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
We had high expectations of tea trails from the reviews and were certainly not disappointed. Our stay at Dunkeld was truly exceptional. The whole team provided highly professional and friendly service, every request was no trouble and and we were constantly surprised by the their thoughtfulness and anticipation.
The rooms and common areas are of a high standard in a traditional and understated way making it easy to relax and feel at home. Afternoon Tea in the spa overlooking the wet edge pool and the lake below was just the start of our fabulous 3 days.
Our meals were all tailored to our requests and superb local and international food prepared and delivered with skill and pride.
Tea trails was a wonderful start to our Sri Lanka experience made more perfect my great people.
We had our own chef, Butler and house assistant who all accommodated our every requirement. From the moment we arrived it was luxury all the way. We stayed at Norwood the main house and we loved having complimentary everything - from having our washing done, to alcohol and wine to brilliant 3 and 4 course meals that were discussed with our chef.
They arranged taking us to another home on the estate for lunch at Summerville which again was outstanding service with a brilliant infinitive pool. Nothing was too much trouble. Best 2 day stay ever.
From start to finish we were made to feel extremely welcome. My family and I stayed here for 3 nights, firstly in the Dunkeld Bungalow and then the Owner's bungalow, both were superb.
We were a little apprehensive about this part of our trip as my wife had read that guests had complained in the past about young children staying at the hotel because of noise. This was not an issue at all, probably helped by the fact that there was another lovely family with children staying at the hotel at the same time.
The staff are lovely, the food is superb, the setting and pool is amazing, there isn't anything else to add....you must stay here!
We spent 4 nights here in May celebrating my husbands 70th birthday. The setting is spectacular among the tea plantations and close to Dilmah Tea Factory. I would recommend to anyone.
We stayed at Dunkeld bungalow which is relatively new but done in the old style. Big spacious rooms gorgeous private gardens Fabulous walksand hikes. Mountain biking. Beautiful pool. But the real draw card here is the wonderful staff. They could not do enough for us. Nothing was too much trouble. A series of birthday surprises was arranged for the bday. The chef cooked whatever we asked for every day and the food was amazing especially the Sri Lankan dishes. This is all inclusive resort so we had breakfast lunch high tea cocktails and dinner every day!
Sri Lankan’s are a friendly peace loving people and they really appreciated our support staying on after the Easter bombings. We felt perfectly safe here in the country.
Glad that we spent 3 instead of 2 nights at Tientsin bungalow as it was so relaxing!
- The bungalow is nicely furnished of the bygone years. Went to Casltlereagh and Dunkeld which had nice views of the lake but the buildings themselves did not have as much character. The views over the lake were not so nice when we visited because the water level was very low. Furniture looked nice in our Bremer room but the wardrobe not quite functional, could not close one door properly so the light was on all night.
- Lovely food. We skipped high tea as 3 main meals were more than adequate. Did ask our travel agent to request for low fat milk but not available on the first day but it was rectified promptly.
- Service was excellent and polished. Did not feel comfortable with the concept of pressing the bell for service but we did a couple of times for extra bath towels etc. and staff turned up very promptly. Even gardeners would wave or say hello to guests when they worked near by.
- The tea factory visit was rather disappointing partly because the group was too big and unless you were standing close to the guide you would not have been able to hear much. We left after half an hour and the other 2 couples in the group wanted to leave early too. The road from Tientsin to Dunkeld was very rough we had to change vehicle half way there. The journey might not be good for someone with a bad back. The Land Rover was so old with 2 benches therefore passengers facing one another instead of facing forward with can cause some people motion sickness. We felt the company should use newer & more comfortable vehicles.
- The tea trails behind the bungalow had stunning views of tea plantations. Saw tea pickers in action & weighing stations along the way. We enjoyed it so much that we did the walk twice. Saw a lot of school kids asking for pens on the walk, but unfortunately we only had one in the backpack to give. A Ceylon Tea Trails driver told us that many tourists bring pens and paper to give to local schools. It's a pity we had not known that!
- When checking out were given a small bunch of fresh flowers and a tin of tea which was a nice touch. The butler and all staff came to say goodbye. Did not want to call out any staff name as all were excellent and just in case we missed out one or two staff members unfairly.
What a lovely & relaxing 3 days at Tientsin. Thank you all staff!