With its stunning beaches and heritage sights, the island should be perfect for Prince Charles on his 65th birthday, says ANDREW EAMES.
Trincomalee is an overgrown fishing village on a peninsula with a superb natural harbour. The important pilgrimage temple of Koneswaram sits on a hill and is reached through an old Dutch Fort.
Inland is wild peacock and elephant territory, where farmers retreat into their treehouses at night, prepared to defend their crops with bright lights and noise. Offshore is Pigeon Island, renowned for Sri Lanka’s best snorkelling; there is good whale-watching to be had here, too.
A handful of hotels are distributed along a 20-mile strip to the north of Trinco. The royals should book into the new Jungle Beach (ugaescapes.com), a selection of upmarket wooden cabanas nestled between bird-rich trees at the back of its own two-mile stretch of virgin sand. Doubles from £150 per night (two sharing), B&B.
Once his official duties in bustling Colombo are over, Charles may want to go to ground for a bit.
The quirky Mudhouse (themudhouse.lk) north of Colombo, near the town of Ambanpola, is perfect. Flanked by lakes rich in birdlife, the lodge, the epitome of sustainable luxury, consists of five organic hideaways dotted among the trees and connected by walkways.
Mud-walled, rattan-roofed, with floors of rammed earth, each “hut” is a cluster of living and sleeping areas. Thankfully they include western bathrooms or outdoor showers in little compounds cupped in forest. Another bathing option is the Mudhouse’s own swimming lake, which comes complete with an island and pagoda.
Dinner, cooked in clay pots over charcoal using ingredients from the Mudhouse farm, is eaten together by candlelight in an open-air dining room, usually accompanied by the calling of night birds on the lily pads.
In the morning, the royal couple could join a nature walk with the Mudhouse rangers. Sri Lanka’s Unesco-registered Cultural Triangle, with ancient monuments such as the Sigiriya rock fortress and Yapahuwa, is a short drive away. Doubles from £168 per night (two sharing), full board.
Hillsides around the agricultural town of Hatton, at 5,000ft, are kept as neat as botanical gardens by armies of leaf pluckers, who sing as they work.
A handful of tea estate bungalows have been turned over to tourism. Ceylon Tea Trails (teatrails.com) is Sri Lanka’s first Relais & Chateaux resort, although “resort” is a misnomer for these four bungalows idyllically located around Castlereagh lake.
Make a decision to stay in one, then take a walk to the next (around 30 minutes away), and stay there, too. Expect wood-panelled walls and big fireplaces, with verandas surrounded by sweeping lawns and rose gardens. Each has its own swimming pool and summer house.
Here the day starts with Bed Tea, charmingly served by your butler, then there’s the tea factory to inspect, and later on there are cucumber sandwiches and sultana scones served in the bungalow’s dining room. Just like Highgrove, no doubt.
Doubles from £468 per night (two sharing), all-inclusive.
An eclectic semi-residential British community is the driving force behind an annual literary festival which attracts big names such as Joanna Trollope and Tom Stoppard.
Galle is also home to one of Sri Lanka’s finest boutique hotels, the Amangalla (amanresorts.com), in the grand old building of what was once the New Oriental Hotel.
Tradition and modernity have seamlessly melded, and there is a top-class spa alongside the colonial traditions. The jade-green swimming pool is dappled with the shade of overhanging acacias, and there are complimentary yoga classes in the Garden Pavilion. I wonder if Camilla could drag Charles along? Doubles from £480 per night (two sharing), B&B.
All of the accommodation mentioned above is bookable via Experience Travel (020 3355 4730/experiencetravelgroup.com). Return flights from Heathrow to Colombo can be arranged from £595.
Sri Lanka Tourism: srilanka.travel