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 stayed two nights in Dunkeld bungalow and also lunched at Castlereagh. It was inspirational of someone to have the idea of turning old plantation managers' bungalows into luxury accommodation and they have done an exceptional job! The bungalows were absolutely wonderful - beautifully located with sensational views across the tea plantations, delightfully decorated in a very sophisticated but understated manner which conjured up the splendours of the Raj, furnished with comfortable period pieces, plenty of rooms and verandahs for a quiet private read, drink or meal and surrounded by magnificent, colourful, carefully tended gardens with furniture scattered around for sitting and contemplation, a wonderful infinity swimming pool and even a croquet lawn and equipment. Our large suite was very comfortable and evocative of past glories, tastefully furnished with a huge double bed complete with mosquito net, a pleasant sitting area and opening onto a private verandah and garden area. The huge bath was simply decadent - as indeed was the whole wonderful experience! Meals were an experience! Firstly, our chef discussed what he was planning to cook and sought our approval but indicated he would be happy to meet any request for variations or substitutes. All drinks were included and cocktails were served on the verandah before the scrumptious meals: 5 courses of the highest quality, beautifully presented, generous in size and quite delicious each time. We were served during our stay by delightful and very friendly and efficient staff for whom nothing was too much trouble and even served tea in bed each morning. We were also taken for a trip around the plantation and an inspection of the tea factory, which was very well done, informative and interesting. This was a truly unique and quite faultless experience which we will always remember with nostalgia and treasure!
My husband and I were looking for a holiday that allowed us to leave behind the hustle of every day life, of social media and reconnect as a family and with our selves. We found that here and so so much more. We found a home away from home where our every need was met from special meals for our baby to warm milk for him at 4 am. The menus were exquisite and thoughtfully put together and definitely tasted as delicious as they looked. The variety and presentation definitely bought all senses to life.
The care and hospitality that we found from the lovely butlers was second to none. They definitely made our stay all the more memorable. The boat cruise around Castlereagh Dam and the Dunkeld Tea Factory is a must see during your stay. We definitely left with a lifetime of memories (and maybe a few extra kilos from all the yummy food).
If you're looking to quiet your mind, slow things down, relax, and eat delicious food, look no further. The friendly staff will take incredible care of you. They could not be more attentive. We had the pleasure of getting to know Nilantha, who like the rest of his colleagues is kind, helpful, and a joy to be around. The beautiful lake and mountain views will captivate you. The mist and fog create a dreamy effect.