Friday 2 August 2019

Jim's Farm Villas, near Pallepola, Sri Lanka

A quirky and charismatic hotel, combined with a working spice plantation, Jim's Farm is tucked away in a peaceful and hilly rural idyll a few miles off the busy road between Dambulla and Kandy. There are three main buildings, each some distance apart. They all have bedrooms, but one (Mango) has the restaurant, another (Spice Garden) has the reception and another (Hilltop) the pool. You can reach them by hiking up and down the paths or by calling a hotel tuk-tuk. From the Mango Villas and restaurant, the broad views of the sun sinking over the lush green countryside and distant mountains  are a bit special. The meals are also a delight. There is no choice of dishes, but the cooking is excellent and the ingredients, such as pork belly and king prawns, are top notch. The guests eat dinner together around a communal table, which is fun, particularly if the gregarious owner is at home. Breakfasts are also very good: be sure to order the Sri Lankan option, featuring tasty egg hoppers, in advance.

As well as its bon vivant proprietor, an old-school Brit who drives an ancient orange Mercedes, Jim's Fam is also memorable for the activities it lays on. These range from early morning bird watching to cookery demonstrations. The fascinating farm tour explains how the plantation grows a variety of spices and other crops, while giving you an opportunity to try milking a cow.  The visit to the local buddhist temple is also well worth doing. There is a masseur on site, as well as some dilapidated mountain bikes, which are okay for rides around the local villages. The villa rooms are large and luxurious with sturdy furniture and their own verandas and balconies. The Wi-Fi is a bit dodgy, but that shouldn't matter - Jim's Farm is all about submersing yourself in Sri Lankan rural life. 8/10