Cool country-living, close to Haputale

From the outside, Sherwood may not look much but its interior is as cosy as any holiday bungalow could be, and it has the additional advantage of being within walking distance of Haputale.

Haputale is not everyone’s cup of tea and most visitors just gasp at the sight of the main street where it seems to tumble off the edge of a cliff, and hurry on to the more cosmopolitan town of Bandarawela.

But Haputale, in spite of its grubby streets contrasting with the carefully tended tea plantations around it, has an agreeable quality. Perhaps it is its compact size and sense of activity, its climate that changes from warm sunshine to freezing mist in seconds, or its eccentricities like the railway track running through the town (which also serves as a market place for vendors who have to move their wares quickly whenever a train comes along).

For many, the main reason for visiting Haputale is to stay in one of the extraordinary plantation bungalows close to the town. When you take the road eastwards to Lipton’s Seat, you pass the first of them, Sherwood, tucked into the hillside with views across the plains right down to the south coast.
Sherwood was built with Haputale’s contrary climate in mind.

At over 5,000 feet above sea level, sunny days can change into cold, cloud draped evenings so what should have been the bungalow’s verandah is closed in. This gives it a squat appearance emphasised by the vast expanse of its green-painted metal roof. Entrance is through French windows from the lawn into a long hall that shelters its charming interior.

Sherwood exterior: The closed in verandah that gives the bungalow a squat appearance
The kiosk: A place to take in the panoramic view over a cuppa
The writer at Lipton’s Seat
Cosy lounge: Ideal to curl up with an Agatha Christie

This leads to a small lounge complete with a three-piece suite of plump sofa and armchairs, frilly lampshades and conventional standard lamps, and a fireplace.

There is also satellite television and a DVD player for cold evening comfort. It is the kind of lounge where you would curl up with an Agatha Christie novel while the wind rattles the windowpanes.

The master bedroom with an attached bathroom and second bedroom adjoins the lounge while off a corridor on the opposite side is a small hall and another bedroom like a dormitory.

A corner bedroom with a view, and an attached bathroom, overlooks the lawn.

Parallel to the front hall is the long dining room made hospitable by the chef’s careful attention to guests’ wishes. Our demand the night before for breakfast of beef curry, egg hoppers and seeni sambol brought a smile of pleasure to the chef’s face, and to ours too when we tasted it the next morning.

Hearty plantation fare matches the climate and the activity of staying at Sherwood. There is a kiosk in the garden for pondering the view over a cup of tea, or long walks through the surrounding countryside. It’s eight miles to Lipton’s Seat, so perhaps too far to hike.

The road passes alongside the Dambatenne tea factory, the longest in the island. Dambatenne Estate was one of the many owned by Sir Thomas Lipton (1848-1931) the Scottish grocer who was hugely successful in marketing tea worldwide.

When he stayed in the island he would ride his horse up to the estate’s highest point, now called Lipton’s Seat to survey his tea gardens. There is a sign and a lookout pavilion there now; it’s best to go in the morning before clouds obscure the view.

The British planters always chose the best locations for their bungalows, so they could keep an eye on the labourers in the tea fields below, and enjoy panoramic views.

With tea growing up to the bungalow steps, to stay in one of these, waited upon by butler and cook and dining on traditional fare like mulligatawny soup, fish pie and trifle, is to taste the planter’s lifestyle.

Sherwood Bungalow would be a suitable place to introduce family or friends to the tea hills. It is not luxuriously furnished, concentrating on the basic necessities.

The company managing it, Sherwood Holidays, only rents out the bungalow to one party at a time, not by the bedroom, so it is ideal for a family or friends for a few days of cool, country living.

(Reservations, tel: 011 2381644;

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