Royal retreats

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By Get high on heritage as you take a dekko at some lesser known palace hotels, says Nandini Guha
  • Published 5.07.08

It’s time for a monsoon break. But if you are heading out for a monsoon holiday, it’s always important to ensure that you are in the right surroundings in case the rain forces you to stay indoors. One option is to try out one of the palace and heritage hotels that are scattered around the country. It could be the right time to try out some of the lesser known palace and heritage hotels in Madhya Pradesh, Shimla or even West Bengal. These hotels offer a mix of comfort and luxury along with a touch of history. And there are sights and attractions too.

Woodville Palace, Shimla

Shimla, one of North India’s most popular hill stations, still has some surprises to offer. Surrounded by pine forests and apple orchards, the one-time summer capital of the British government houses some magnificent properties, including Woodville Palace, built in 1865 by Sir William Mansfield, Commander in Chief of the Imperial Army.

Mansfield’s old house was knocked down and a new palace was built in 1938. The Jubbals live on one floor even today. It’s built on a 5-acre plot with lots of deodar trees on the grounds. The restaurants offer multi-cuisine food.

The palace-hotel has 31 well-appointed rooms, including a royal cottage and a suite. The royal suite has plenty of regal looking furniture and costs Rs 21,000 for a couple for two nights. Drop in at the Hollywood Bar 1930s with autographed pictures of famous ’30s Hollywood Stars and The Tiger Lounge, which boasts of tiger heads and tiger shoot photographs. Some scenes in the movie Black were shot at the palace.

You can make short trips to places like Naldehra, Narkanda, Chail and Kufri. Alternatively, you can also visit Kullu and Manali or even the Rohtang Pass.

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A two-nights and three-days package is recommended at Woodville Palace. The package will set you back by Rs 10,999 for a Deluxe Room and Rs 15,999 for the Majestic Suite (for a couple) and includes room, breakfast and one major meal. The hotel can also provide a car on request and a guide.

Palace Belvedere, Nainital

If you are travelling to the hills another option is The Palace Belvedere at Nainital. The sprawling mansion built in the 19th century was once the summer retreat of the Awagarh rajas. It has 21 rooms and suites which have been recently renovated and it has preserved its old world charm. The hotel is run by the family but marketing and reservations are looked after by WelcomHeritage.

The USP of the palace hotel is a stunning view of the lake and Nainital itself.

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A two-nights and three-day package for two in a lake-facing suite (inclusive of taxes and breakfast) costs Rs 9,200, while the same package in a deluxe double room costs Rs 7,200. Bookings can be made directly or through WelcomHeritage.

Jehan Numa Palace Hotel/Bhopal

Jehan Numa is a sprawling 98-room palace hotel that’s a relaxed weekend getaway and which also has all the facilities for corporate retreats. The 19th-century building built during the rule of Sultan Jehan Begam sits on a 5-acre property.

The palace is an extraordinary combination of British Colonial, Italian Renaissance and Classical Greek architecture.You can relax in one of the quieter corners of the hotel like the Frangipani Garden. Jehan Numa Palace Hotel has been classified as a Heritage Grand Hotel. It has four restaurants, a fitness centre, a spa and a business centre.

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Jehan Numa offers all kinds of options with the standard room priced at Rs 5,950 (for two), the suite priced at Rs 8,000 and the Heritage suite priced at Rs 10,000 (taxes extra).Golfing, gymming, swimming facilities are on offer for guests. A day trip to Van Vihar National Park —adjacent to a lake and home to antelopes — is an added attraction.

Jhargram Palace/ Midnapore

Jhargram Palace is located at Jhargram in Midnapore District in West Bengal. The palace which was once owned by the Raja of Jhargram is now run jointly by the West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation and the royal family. It has 10 rooms plus three dormitories on the ground floor (the Malladev family which owns the building lives on the floor above) and they aren’t the last word in luxury. The nearest railway station is Jhargram. The palace is situated on a leafy estate and is pleasant for a weekend getaway from Calcutta. Places to see include the Kanakdurga temple, the Dulung River, and a nearby mini-zoo.

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The rates vary from between Rs 350 for a non-air-conditioned double room to Rs 950 for an air-conditioned double deluxe room. Breakfast and other meals are not included.