Situated at an elevation of over 6,000 feet, the climate in this vegetable-fringed hill country capital known as ‘Little England’ shares more similarities with summertime Europe than with Asia; think hot sunny days and cool nights.
Rearing tall above a lush lawn fringed by neat borders of flowers, Stonyhurst beautifully captures the views, the anomalies and the unique character of this unique market town. It’s a cherished hill country escape for its Colombo-based owners, and they have done much to make this exquisite granite-walled two-storey house feel like home. John, Stonyhurst’s wonderful caretaker and cook, adds to the charm as he looks after guests with grace and warmth. Invisibly, he uses music to set the scene, warms your bed with hot water bottles, lights the fires and is at your side before you’ve even thought about what you need.
The living and dining rooms at Stonyhurst are on the ground floor, and the six bedrooms (including a kid’s bunk room) are all upstairs. Furnished with cosy sofas, armchairs and beanbags, the burgundy-hued lounge is the heart of the house and it spills breezily onto a lawn spiked by ancient fir trees and colourful flowering bushes. A dining room with pantry sits next to the lounge, and there’s also an attached kitchen too for guests to use if they please. Table tennis is available at Stonyhurst, as are garden games including croquet, and there are also four bicycles for getting out and exploring the back lanes of Nuwara Eliya.
Bedrooms are beautifully cosy and feature parquet floors topped with soft rugs and long drapes to keep out the cold. Beds are dressed with soft duvets and plumped with pillows. The bathrooms follow a colonial aesthetic but are fitted with strong hot water rain showers. Bedrooms gaze out over the surrounding mountains, the neighbouring vegetable plots and the Holy Trinity Church.
Two double bedrooms are ensuite. One of these is the master bedroom, which is very spacious and celebrates views over the front and side garden. Furnished with an antique four-poster bed draped with linen, there is also a rattan chaise longue, a chest of drawers, his and hers wardrobes, a TV with DVD player and a raised fireplace. French windows lead onto a side balcony shared with a smaller double ensuite bedroom, which is furnished with a queen-size four-poster bed.
A further two floral-hued double bedrooms share in views over the front lawn and the mountains. Each features a double bed, a wardrobe or chest of drawers and wall mounted reading lamps. They share a bathroom across the hall.
The final two rooms are a twin and a bunk room, and these also share a bathroom across the hallway. The twin features two double beds and the bunk room comes with a pair of bunk beds, which can sleep up to four children.
– Visit the Pedro Tea Estate for a guided tour of the factory
– Wander down to the Holy Trinity Church. Built in 1845, the graveyard is littered with the tombstones of British planters dating back over a century
– Play a round of golf at the challenging Nuwara Eliya Golf Club
– Stroll around Hakgala Botanical Gardens. Stop off at the Humbugs strawberry restaurant and visit the Sitha Ella Hindu shrine on the way back
– Jump aboard pedalos and punt around the town’s historic Gregory’s Lake
– Explore the back lanes of town astride one of Stonyhurst’s bicycles
Children will love riding ponies at the racecourse, playing in Victoria Park and exploring the enclosed garden.
Wake up to breakfasts of eggs, bacon and sausages with toast and fruits. You could also opt for the Sri Lankan option and indulge in string hoppers (steamed rice flour nests) or pol roti (coconut bread) served with a light chicken or fish curry, dhal, a spicy sambol and a fresh chutney. South Indian breakfast (or snack) alternatives include delicious thosai – a fermented rice flour and black lentil crepe – and idli – a cake prepared from fermented black lentils and rice. John can also cook puri, chapatti and paratha, all of which are tasty Indian flatbreads.
What you eat for lunch and dinner is up to you. Sri Lankan options include rice and curry, devilled dishes, fried rice and buriyani. Watalappan – a steamed egg custard made from coconut milk and palm sugar – is a delicious local dessert. Light meals or snacks can also be prepared; ulundhu vadai (deep fried dhal fritters) is another standout. Western meals are usually three course affairs that start with a soup of the day and follow with a hearty main such as roast chicken, steak and kidney pie, pork chops or beef stew. To finish up, the dessert selection includes caramel pudding, chocolate mousse and fruit salad.
All food and beverages are priced at cost. Guests should give John a cash float on arrival and he will shop and keep a tally of his daily purchases. You can also use the kitchen to prepare meals, and John will shop for anything you need. Bring your own alcohol (preferably from duty free), as the selection in local liquor shops is limited.