Feb 13, 2015

Posted by in Luxury travel, Travel Reviews | 4 Comments

A Royal Affair

A Royal Affair

Fernhills Royal Palace, Ooty

I’ll be the first to confess that Rajasthan is one of my favourite places in India and I don’t think it gets better than that when it comes to palaces and forts. But hey, this story is not about Rajasthan. This one’s about one of the most memorable places that I’ve had the privilege to visit. Let’s just say that if I ever own a device that by some magic can take me back in time, I’d love to be born here.

For someone who can down 14 cups of tea a day, there couldn’t have been a better reason to visit tea country right? It cannot get better than the Nilgiris. But for once, a trip to Ooty was not just another roadtrip for me, but was more about visiting the non-touristy, trapped-in-time WelcomHeritage Fernhills Royal Palace that I had been hearing about for some time.

The Fernhill Royal Palace
The Fernhills Royal palace hotel is not one of those places that will sweep you off your feet at first sight. Well, to a certain extent, yes. But it is certainly one of those places that slowly grow on you. And the best way to experience this palace’s charm is to visit it yourself, spend time learning about royalty and uncovering its little secrets and stories.

What’s good a palace without a history associated to it huh? As we took a property tour on a dewy morning, the General Manager of the property narrated to us, some interesting pieces from the royal lineage. He told us how in 1873, the twelve years old Maharaja Chama-Rajendra Wadiyar X of Mysore purchased Fern Hill from its owner for 10,000 rupees, moved to Ooty in the same year and spent the next decade renovating this property. By 1884, Fern Hill had been transformed from a large colonial bungalow to an enormous country palace superbly finished with carved Burmese teak alongwith a new magnificent ballroom  over-arched by a high-vaulted ornamental Papier-mâché ceiling.

BALLROOM

As we walked through the galleries, we were told how the palace was also the starting point of the famous Ootacamund Hunt, in which imported English foxhounds chased hapless jackals around the Nilgiri hills. Evidence of the hunt still adorns the walls of the Fox Hunt bar in the palace.

It was only in 1974 that the last ruling Maharaja of Mysore left this vast estate to his young son, who then set about converting the Fern Hill Palace into a hotel which eventually opened for business in 1975.

I can safely say that over the last year or so, I’ve been to some of the most beautiful hotels and resorts in this country. But here’s one heritage property that truly has character.

Be warned that this is not one of those hotels that will have a suggestion for every request you make or even one of those hotels that will offer you a private pool or a private butler service. But the architecture and feel of this place compensates for all that and much more. When they say “Surrounded by history, Royalty is your host”, they really mean it. And it is evident in everything in the hotel, right from the lounge, the artistic hallways, the skylight in all the rooms, which was His Highness’ vision, the contrasting designs of the flooring and the ceiling that so perfectly complement each other as envisioned by Her Highness and His Highness respectively, the murals on the walls, the woodwork throughout the hotel for which the wood was especially brought from the Mysore Palace, the Fox Hunt bar as named in honour of the fox hunting sport that the British dignitaries during the British Raj played here and much more.

Yuvarani Suite

 

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While the hotel maintains its royal character, it has done a pretty good job of going a bit unusual with its very innovative Anglo Indian menu alongwith recipes from the Wadiyar family. The Curry & Rice restaurant too has a history as old as the palace itself. It is based on a satirical book written by Capt. George Franklin Atkinson, which had 40 hand drawn plates depicting the social life of the British officials in India.

The hotel however, does not restrict itself in terms of the cuisine and is happy to prepare a meal of your choice should you wish to order.

If you’re still longing for some ‘touristy entertainment’ at the end of a day, you can wander around to the local lake boat house, Doddabeta, the nearby tea factory and Coonoor’s not too far either.

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For me, the place, the food, the lovely views aside, it was the people of the hotel who left me with an emotional sense of the place.

Aesthetically flawless, Fernhills Royal Palace is one of those places that’s meant for an elite traveler; a place that has a certain impact on you. And the best part? It doesn’t need the additional opulence, it’s classy as it is.

 

 

 

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  1. Amazing reviews, sweet, simple and at the same time I am getting to know such amazing places do exist.

    Nice blog keep it up.

  2. A great read about a great place in a wonderful country! Thank you, Archana for letting me know about the Fernhills Royal palace hotel. I love to stay in luxury hotels and I think it’s a nice idea to spend a few nights here when I come back to India someday.
    Greetings to Mumbai!
    Best,
    Peter

    • Archana Pandey says:

      I’m so glad you liked it Peter. This place really is beautiful. If you do ever happen to visit this part of India, I’d recommend this one for sure:)
      And hey, I shall convey your regards to Mumbai :)

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