The Hill Club Sri Lanka… not with kids!



After a great intro to Sri Lanka in Colombo, we boarded the train heading for Nuwara Eliya in the hill country for Christmas. I’d been told that this was the prettiest journey in Sri Lanka and we weren’t disappointed. It was a slow trip, taking 7 hours to climb through a picturesque landscape of hills, valleys and mountains, where the air cooled as we got higher.

Nuwara Eliya is known as “little England” and is a lovely, quaint village surrounded by tea plantations, manor houses and hills. We were so excited to be coming here because I had booked a traditional colonial hotel called The Hill Club and they do a wonderful Christmas celebration with a Christmas Eve gala dinner, carols, Santa, and the whole festive shebang.

There is a lot of history with the Hill Club, it was once an exclusive gentleman’s “members only” club, and as we were about to find out, not much had changed…

On our arrival I immediately picked up a weird vibe. To start with they didn’t have our booking and as Christmas is one of their busiest times, they were full. Even so, we were given very charming old-fashioned rooms decorated with heavy dark furniture and lovely big baths. As the temperature can dip to zero at night, hot water bottles are handed out at bed time which is a very nice touch. The staff were lovely but I couldn’t help but feel that they didn’t quite know what to do with us and I was feeling very uneasy.

We spent Christmas Eve wandering around Nuwara Eliya’s Victorian gardens and took the children horse riding around the race-track.  For kids with little experience horseriding, they did very well cantering around the track without helmets on… eek!

On arrival back at the hotel we were looking forward to a rest and a bath before the big dinner, but instead we were greeted with panic. The manager was in a flap and informed me that a member had arrived that morning and he wanted our rooms. Not only that, he wanted them immediately since we had been out and he was waiting.

Really? But I booked and paid in November so how can this be?  Anyway I reluctantly agreed to move mainly because the manager looked as if he would cry if I didn’t. We were hastily shifted out the back into a couple of rooms that were not a patch on the ones we gave up.

Then, my little girls, all dressed up and ready to sing carols, were accosted in the hall by an angry woman who thought it would be a nice Christmassy idea to tell them in no uncertain terms that she had made a complaint to the management and was going to have them thrown out.  Appalling! Their dad then approached the mean woman to find out what was going on. She said, “This is not a hotel, it is a members club and I don’t know how you got in here in the first place”.

That would explain the weird vibe everyone was giving us. You would think that an exclusive members only club would not be advertising and taking bookings on Agoda wouldn’t you? We went to the management ourselves to try to set things straight, but were then informed that children are not welcome and are not allowed at dinner (I don’t know when they planned to tell us this, it was already 7pm).

We were compensated, but it wasn’t the point, we just weren’t welcome there. All the looks we were getting, and my feeling of uneasiness all made sense now. The thing is, they were in a spot of bother with our arrival and they just didn’t know what to do about it. As for scaring my children, that woman should be ashamed of herself (after my husband dealt with her, no doubt she was).

Anyway, the moral of the story?  Read all about The Hill Club, the history is very interesting, but definitely don’t stay there.