By Sanath Weerasuriya
Clunes is a popular name from Scotland. After Scottish planters, Sri Lanka inherited many Scottish names in the plantation sector. Like in Victoria, Australia after the European settlers in the nineteenth Centaury, Clunes came to stay in Sri Lanka not as a township but as a estate name in low country.
But our story about Clunes is a Sri Lankan holiday destination situated just one hour and fifteen minutes drive from Colombo.‘Clunes Villa’ is a Colonial estate bungalow turned to a modern holiday home specially catering for nature lovers. Situated in the middle of rich rubber plantation in Errachi Division in Talduwa Estate, Dehiowita, the Villa is nearly 87 years old.
‘It is just six kms away from Avissawella town on the main highway to Hatton and you can arrive at the Villa within two hours from the Bandaranaiake International Air Port’ said Thushara Sanjay Gunaratne, the Manager of the Villa.
Clunes Villa was originally built in 1920 for the exclusive use of the Scottish Planter John Dunlop. The bungalow maintains its past glory to fit with modern times although extensive repairs were carried out by Clunes Villa's present owner Gajaba Pitigala, the former Sri Lankan cricketer.
This colonial bungalow is exquisitely built in the centre of five acre tropical jungle with spacious halls, three large bed rooms and two roomed suite with all modern amenities.
‘After I took over this place in 2005, I have spent nearly 15 million on refurbishment to bring it to the present look’ said Gajaba Pitigala, the proprietor of this beautiful bungalow. The biggest change will be the newly constructed swimming pool. 'It will be ready for the use of holiday makers within a couple of months' Pitigala said.
All the rooms are fully air-conditioned, a private balcony with a spectacular view of the forest or lake, hot/cold water, laundry services, tarnish baths and on call doctor service, Neutral tones of brown beige and yellow comprise the brightly lit interior which is traditional yet modern which create the slick but simple picture.
The culinary experience at the Villa is one of the highlights of the holiday at Clunes. Clunes Villa allows dining in air conditioned comfort or in the more informal settings of the landscaped garden. It also has an adjacent bar and large area which is strictly for members and visitors of the villa for pre or post dinner drinks, cocktails and coffee.
‘Dining at the Villa is the most important thing. From simple village meal to five star dining experiences is on the menu at Clunes. Our experienced cook is capable of handling any kind of dish’ said Gajaba.
H. G. Karunaratne, popularly known as Karu, the main cook at the Clunes Villa has more than 40 years of culinary experience behind him.He was the chief cook at the Flight Kitchen of the former Grosvenor Caterers, the caterers for the former Air Ceylon and for all outbound flights from Katunayake.
‘At Clunes we treat all guests as Colonial Masters. From English Breakfast to Sri Lankan lunch and High Tea to candle lit dinner is possible at the Villa’ said Karu.
‘If you are a lover of Western, Eastern or Chinese food our kitchen caters for all your needs. Special BBQ nights can be arranged on request to make you feel comfortable and at home’ said Manager Thushara. Clune is also apopular place for foreign weddings.
‘We have already done about 15 weddings of European couples’ said Pitigala. The Villa is centrally located in close proximity to most of Sri Lanka's natural beauty and its world-renowned heritage. The Villa is an ideal base for excursions to Sinharaja Forest, Udawalawe Wildlife Sanctuary, Botanical Gardens, Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage, Horton Plains, Nuwara Eliya, Adam's Peak, Saman Devalaya, Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy, Beli Lena and many more places of interest.
The Villa is surrounded by rubber and tea estates and is in close proximity to popular waterfalls.‘Clunes Villa is a place for adventure lovers. You can experience white water rafting at Kithulgala just 30 minutes away from Clunes Villa. Experience a day out with your family at Water World in Hanwella, which is just 20km from the Villa' Mr Pitigala said.
The ruins of Seethawaka Kingdom, Burundi Kovil, Dahanwela Seethawaka Oya are some of the attractions at the close range just fifteen minutes away from the Bungalow. 'The Villa is just 60km north of the world famous Sinharaja Forest and tours can be arranged for all guests on requests to visit the forest which takes just under 2 hours journey' Gajaba explained about the arrangement on excursions.
Like wise Udawalawa Wild Life Sanctuary is just under 21/2 hours journey and Udawalawe, which lies within the Ratnapura and Moneragala Districts, acts as the catchments to the Udawalawe Reservoir and is located in the Dry Zone. This Park comprises grasslands and thorn scrubs and many valuable species of trees are found within it. Large herds of Elephants and Deer species such as Spotted Deer, Sambhur, Barking Deer and Langur, Wild Boar, Water Buffalo, Jackal are some of the prominent wild animals found in this Park.
Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya and Haggala too are just under two and half hours drive from Clunes. Nuwara Eliya, Horton Plains, Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage , Tea Garden and Water falls are around two to three hours drive from the Villa. Official web site of Clunes Villa : www.clunesvilla.com.