There are few places that make you talk about its charm repeatedly and there are few other places which never let you stop talking or thinking about the time you spent there! King’s Cliff, a themed hotel, perched atop a small hill in Ooty belongs to the second category. After spending a weekend at this colonial mansion, I can hardly stop myself from posting a post on the King’s Cliff experience.
To start with, King’s Cliff is a rustic English villa of the 1800’s, converted into a themed hotel. The charming, tiled villa, strategically built with a splendid view of the Ooty town, attracts you at the first sight itself. At about 3kms from the bus station but well away and high above from the bustle of the city, this white walled structure with red tiles forming the roof is set amidst lush green lawns. Few old styled chairs and teapoy adorn the lawns, if you would like to have a coffee listening to the birds chirping around. A vintage car graces the ally and the colors of various flowers just raise the ante. The magnificence doubles as you enter this imposing building.
A lobby or probably the hall during the good old time has history oozing even in the minutest thing placed in it. By now you notice that flooring is nothing but wooden planks held together by another smaller plank with screws grooved in. Adjacent to the hall is another typical English room which would have been the reading room. With a window opening into the garden, the view from this room rightly inspires you. An old cupboard with a rustic charm, with thick latches that have turned dark over the years, holds some of the finest novels from English literature. Along with soft but wide seats arranged around the fireplace, the reading room is sure to make you realize about how good were those days when book shelves adorned the drawing room and not a 42” 3D television! In fact, most or probably all the cup boards that you find in King’s Cliff are from the erstwhile times, rustic wooden handovers!
As you move further into the dining hall, you will feel like being transformed into the stories of the Lords & their Ladies and about the wars they fought. Every wall in King’s Cliff is adorned with some of the finest paintings from the British era. There are even pictorial representations of some major incidents from the Scottish and British history. In fact, the symbol displayed by King’s Cliff on all of their advertisements is a flag of the royal arms with a lion, mountain goat and blooming flower. There are many others sketches that tell you about armory and armors from the good old days. Walking through the corridors into your room, a peculiar but pleasing odor from the wooden furniture is sure to carry you into the past and makes you want to know more about the place.
King’s Cliff, as the records here say was the private residence of Lord Reignand and Lady Maybn who once lived in the Queen of Nilgiris, Udhagamandalam a.k.a. Ooty. Though there are no proofs, the residence should have had 9 bedrooms, a hall, a kitchen, a drawing room and an outhouse or guesthouse adjacent to the main structure but not connected. Lady Maybn was supposedly a charming young lady who had a great hand at preparing exotic dishes. The guests who visited the Lord & the Lady from near & far always praised the Lady’s expertise in cooking and when The Earl of Gloucester visited the family on his Indian trip, even he succumbed to the looks and wit of Lady Maybn and more importantly for her food. The Earl, himself being a great cook, secretly prepared dishes and placed it for Lady Maybn. The charming lady never realized the Earl’s soft corner for her and died with a secret undisclosed to her. As the web page of King’s Cliff says, to be honest the wandering ghost of Lady Maybn is just a rumor!
Down the years, the property has probably had more than couple of owners before one among them transformed it into a hotel somewhere in the 1920’s or even before. There is a menu from the 1920 displayed in the dining hall with prices that say, tariff per day – Rs 2-Rs8, Coffee -Rs.1, extra wood for the fireplace – Rs. 3 per lb and much more interesting items. On some fine day, later in the time, this property was brought by a noted advocate from Ooty, Mr. Vijay Prabhu and went on to be part of the Little Earth group.
Today, Little Earth has four properties in Ooty. Along with King’s Cliff, there is Sherlock Holmes which is a luxurious villa nestled amidst thick jungle and totally cut away from civilization, there is Destiny Farm stay at Avalanche, 25kms from Ooty which is the first farm stay in India with activities like horse riding, farming, trekking and an unmatched view of the Avalanche Lake and finally there is Sundance, which is another resort situated in the Nilgiris.
Back at King’s Cliff, the 9 rooms are now named after 9 of the famous works of William Shakespeare and the rooms are maintained like those of the Shakespearean era. A high ceiling, working fireplace and the verdant setting of the rooms is sure to take you back in time. The beds, with the puffy quilt, placed aptly as to ensure maximum warmth from the fireplace is relaxing in its every bit. An electric flask with coffee is always available in the room. With names like Prospero, Midsummer, Tempest, Othello, Hamlet and the walkways adorned with sketches of incidents from 1800’s, King’s Cliff is no less than a time machine.
The latest addition to the mansion is probably the glass dining hall. A relatively new construction with glass walls was probably raised to accommodate the increasing number of foodies who came to Earl’s Secret, the restaurant at King’s Cliff. No prizes for guessing why the name Earl’s Secret! For the past 15years, as they claim, Earl’s Secret has been the top restaurant in & around the town of Ooty. The claim is proved with the hot platter served to you. As you take a bite from that aromatic dish, be set to go speechless for a while. Earl’s Secret will be easily one of the best places I ever ate. With ever green melodies from the albums of Elvis Presley & Phil Collins being played live in the background by a singer with a blessed tone, dinner is a luxurious deal at Earl’s Secret.
The USP of these jewels in the crown of Little Earth group is their hospitality; at least at King’s Cliff as to what I have experienced is hospitality at its best. From the time I arrived to the minute I left, the treatment was unmatchable to any best in the business. I have happened to visit couple of well known hotels in India and without doubt, the staffs at King’s Cliff are one step ahead in competition. From the receptionist to the manager, from the room boys to the housekeeping, from the waiter to the chef, they all know how a guest needs to be treated. Welcoming with an aromatic coffee to every person visiting may not be great deal but the smile that they serve you with, lingers even after the strong coffee flavor sulks into your tongue. As the evening sky goes darker and as the Queen of Nilgiris, Ooty soaks herself in the fog and is all lit, the view from this place is of no match.
If at all you plan to be in Ooty then do plan to stay at the King’s Cliff. The tariff might seem to be a tad on the higher side but it is worth every penny spent. If you are just cruising through Ooty then make sure you at least eat at Earl’s Secret, I bet you would thank me right after your first bite!
My personal verdict: Hospitality – 4.5/5, Food – 4.7/5, Ambience – 4.5/5, Rooms – 4/5. My choice of rooms – Windsor in the deluxe category and Iago in the semi deluxe category.