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
Staying at the Dunkeld Bungalow was one of the (many) highlights of my visit to Sri Lanka. The place is tranquil, beautiful and the service was exceptional - professional, responsive, personalized. The superb food was also notable. This lodge is co-located with a tea plantation and factory, so you can visit and tour both. The people there are wonderful and the experience was a terrific.
I was lucky enough to spend two nights in the Tientsin Bungalow which was very special. I was lucky enough to stay in the Irvine Stewart Master Suite which was extremely spacious at 91square metres but all the rooms look lovely and there are only 6 rooms. In my all too short time there I managed to walk the 6km track which wends throught the tea plantation and the local village and followed this with a cooling swim and a delcious fish curry lunch on the terrace. From my conversations with other guests, all the bungalows are lovely and the staff can arrange for you to walk and lunch at different properties. My room was very spacious and clean and beautifully decorated. My husband really enjoyed reading the book on the history of tea. If you plan to include one of these beautiful properties on an itinerary make sure you book well in adavance as there are not many rooms in only 5 bungalows.
Our stay at Castlereagh bungalow was one of the many high points of our travels around Sri Lanka.
The bungalow is set on a slope overlooking the reservoir of the same name and the veranda on which meals are taken overlooks the lovely gardens, pool and the reservoir.
There are just five rooms, three large garden suites with their own private outside space and two slightly smaller rooms.
The furnishings are comfortably ‘old fashioned colonial’ in keeping with the style and ambiance of the bungalow and the entire experience is very British country house party. the chef meets individually with all guests during the day to discuss what will be on offer during the day and how they would like meals to be prepared. Guests are encouraged to meet up before dinner in the drawing room for cocktails.
To some extent ones enjoyment of the entire bungalow experience does depend on sharing the property with like minded guests, we were extremely fortunate and could not have had a better or more convivial group to share it with.
The included excursion to one of the Dilmah tea factories was very informative and concluded with the opportunity to taste and then purchase some of their very good tea.
This is not a budget option but the location and service made it well worthwhile!
The tea trails properties are just beautiful. We stayed at Summerville in a garden room. Everything in the room was beautifully done and we felt very much at home. The afternoon tea was a great hit, food was amazing , Chef was very flexible on whatever you wanted to eat. The scenery is spectacular and the factory is worth a visit. I could have spent weeks there it’s just so peaceful !
We stayed at Castleregh bungalow for three blissful nights. It exceeded every expectation that we had, from the fabulous food to the oh-so comfortable beds and the breathtaking views.The whole staff team could not have looked after us better, our every request catered for quietly and efficiently. It seemed unusual not to have a key to our room but it was totally unnecessary and added to the house party feel of the place. The highlight of our 18 night stay in Sri Lanka - heaven.