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Introducing Nuwara Eliya

The summer resort of Nuwara Eliya (nu-rel-iya, meaning ‘City of Light’) keeps its colonial hill station atmosphere more completely than any place in the subcontinent. The town centre is a concrete tangle but the outskirts still keep the atmosphere of a misplaced British village, with hedges, rose gardens and red-roofed bungalows sporting twee names. It was a favoured stomping ground for the tea planters – the ‘wild men of the hills’ as one British governor called them. The old post office, the racecourse, the English country house–styled Hill Club with its hunting pictures, mounted fish and hunting trophies and the 18-hole golf course all somehow seem more British than Britain itself.

Nuwara Eliya has a fair assortment of country-style houses with large gardens – many have been turned over to vegetables, making this one of Sri Lanka’s main market-gardening centres.

Come prepared for the evening cool – Nuwara Eliya is much higher than Kandy. In January and February you may find yourself needing to sleep with two blankets and all your clothes on. The town can be grey and grim in a peculiarly Scottish way on rainy days. Nuwara Eliya is the ‘in place’ for socialites during April, around the Sri Lankan New Year. At that time of year the cost of accommodation – if you can find any at all – goes through the roof. Horse races are held on the picturesque semiderelict racecourse then, too.

The town has an abundance of touts angling to get a commission for a guesthouse or hotel.