January. Everything about our stay was perfect apart from the fact that only staying two nights was nowhere near long enough!
All the staff were very attentive and couldn't do enough for you. Our suite was huge with our own private garden which was lovely and we were able to drink our 'bed tea' delivered by our butler at a time of our choosing in our armchairs overlooking the garden. All the food was delicious and very plentiful, again served at a time of our choosing.
The views from the bungalow terrace over the lake were spectacular and the gardens were beautiful and lovingly cared for.
The visit to the tea factory was very interesting and although it was a Sunday and the factory was closed a tea plucker came in especially to show us the process and our guide turned on the machines to give us a feel for what life in the factory is like.
Everything to make our stay perfect was thought of, down to the help yourself after dinner decanter of port on the coffee table in the lounge.
This is probably the best hotel we have stayed in and, given the opportunity, we would go back in a heartbeat.