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“A CHANCE TO EXPERIENCE A PRIVATE CLUB IN SRI LANKA'S HILL COUNTRY”
Review of The Hill Club

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The Hill Club
Ranked #13 of 31 Hotels in Nuwara Eliya
Reviewed April 20, 2011

I have read negative reviews about the Hill Club, but I have to say that I was more than pleased with my recent visit.
The Hill Club doesn't pretend to be a five star hotel, but it has obviously decided to open its doors to tourists, in an effort to generate income. It has rules, such as the wearing of a jacket and tie in the evening. This didn't worry me at all, and I respect that if that is what the members wish, so be it.
The room (4) was fine. The furnishing were not the most modern, but it was a comfortable nights sleep (that is until 0450 when the local Mosque started the call to prayer!). There was a TV receiving sat TV, and a hot water bottle in the bed (at 6,500ft it can be quite cool in the night).
The set dinner was fine, as was the breakfast.
Staff (whom you are encouraged not to tip individually, but to leave a general gratuity) were polite and helpful. The grounds and gardens were beautifully maintained.
Wifi Internet is available at a fee.
If you wish to see how people lived in this area of Sri Lanka, in the days of the expatriate planters, The Hill Club offers a unique opportunity.
BerkshireJpb

  • Stayed: April 2011, traveled solo
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1  Thank BerkshireJpb
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed March 25, 2011

Just a must do place to stay. The train journey from colombo is an event in itself, first class in the observation carriage if you can get a ticket.
The Hill Club has an English club feeling, old fashioned rooms, if it's cool they will light the fire, nothing is a problem, almost a personal valet service!. You dress for dinner, a walkin wardrobe of mens jackets & ties is available if you need them, I think less formal for ladies! Dinner was v good, a decent menu, followed by coffee in the retiring room.
Quite expensive by Sri Lankan standards, a room & dinner for 2 about £200, the bar is expensive also, but the timeless feeling of the place is worth every penny.
This area, the tea country, requires a bit of travel planning to return to the coast, either return train to Colombo or bus to Galle. Bus is ok if you don't mind 8 hours in a hot, hard seat!

  • Stayed: April 2010, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank fenfarmer
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 3, 2011

We stayed here for one night as a part of our 2week trip around Sri Lanka. Our guide kept describing it as 'the one and only Hill Club' and it's a good job there is only one! We were keeping an open mind about it having read a few reviews on TA before leaving the UK.
The Hill Club is a pretty building in pretty grounds in the English style highlands of the Sri Lanka.
On arrival we were welcomed in the drawing room with a warm cup of soup which was a nice touch - though this was to be our last experience of the drawing room due to the rules of the club i.e. no non-members after 7 when we were relegated to the guest bar.
Rooms were without a view but clean and comfortable with a simple bathroom and lots of hot water. The one-bar room heater was not needed - not that it looked it would offer much if it was needed! A nice touch was the hot water bottle in the bed post-dinner.
Having come to tolerate the slow service experienced in many of the hotels we stayed in during our trip I hoped for much more at the Club. A room has been converted to a dining room to feed the visitors who dress-wise can not or do not wish to conform with the strict dress rules to eat in the main restaurant. Service was full of pomp and ceremony with napkins being placed on laps and white gloved waiters......and there it ended. Menus in US dollars (why?) Food came out at irregular times - main before starter anyone without any understanding of why we were unhappy?! Drinks were requested several times and and food came out slowly and cold (not unusual for Sri Lanka though!) and sporadically for the group. I requested potatoes instead of chips....but still got chips and waited 20mins for some cold undercooked potatoes to arrive (whilst seeing a group on another table receive plate after plate of my chosen main with potatoes!) The curry looked by far the tastiest and best buy.
My bugbear was that the Club requests individual tips are not given but left in a gratuities box in the reception....but they have the gall to automatically add 10% to a restaurant meal for service that was amongst the worst we received in our trip. Having signed the bill but crossing off the 10% service charge (as we would do in the UK) we were met by a rather angry reception in the morning who couldn't understand our grievance.
Sadly we didn't find the Hill Club quirky (like we had hoped) but just totally over-rated.
The Hill Club needs to decide if it wants to look after all its guests, not just its members, and undergo some serious customer service training, or loose the pomp and ceremony and make it the same as every other Sri Lankan hotel with slow restaurant and bar service!

  • Stayed: February 2011
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Thank barry_bubbles
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 24, 2011

If you go read the other reviews for the Hill Club, you will not stay there. "Dirty", "Stuffy", "Unkempt", "Outdated colonial bigotry" are some of the comments that come up. And, it's true. The Hill Club is a pompous, old-monied, balding man in tweed with velour elbow patches and gravy dribbled on his jodhpurs. And....

Booking was a disaster - we booked two rooms months ago on otel.com, and only days before we arrived discovered that everyone had ignored my four requests for adjoining rooms "because of our young children", and suddenly we found that we could not stay there because children under 5 were not allowed in the club. After about 15 emails and two international phone calls, they finally managed to fit us in a Family suite in the "Chalet". We had also booked a room for our Sri Lankan Nanny (who joined us from Dubai), and were told at the last minute that she could not stay at the club because she was Sri Lankan (???!!!) And....

The rooms are cold, and only supplied with a one-bar heater. The carpet is worn and even ripped in places. They always supplied our room with three towels despite the fact that obviously we are a family of four, in a four-bed room. Because of our three year old son, we were banned from dining in the club, instead having to take our meals in the Chalet. The service is slow beyond compare.

But....

Our booking company Red Dot Tours stepped in just before we arrived and handled everything, putting otel.com and the Hill Club management to shame, even though I had stupidly booked through another company and they made no commission off our stay there. (Superb - fully recommend them, and my advice for family or 3* plus travelers, you will need a booking company if you plan on moving around - 1. for the car and driver, and 2. to help you with hotel selection and iron out all the inevitable bumps. I've never needed a booking group in any other country, but here it's worth it.)

The Hill Club apologized obsequiously (quite fun to watch, really) for the inability to house Mary, and quickly arranged a room for her at an almost sickly sweet B & B called Glendower, just around the corner.

The rooms are enormous (could have fitted 5), the Chalet charming, and there is a dining room with a sofa and TV and over 1000 free DVDs to choose from. Given that it is a family area, noise and mess flourish. Two butlers were to serve just our family for the duration, bringing us Tanquerays at sundown, silver-serving us dinner on the crispest of white linen, gently warming our marmalade for breakfast, and even putting velour-covered hot water bottles in our beds as we finished our dessert. How could you not like a hot water bottle?

The gardens are immaculate. Hedgerows, fuchsias, velvet lawns, pristine vegetable gardens, winding flagstone paths, enchantingly crumbing tennis courts, ancient conifers, picket fence-lines...And everywhere secret nooks with table and chair, perfectly positioned to view the garden and the pages of a great novel.

And the Clubhouse... The outside is all blue-stone and griffin crests, and the inside is a shrine to fading colonialism. The telephones still have dials on them, mahogany and teak abounds, de-bodied elk and boar stare menacingly down through glass eyes. One can rest in the reading room to eat warmed cashew nuts and sip Kir while thumbing the pages of back issues of the New Yorker. Or visit the serpentine bar for a glass of red - slump over it and dream of some epic composition, in the midst of such stuffy grandeur. After, one could take a Cognac in the Billiard room, where it is a struggle to reach half the shots due to the gargantuan table, and the staff stand by to compliment your shots and give the occasional golf-clap.

We laughed at the place, but secretly enjoy the old-school experience. We rolled our eyes at the slow service, but marveled at the effort. We enjoyed our time, because we knew what this place was all about - it's a colonial relic. And so my advice - If you want to stay in a "nice hotel", don't go there - It's not even a hotel, but a club, and it has all these old-school rules that are completely outdated, but not without their kooky charm. If you want a "nice hotel", stay at the Grand just around the corner. But if you want to throw yourself into a holiday that takes you into the true history of the place (and you don't mind things a little scruffy), then there's nowhere better.

read more of my review on my blog: dubai-ified.blogspot.com

  • Stayed: February 2011, traveled with family
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1  Thank waltonsh1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 12, 2011

Room #8 is quite old, bathroom to be renovated, no view from the window. You don't stay here for the room, but for the ambience of the old English club. Need jacket and tie for dinner, they can let you one. Dinner is served the old way, with white gloves. After dinner guests will gather at the living room for a nice chat with a cup of tea. you almost expect to see ghost in the hallways.

  • Stayed: January 2011, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank Xuan
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 6, 2011

Entering the Hill Club is like stepping back in time. It's like the colonial era never ended. It is a gentlemen's club and unfortunately the staff seems to despise everyone who is not a gentleman - or worse, not even a man. They tolerate other guests because they need the money. I felt very unwelcome, but if you ignore the staff, it is a unique experience. The dresscode is ridiculous: you are not allowed to enter the restaurant in a normal shirt, but add a Mickey Mouse tie and you are suitably dressed. (Hideous outfits are available on request.)

  • Stayed: January 2011
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Thank MvWB
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 1, 2011

We didn't initially plan to stay at The Hill Club, as we had a booking at Humbugs in Hakgala - however, Humbugs was so hideous that we didn't stay, and decided instead to stay at The Hill Club. It was the best decision we made. We managed to negotiate a very reasonable $100 (all taxes and breakfast included) per night.

In order to fully appreciate The Hill's Club's charm, you have to understand something about it (which some reviewers clearly missed) - yes, it is outdated and yes it does have a strict dress code after 7pm. It's also not a hotel - its a members' only club, which has been forced by low subscription rates to open up to the general public. As such, you need to keep this in mind. What it also is, is a piece of Sri Lankan history (albeit colonial history) and for one night, its a fun experience to get involved in the whole thing. Even our driver was excited to be staying. One reviewer is right to say you need to think of it as a type of amusement park - kind of like staying in a Disney hotel, only for Sri Lankan colonial times!

The public areas are filled with old colonial relics - stag and leopard heads, pictures of Charles and Diana and even an elephant's foot umbrella stand! The rooms themselves have been very cleverly preserved, particularly the bathrooms, where the old fittings have been kept but everything else updated. We enjoyed numerous warm baths, which coming from Singapore is quite a novelty! The best touch was the hot water bottles which were put into our beds and which stayed warm throughout the night.

We arrived without suitably smart things to wear (we were backpacking) - but, not to fear, the staff led the two male members of the party to the jacket and tie wardrobe, which was filled with some fantastically outdated jackets (think 1970s chic). They even lent my boyfriend a pair of trousers. It felt a little like the dressing up and make believe that I did as a child, but that made the whole experience great fun.

Breakfast was an excellent 3 course fare which kept us full for most of the day. We had a light dinner in the 'casual dining room' (where you don't need to wear jacket and tie) which was also good.

There is an excellent feature in the Lonely Planet Guide on the Hill Club, which we read after staying there and which summed up the place very well.

  • Stayed: December 2010, traveled as a couple
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Thank sarahlrhodes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about The Hill Club

Address: 29 Grand Hotel Rd, Nuwara Eliya 22200, Sri Lanka
Location: Sri Lanka > Central Province > Nuwara Eliya
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free Parking Restaurant Room Service Suites Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #13 of 31 Hotels in Nuwara Eliya
Price Range: $123 - $264 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:3.5 star — The Hill Club 3.5*
Number of rooms: 38
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
The Hill Club is an exclusive members only Club, established in 1876, by the British Planters and continues as a prestigious club in Nuwara Eliya, which is surrounded by Tea Estates. With the British Planters moving out, The Hill Club remained and still remains a Members ONLY club after having opened it doors to Srilankans. To sustain the Club and to maintain same, the Club was opened to temporary members ( Tourist) Traditions are still maintained where Gentleman is required to wear Suit for Dinner and a lady smartly dressed. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
The Hill Club Hotel Nuwara Eliya
Hill Hotel Nuwara Eliya
The Hill Hotel

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