Ashburnham Estate, Sri Lanka
Sitting on the veranda sipping on a G&T whilst nibbling on a delicious cake that chef had whipped up during the day I thought to myself it's like I'm in “Out of Africa”, even though I'm in Sri Lanka. The estate is on the top of a mountain and on our arrival the estate was covered by cloud. But let me start with the drive to the estate! I'm sure I read it was 30 min from Kandy and 27km, well the later was correct the drive was 1.20 hr and it was a windy road that was narrow and covered in cloud for parts. It becomes a bit hairy when a bus that's the width of the road is heading towards you and the road is covered in cloud. However Janaka our driver from Red Dot Tours did a great job negotiating the road, even though he was lost and had never been to Ashburnham Estate before (neither had anyone he asked along the route either). But we got there. The estate is set on a working tea plantation and the the homestead built in 1930. Our room was the Ashburnham suite, the largest in the estate, consisting of a large sitting area with beautiful bay windows overlooking the valley, a four poster king bed, walk in wardrobe and bathroom. Remembering this a colonial heritage building the rooms have been kept in original style, so no tv or mod cons, but there's something beautiful about stepping back in time a little. Check our room out below.
Dinner on both nights was great. On the first night was tempura vegetables (spelt temper!) and Sri Lankan chicken curry which had the most beautiful dahl and ubergine curry. Dessert was sticky date pie that was dry and disappointing against the entree and main. Second night was Garlic prawns to start followed by assorted vegetable curries that were to die for! I can’t believe I’d prefer a vegetarian curry than protein - what the hell is happening to me? To finish off we had a banana pudding which was perfect. Dinner is always served on the veranda overlooking the mountain and valley below - just picture perfect as it gets dark. On the last day we did a tea plantation tour with Mr Das at 7.30am. We were lucky to be at the start of the tea pickers day and meet the tea picking ladies who ranged from 49 to 85 and the 85 year old sure kept up with the rest of them. The pickers can pick an acre a day and are incentivised on the weight of their bags. On average the bags weigh 22kg and they may pick in excess of 4 bags a day. Mr Das then continues your tour pointing out different plants and what the herbs do. He was a wealth of knowledge.
The staff are fantastic. Rachel the manager and all the staff are on hand if you want to chat or they’ll just let you relax and enjoy your time at the estate.Being on top of a mountain and miles from anything, the power does go out and for long periods however cards, board games and plenty of books are on hand.
The travel to and from Kandy being a long task (an hour or more each way to go 20km). So if you're going for 2 nights and 1 day in the middle, stay put. If you're going for 2 days and 3 nights, consider staying put - you won't regret it. if you're staying for 3 days and 4 nights, do a day trip on your middle day.
There was only two downsides to staying at Ashburnham Estate. One was the distance from anywhere. However, that can be a positive if you just stay at the estate and really soak up colonial village life and forget Kandy we didn’t really what was on offer. That’s what we would suggest if you are only there for a couple of days. If you can do 3 days there, do a day trip in the middle to break it up.I could only highly recommend Ashburnham Estate, you get the real colonial experience setting and a beautiful tea plantation with superb food.