Bonnieland Estate, Badulla Sri Lanka, Hill Country
Bonnieland is perched on a hill above Badulla town at an altitude of approximately 3000ft. Surrounded by seventeen acres of land with an interesting mix of tropical and subtropical plants and tress, Bonnieland is a spacious cut-stone colonial era cottage built some ninety years ago. The view from the garden and terrace is spectacular, overlooking the town with the gigantic hills of Namunkula (nine peaks) in the background.
A family home, the cottage retains a very intimate and lived-in feel. Well furnished with beautiful old colonial furniture and antique fittings, the three-bedroom cottage is a great place for families or small groups. The charming owners, Viren and Sinnika are wonderfully eccentric, hugely welcoming and are almost always in residence when guests stay. They offer a perspective on life in the hills which is a unique and wonderful glimpse into a way of life. Indeed they were described by the Guardian as one of the world's best hosts!
There is excellent walking in the surrounding area if you feel like being active. It is close to the wonderfully scenic Ella and Haputale as well as the laid back hill station of Bandarawella with the Woodlands Network and their cooking classes. The Dunhinda waterfalls are found just outside Badulla town. Visits to the golf course in Nuwara Eliya, or the national parks of Horton Plains, Yala and Uda Walawa can be made in a day. If you feel lazy, you can bird watch from the stunning garden there are over thirty species in the area.
Ease yourself into the homely atmosphere and transport yourself back in time. Calm and charm in equal measure make Bonnieland a superb base in the mountains.
A final word from Sinika on the history of Bonnielands as it is a good story:
"After the Sunday's church service, one hundred years ago, a young, Oxford educated Ceylonese and his fair fiancÃ© of an eurasian family background, were allowed to spend a few hours alone. They used to climb the hillside above the town until they reached a large rock from where there was a marvellous view over the small town in the valley and the hill range beyond it.
They would have talked about the future and she dreamt of having her house right there, up on the huge rock. They were poor -but he pledged to make her dream come true.
After years of hard work, he brought the land above the rock and erected the first section of their home, a large hall and two bedrooms- with walls of one and a half feet strength!
As time passed, more elegant additions were made: out of grey cut-stone, teak and mahogany a tower-like drawing room was built facing the valley. Two more bedrooms were added. From far away Moratuwa master carpenters were brought to compose the wooden ceilings with their carved center pieces. Teak from Burma was used for the doors.
The surroundings improved too. Fruit trees of many varieties were planted together with valuable timber, tea and coffee. Life would have been blissful in the moderate climate and the clean air of the green hills of Uva.
Twenty five years ago Bonnieland was rediscovered. After its builders death, the house and the surroundings had deteriorated. Jungle had taken over the tea but the trees had grown into giants and the thick walls had resisted the years.
Another 'mixed' couple now fell in love with Bonnieland and slowly started restoring its former beauty. Repairs were done, bits and pieces of old furniture, pictures and tapestries were brought into the empty house. Today pepper and coffee grow in the jungle and the planting of mahagony continues. Still the old tulip trees stand down by the rock but new plants have started to flower.
With little financial resources but with much love, everything is done to revive the charming nostalgia of Bonnieland. There still is much to do.
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Superior - This is what we would describe as our standard category. These will be decent 3/4* hotels providing a really good level of service. We would generally expect them to be providing a little something extra, in terms of character, guest experience or facilities too.
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We had a wonderful time exploring Sri Lanka, and felt truly blessed to see a side of the island that many people do not get the opportunity to see.