Words: Kirsten Durward Photos: The Yum List
A luxury boutique hotel, with only five luxury suites, The Clingendael is the perfect getaway from the realities of life. Ensconced majestically in the Kandyan Hills, the property exudes elegant colonial style while taking full advantage of this unspoiled natural location. With verdant environment on all sides, The Clingendael impresses with a good range of outdoor activities on hand as well as organized adventures further afield.
The lush tropical gardens boast a colourful diversity of flowering plants to wander amongst enjoying the cool hill air mornings and afternoons. For those guests who simply wish to relax and enjoy the spectacular natural surroundings there is no shortage of places to settle down around this impressive property. Each bedroom suite has its own outdoor seating area, in addition to the generous verandah, which runs the length of the front of the house. Comfortable loungers are set out in shady spots around the gardens and beside the pool: plenty of opportunities for reading, snoozing or tea drinking.
The charming spa at the top of Clindendael’s garden is oh so inviting. Resident guests are treated to a complimentary 30 minute massage with the two night minimum stay. And after this relaxing taster, I am sure many will return for a longer treatment. I pop open the wooden gates and step across the small bridge to the wooden platform, being greeted with a cold towel and a smiling face is always a good start to any treatment. White curtains billow in the noontime breeze, shielding us from the Sri Lankan sun.
Perusing the massage menu I select the Detox Massage, Monica had the Holistic, which she reported was very relaxing, and she adored the natural lime balm produced right here in Sri Lanka. Loving to see locally sourced products being used. I’m presented with a basket and asked to select what I like. I’m torn between a gorgeous smelling ginger balm and the ayurvedic oil, but settle on the latter. The outdoor bathroom is sheltered by a plexiglass roof but nonetheless gives the full sensation of being out in the elements.
The water feature on the wall drips with a soft rhythm and this, together with the gentle wind creates a soothing natural sound bath that soon has me drifting away. The Sri Lankan masseuse is very thorough and takes care to attend to all those tricky spots behind the shoulders and at the base of the spine, gently wending away all tensions and niggling pains. Massage can also be enjoyed in the privacy of your own room, but this little natural spot has a special feeling that is really not to be missed.
Although one could happily spend a couple of days just resting up, enjoying the warm ambience of The Clingendael, there are a range of activities and excursions that can be arranged and booked for you. Guests may enjoy a trip to Kandy Lake to visit the famed Temple of the Tooth, or venture a little further to a tea estate. The Clingendael benefits enormously from its position above the Victoria Golf and Country Club. Our favourite excursion of our stay was a sunset picnic above the water reservoir with views of the Kandyan hills.
Twisting through the foliage dense hill roads in the most comfortable safari vehicle I have enjoyed yet, I remark to Monica how cushiony soft the seats of this open air all terrain vehicle are, not like the creaking springs of the Landrovers I am used to. We’re taken to a spectacular viewpoint on the Victoria golf course, overlooking the silvery waters of the reservoir below, and greeted by The Clingendael’s sometime resident manager, Anne-Marie, a Swiss former restaurateur who has settled in this little corner of natural splendor. We’re spoiled with delicious cocktail snacks including a chicken skewer that has us both exclaiming over the seasoning. Wine is always perfect for sunset viewing and a cold bottle of a New Zealand sauvignon blanc meets with our ready approval.
The sunset proves to be a soft one, with a bank of cloud overshadowing the distant hills. The colours are nonetheless heartwarming, and we are simply enjoying the soft evening air and rolling landscapes. I love the ridge of trees that tumbles along the horizon like shadowy puppets performing a play. What a wonderfully romantic spot this is, Monica makes a note to come back with Caning, when he is free. It is a relaxing start to our stay and it is only the call of dinner on the terrace that draws us reluctantly away. Picnics can be arranged at any time of day to a guest’s pleasure.
Keen golfers will delight to play on the Victoria Golf and Country Resort’s international championship course. Rated as one of the 100 most scenic courses by Golf Digest USA, the Victoria course offers a par 73 challenge to anyone with a handicap. Caddies and ball spotters are on hand to assist players, while those wanting to improve their skills can book a lesson with the resident professional. Monica and I are not players, but for the first time in my life I submit to a golf lesson. If one has to try it, this is definitely the supreme location in which to do so.
With the gentle support of Path, one of the resident professionals at the Victoria Golf and Country Resort, Monica and I tussle with irons, and woods and putters, trying to figure out how to swing and follow through. Arms straight, interlinked grip, knees bent, back straight, butt out, we got it! We do prefer the lightness of the wood (which is not wood at all but super light metal) and the distance it achieves to the clunkiness of the irons. What is clear is that I have a predilection for losing tees, which causes even patient Path to scratch his head and call in reinforcements. Finally we both succeed in hitting the ball at least some distance and I enjoy a couple of rounds on the putting green, learning to slow down and not hit so hard.
Keen riders can also hack at the Victoria stables, or aspiring riders can try a lesson. Bird watching is a premium sport in Sri Lanka and the trails around The Clingendael provide opportunities to see much colourful plumage and hear sweet bird song.
Reasons to visit: relaxing natural ambience; thorough massage; stunning golf course; sunset picnic.