We’ve just returned from a trip to Sri Lanka which included, perhaps somewhat unusually, spending 2 weeks in the Ceylon Tea Trails Bungalows. Spending this amount of time there and staying in each of the four bungalows gave us what we hope might be interesting and helpful insights for other prospective guests.
Firstly, we would agree wholeheartedly with the reviewers below in recommending Tea Trails. The quality of the accommodation, service, food, gardens, views, location and interior design are all exceptional and there is very little one could possibly criticise. OK, it’s expensive, but once you’re there it’s all inclusive and there are very little if any extra charges (e.g. guides if needed). The only other major problem is the potential to gain a lot of weight!
In terms of activities, we’d recommend the self-guided walks, of which there are 2 or 3 very well signposted routes from each bungalow offering the opportunity to see tea picking in action, meet locals, and enjoy some great views. We also enjoyed taking the bikes (very basic if you’re into bikes) on the quiet roads to visit Christ Church. All of the bungalows have croquet lawns & equipment. The tea factory tour with Andrew Taylor was a highlight. He is so incredibly enthusiastic, probably because he enjoys what he does so much. The tour was enjoyable almost entirely because of his passion. Andrew lives at Summerville and we enjoyed further chats and learnt more about tea and Sri Lanka from him while we stayed there.
We noticed that Castlereagh and Norwood were the most popular bungalows. As a result they can be the hardest to book into. However, each of the four bungalows has its own individual charm and guests will have individual preferences & tastes. There are however some points to consider when choosing where to stay.
Tientsin bungalow is the largest (6 bedrooms), oldest (1888) and sits at the highest altitude. It has perhaps the best preserved colonial features including a marvellous lounge and lovely colonnaded dining terrace and, with Castlereagh, probably has the best ‘Colonial English House’ feel. The altitude meant that during our visit in March/ April gas heaters were in use when dining on the terrace in the evenings. The altitude however has the advantage of the absence of mosquitoes, which can be a minor annoyance in the lower bungalows. Tientsin has perhaps the best pool – long, bold, contemporary with an ‘infinity’ design overlooking tea plantations. Definitely a proper ‘swimming’ rather than dipping pool. The only potential drawback with Tientsin was that the views from the terrace aren’t as quite good as from the other bungalows. Tientsin is however, the only bungalow with a tennis court (clay) and has the best night sky for star gazers. There are two good walks up into the tea hills
Norwood bungalow is a large & spacious 1950’s replacement of an existing manager’s bungalow and thus has the most modern styling of the properties. It sits high on a plateau surrounded on all sides by tea hills. The views are wonderful and you feel like you’re right in the middle of the tea picking action. But the payback of the location is that it can catch a lot of wind. To combat this, its extensive gardens are surrounded by mature trees. The swimming pool is amazing, at about 25m length and with giant bamboo at the end of it. Norwood tea factory sits just below the bungalow which is handy for the factory tours. There is one short (but steep) and one longer walk from the bungalow. Norwood is a popular bungalow with many guests staying for short periods and seemed popular with tour operators. The service is excellent and it can thus have the feel of an efficient, well-oiled, fast turnover machine. The walk between Norwood and Tientsin passes through estates not owned by Dilmah, is therefore not waymarked and requires a guide to take guests (at a charge).
Castlereagh, like Norwood, is a popular bungalow, probably because of its great lake views and grand feel. The views are arguably not as dramatic however, as those from Summerville. These two lakeside bungalows were built in the 1920’s and thus feel a little more modern in style than Tientsin. It’s a large, picturesque bungalow with 5 bedrooms, 2 sitting rooms and beautiful, manicured gardens, which seem somewhat safer for children than the other bungalows (see below). The pool is most definitely of the ‘dipping’ type; 2 strokes and you’re at the other end and it’s therefore not the best bungalow for keen swimmers. Its lakeside situation makes its two summerhouses great places to sit and read but means that mosquitoes can be a minor problem. It’s also surrounded by a village so isn’t as isolated in feel as Norwood or Castlereagh. There are two 6km walking trails from Castlereagh.
Summerville is the smallest (4 bedrooms) and quietest of the bungalows. It’s more a cosy cottage than a grand bungalow and has a different atmosphere with fewer guests (there were only ever 2 rooms occupied while we were there), a consequent high staff/ guest ratio, and a laid back, friendly, homely feel. The guest turnover seemed lower than other bungalows with people seeming to choose longer stays. It’s the only bungalow that doesn’t have a pool. It does however, have stunning views of Castlereagh lake and is the best bungalow for keen walkers with the most (3) and longest (9km) trails up into the tea hills behind. The master suite and Garnet both have lovely private gardens that must have previously had dramatic lake views. Growth of some giant bamboo have obscured the views but the gardens remain a great place to while away the afternoons between lunch and tea. The staff were probably the most friendly and attentive of the bungalows. Like Castlereagh which it faces over the lake mosquitoes were a minor annoyance after 5pm.
If you plan on walking between bungalows it’s worth knowing that the route Tientsin-Norwood- Castlereagh is predominantly downhill
Two points worth bearing in mind if you plan to bring children to Tea trails: most importantly, the gardens in all of the bungalows are terraced and offer no protection from falling onto lower levels. Young children would therefore need constant supervision when in the grounds. As might be expected, most guests don’t bring children and it wouldn’t surprise me if some objected to any disturbance.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka's first Relais & Chateaux resort, is a collection of five colonial era tea planters' bungalows restored to impeccable style, offering a taste of gracious living in 27 suites and rooms, with butler service and original furnishings, accompanied by gourmet meals. Walking trails connect the bungalows which are from 2km to 15km apart. Follow the Tea Trail from one unique bungalow to the next, staying a night or two at each or just laze in one. Rates are fully inclusive of gourmet meals and drinks, including spirits and wines. Even service charges, taxes and laundry are included. We won't bother you with bills. ... more less
- Reservation Options:
- TripAdvisor is proud to partner with Travelocity, Hotwire, Hotels.com, Orbitz, Expedia and MrandMrsSmith so you can book your Ceylon Tea Trails reservations with confidence. We help millions of travelers each month to find the perfect hotel for both vacation and business trips, always with the best discounts and special offers.
- Also Known As:
- Ceylon Tea Trails Hatton
- Ceylon Tea Trails Sri Lanka/Hatton