“Queen of Hills”.
Where is Ooty?
The town of Ooty is quite confusingly, also referred to as Udhagamandalam. Located at an altitude of 2,240m above sea level, it is surrounded by trees in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.
Ooty Lake is a huge artificial expanse of water with pleasure boats. On the slopes of Elk Hill is the Rose Garden, home to over 2,000 varieties of roses. The Government Botanical Garden, created in the 19th century, features ferns, orchids, and a prehistoric fossilized tree.
Snooker originated on the billiard tables of the Ootacamund Club, in Ooty. Invented by a British army officer, Neville Chamberlain, who was posted there.
The single-track Nilgiri Mountain Railway, completed in 1908 by the British, is a scenic train on Asia’s steepest railway line to Mettupalayam.
Our journey from Mysore to Ooty was by local bus.
During our time in Ooty, we chose to stay at Sherlock. Designed to resemble London in the late 1800s. Rooms are spacious with a window, although ours didn’t overlook the beautifully manicured gardens. There was an ensuite bathroom with a shower.
The room had an open fire, which was required at night as it was cold. The property also provided hot water bottles at 9 pm. Free WiFi was quite poor and didn’t work in our room.
The refurbished lawns surrounding the property are beautiful and a reminder of home. Sit back relax in the garden and enjoy a cup of tea.
The remoteness of the property means eating in or facing a 15-minute tuk tuk ride up and down the bumpy track to get to town. The restaurant serves a variety of dishes including Indian, Chinese, and Continental together with a buffet-style breakfast.
Places of interest
Nilgiri steam railway
One of the reasons that we went to Ooty was so that we could travel on The Nilgiri Mountain Railway.
A narrow-gauge railway, 1 meter wide, built by the British in 1908. The line is operated by the Southern Railway.
Available online via the Indian railway website. Registration is required prior to being able to purchase any rail tickets. We purchased general allocation tickets, 30 tickets, which go on sale at the station 1 hour before departure.
The full journey from Mettupalayam at the bottom to Ooty at the top leaves Mettupalayam at 0710 hrs and arrives in Ooty at noon. The return from Ooty to Mettupalayam leaves at 1400 hrs and reaches Mettupalayam at 1735 hrs. This is the train that we got, with the general issue tickets costing 75 Rupees each. There are other trains between these times, but these don’t make the full trip.
This railway is the only rack and pinion line in India and is the steepest track in the whole of Asia. The railway uses a fleet of diesel locomotives for the section between Ooty and Coonoor. Switched to a steam locomotive for the section between Coonoor and Mettupalayam.
The first section of the journey, from Ooty to Coonoor is through some quite dense jungle and has few real scenic moments, although the tea plantations are rather spectacular. After the locomotive change at Coonoor, the scenery does change to something rather special, mountainside track, deep gorges, waterfalls, and amazing views are all experienced.
There is a halt at Hill Grove station while the locomotive takes on water.
Unfortunately, the locomotive failed just outside of Hill Grove station, so it was dark before we got going again and we didn’t get to see the view for the remainder of the journey down to Mettupalayam. This didn’t affect our enjoyment of the journey and we would recommend taking this train should you have the opportunity to do so.
A visit to the Homewood tea factory where we watched and learned about the process of making tea from the leaves to the packaged product. A really interesting and informative visit which only cost 10p each.
The boathouse established alongside the lake, which offers boating facilities to tourists, is a major tourist attraction in Ooty. Whilst there we took a 30-minute pedal boat ride around the lake and past the deer park.
A trip up to the top of the mountain to Doddabetta Peak viewpoint. At 2640m it gives wonderful views of the surrounding area.
A lovely walk through the gardens ending the day. The gardens have around a thousand species of shrubs, ferns, trees, herbal, and bonsai plants. Both exotic and indigenous. The garden also has a 20-million-year-old fossilised tree.