SPREAD over 50 acres of royal estate overlooking resplendent green valleys, Fernhills Palace, Ooty offers a stay worth remembering.
What makes it special?
During the British rule in India, there were a host of summer homes built all over India. Captain F. Cotton built this one in 1844 for the Maharajas of Mysore. Its history states that it slipped through many fingers until it finally held on to a new name of Moonesami, and wore the face of one of Ooty’s earliest hotels. But that didn’t last long, as 12-year-old Prince Chamarajendra Wadiyar X, in his life’s most ambitious move, bought the property for a mere Rs. 10,000. He was the first Indian of royal descent to do so. This helped preserve the Wadiyar Dynasty that till today continues to remain under the supervision of Srikanta Datta Narasimharaja Wadiyar.
Aside from an intriguing yet glorious past, the bright red and white palace is certainly opulent to say the least. Constructed with Burmese teak, it comprises furniture made from red mahogany, glamorous chandeliers, plush furnishings and velvet tapestry, and antique portraits and photographs adorning the walls. Surrounding the palace are manicured lawns and gardens, dense forests, tea gardens, tennis courts, and stables to ensure they satiate your royal tastes.
What to expect?
The rooms, 19 in total, are supremely spacious with private sit-outs, verandas, courtyards, and gardens, and make sure you stay connected to the natural environs the hotel boasts of. Charming and exquisite, the architecture — a mix of gothic and neo-classical renaissance — is certainly worth a second look. The in-house restaurant has a variety of cuisines to choose from, like Anglo-Indian, Continental and Chinese. And the bar is well-stocked, and dominated by the use of mahogany and a cozy fireplace. Called Fox Hunt bar, it certainly emits the feel of an actual hunting lodge. However, being at a relatively remote location has a few negatives in the form of erratic electrical shutdowns and dodgy internet connectivity.
What is there to do?
Walking through the forests here is very refreshing. You can also opt for cycling, horse riding, fishing, playing tennis or stay inside and play billiards. For the culinary enthusiasts, classes are held that teach the local cuisines on occasion. Sightseeing tours are also arranged. You can explore nearby attractions such as the popular toy train, the Botanical Garden, Dolphin’s Nose, Ooty Lake, Madumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, Sim’s Park, Mukurthi, Coonoor, and Dodabetta Park.
What’s the damage?
For Rs. 12,000 (US$223) for a Junior Suite, it is pretty steep. The location however does make up for a large part of that amount. The service is known to be a bit shaky; though the staff is very helpful. For those with a desire for a full-blown royal shindig, be prepared to shell out Rs. 27,000 for the most extravagant suite at the hotel.