Tucked away in Sri Lanka's hill country, on the outskirts of the tea-growing capital Nuwara Eliya, lies Warwick Gardens, one of the island's most peaceful hideaways. The abandoned tea-planter's bungalow turned boutique hotel opened its doors a year ago, but word of mouth has led to a steady stream of bookings. Guests expecting a simple getaway are in for a surprise: the place oozes baronial splendor and the five bedrooms, all of them doubles, boast vast fireplaces, four-poster beds and cast-iron roll-top baths.
Hiran Cooray, managing director of the hotel group Jetwing, "initially bought this as a private home," explains manager Mohammed Faris when I arrive after a white-knuckle drive along cliff-hugging roads in pitch darkness. Indeed, the rather gothic dining room and plush lounge are strewn with family heirlooms: Murano chandeliers, Jaipur rugs and a baby grand piano. From the vast flower-filled garden, the views of the valley and surrounding tea estates are so dramatic they almost merit their own soundtrack.
Faris, a naturalist with a Ph.D. in forestry and wildlife conservation, is quietly proud of the venture's green credentials: waste is recycled, air fresheners are banned, toiletries are organic and the hotel's own farm, orchard and vegetable plots supply the kitchen, which is run by a mustard-keen cordon-bleu chef. "Sometimes guests like to come and pick their own herbs and leaves for a salad," he says. If gardening for your supper doesn't appeal you can choose between wildlife-spotting, barbecues, badminton or croquet. And if the clouds roll in, you can snuggle up with one of the hotel's books, dvds or board games.