This is the third and final instalment of my trip memoirs to the Sri Lankan Tea Country and staying at Ceylon Tea Trails . The other two blog articles can be read here and here, where I talked about winning the Sri Lanka in Style prize, the wonderful Castlereagh Lake area (near Hatton) where we stayed and the breathtaking scenery and flora. Now I’ll be waxing lyrical about the beautiful Castlereagh Bungalow property, the exceptional hospitality and how well we were looked after from the minute we arrived to the second we (sadly) departed.
We were just time for that great tradition “high tea” on our arrival and that certainly did not disappoint…with delicately scented Orange Pekoe tea (adding milk is a crime! We were however only to find this out on our second day!), chocolate cake slices, mini lemon meringue pies, mini carrot cake pieces, delectable home-made scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam to mini cucumber, egg & cress and cheese salad sandwiches…we didn’t even have time to explore our home for the next 2 days before tucking in!
After being rejuvenated it was time to explore the bungalow. Dating back around 90 years, the lodge, or bungalow, nestles in a leafy forest glen, with the appearance of a charming single-storey colonial house. It wasn’t grand, as that would look out-of-place; it was more quaint and cabin-chic; wooden panel floors, with cream walls, a green corrugated iron roof and many picture-frame windows, all wide-open, with a ‘country-chintz’ style of décor (as Luxury Explorer so brilliantly puts it).
From the main (road side) you enter a welcoming reception room which doubles as reading room with an open hearth.
The individual guestrooms are to the right and the sitting room and dining rooms are to the left which both lead to the veranda which overlooks the pool which in turn looks out over Castlereagh Lake.
The sitting room is extremely homely and it is easy to spend a lot of time here reading your favourite book and drinking your preferred pre-dinner (or post-dinner 😉 ) drink…
The Castlereagh Bungalow has 5 guestrooms and although we were in the smallest (The Tate Room) it was still enormous. The bedroom boasts a four poster bed which would accommodate two of the tallest North Europeans with ease. The bed had so many pillows and cushions I lost count before falling asleep. There is also a huge wardrobe and a large writing desk overlooking the lake, should you feel inclined to do any work at all and a comfortable chaise longue to generally do very little in.
The best bit, however, was the bathroom…
It’s the little touches that makes this place so special…
Once cleaned up after the dusty train journey it was time for drinks and dinner. Both were served on the veranda because of the warm weather! It was still cooler than down in the Low South West and much more bearable. We did not need jackets nor the fires lighting (which I privately thought was a shame!) .
Although fairly informal (thankfully with no dress code), the first dinner was a grand five course affair:
Cream of Asparagus soup with truffle oil (with a selection of home-made brown and white crusty rolls)
Apricot and rocket salad with mandarin pieces and a blue cheese and walnut dressing (this was beautiful!!)
Then we had deep-fried cheese (I think Brie or Camembert) with a berry coulis/compot type-thing…excuse me for not remembering exactly – I was enjoying myself too much!!
For mains – a fillet steak (mine medium rare) in a red wine & taragon jus with roasted vegetables and potatoes dauphinoise…BY FAR the best steak I have ever had in Sri Lanka!
All I remember is that the desert was more-ish (something with chocolate, fruits & tea!) – I was so full by this point I couldn’t eat another thing. Talk about being spoilt. There’s me looking like the cat who got the cream:
With such an enormous amount of food in me and exhausted from travelling there was nothing more to do than retire to the most comfortable bed complete with Egyptian cotton sheets for the night (ah bliss).
Breakfast the next day was equally scrumptious. Gallons of tea followed by a fruit plate so well-presented you almost felt ashamed to eat it.
This was followed by a full English, which I could not finish (I would like to see somebody try!!):
- 2 eggs cooked how you like
- 3 rashers of bacon (cooked crispy…they ask)
- 1 huge herby sausage (I gave half mine away…it was massive!)
- 1 crispy potato cake with herbs
AND all this came with croissants, rolls (white, brown, crusty & soft and some sweet pastries)
Obviously if you can only stomach cornflakes in the morning they will cater for you too 😉
You need some exercise after that so we went for a long walk only to find that on our return they had laid out the tables for lunch (!!)
With a glass of crisp Pinot Grigio on offer and three courses:
- Cauliflower and cheese cream soup
- Grilled garlic jumbo prawns with a salad of iceberg, rocket and tri-coloured peppers
- Apple crumble with home-made vanilla ice cream
Who was I to refuse??
I am quite embarrassed to admit that our high tea on that day was served at 5.30pm instead of 4pm and our Sri Lankan Rice & Curry at 9.30pm instead of 8.30pm 😀
All this was accommodated with a smile – hospitality at it’s best! I WILL return.