Set amidst the verdant backdrop of the Watawala Estate, Craig Appin is a glorious early nineteenth century granite planter’s bungalow situated on the outskirts of Dickoya, near Hatton. Although the bungalow’s period features are redolent of yesteryear, it has been brought into the twenty-first century with recent renovations including the recarpeting of rooms, the remodelling of bathrooms and the plush reproduction of colonial fittings and furnishings that comfortably complement the past. Black and white photographs of Ceylon tea estate workers further infuse a sense of history, contrasting with the bungalow’s own striking panoramic views of the lush tea plantations as they stand today. The bungalow is home to five cosy garden-view bedrooms and a pair of living rooms decked out with squashy sofas, luxuriant drapes and intricate chandeliers. Carpets and rugs are snug underfoot, and the soft glow of lamps evokes a warm ambiance at night. The dining room is a fittingly formal place for enjoying hearty Hill Country cuisine – English breakfasts, Sri Lankan lunches and three-course set dinners are the norm – although the food seems to taste even better when the tables are placed outside in the fresh mountain air. The bungalow stands at an elevation of around 1,200m, so you can expect warm sunny days, and comfortably cool nights. Craig Appin is staffed by a small team, including a chef to cater to all of your culinary requirements. Rates include breakfast with all other meals priced per person per meal. French windows from the bungalow look out across the driveway onto a lush garden that tumbles colourfully down the small hill atop which the bungalow privately stands. Swings on the lawn are a hit with the kids, and the potential for delving into the rich tapestry of the enveloping countryside is endless, making this bungalow an ideal retreat for family groups who enjoy the great outdoors. Attractions in the area include tea factories, spice gardens, old churches and reservoirs, and the sacred mountain of Adam’s Peak – a place of pilgrimage – is only an hour’s drive away.
Craig Appin Bungalow sits within a beautifully manicured garden on the outskirts of the small town of Dickoya, near Hatton, in Sri Lanka’s southwestern Hill Country. From its elevated position, the bungalow boasts glorious views over neighbouring hillocks, all of which are lushly cloaked with verdant tea bushes. Just below the bungalow is the rugby and cricket pitch of the famous Darawala Club, an establishment dating back to the colonial days. Unpaved roads and lanes through the surrounding estates offer plenty of potential for getting out and exploring this gorgeous emerald landscape on foot. The elevation in Dickoya is approximately 1,200m above sea level so although the days are warm and sunny – much like a perfect English summer’s day - the evenings can feel fresh and cool, which is a welcome relief if you’re travelling from the hot and humid coastal areas of the island. The large market town of Hatton is just 5km from the bungalow and here you’ll find a range of banks, pharmacies, fresh produce markets, liquor shops and a branch of the island-wide Cargil’s supermarket chain.
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.
We really liked Craig Appin. The rooms are all very comfortable and the four-poster beds in the two front rooms certainly look very grand. Although most of the furnishings are new, their style is redolent of the past. Bedrooms 4 and 5 are situated closest to the kitchen so in the morning, the noise of the staff preparing breakfast can sometimes be heard. Bedrooms 2 and 3 share a bathroom (you need to walk through bedroom 2 to reach it) although there is a guest WC along the corridor that occupants of bedroom 3 can use during the night. Having two living rooms was handy, so everyone can find their own space. We found the staff to be efficient, and meals were always served promptly, however only the chef spoke an acceptable level of English. Siri, the bungalow manager, drops by daily and is available at all times by phone, so it’s better to communicate any complicated requests to him, and he’ll relay the information to the staff. Lunches and dinners tend to be quite formal three-course affairs (pick from a limited set menu or let Siri know if there’s anything you would particularly like), featuring British style dishes and Sri Lankan cuisine. We preferred the local dishes, and particularly enjoyed the Sri Lankan breakfast curry spread.
This atmospheric ex-planters abode perched on the summit of a tea-clad hill above Dick Oya features 4 spacious bedrooms, including a family suite, a handful of living rooms and a gorgeous four-acre garden bursting with flowers and vegetables. It’s fully staffed, and makes a perfect base for savouring the great outdoors.
From its private hilltop perch in the southwest Hill Country, 100-year-old Strathdon Bungalow gazes through stands of giant bamboo across spectacular tea-clad mountains and verdant valleys. Home to 4 bedrooms and a lovely ‘breakfast terrace’, this family house comes with a small staff team including cook and non-resident manager.