Ramgarh was a sudden plan during the monsoon while browsing through my email promotions. My last trip was in April, and my feet were itching to go somewhere. But COVID & the monsoon were the biggest hindrances to cross. However, Neemrana mailed me their monsoon promotion offer that caught my attention while working. And I was all ready for a short vacation to Ramgarh. Why Ramgargh? It has been a British cantonment during the colonial period and is quite famous for its fruit ornament. Being among one of those unknown places in Uttarakhand, I chose to visit it.
Hence I called the Neemrana reservation & got my booking done. However, my mom was sceptical since landslides are high during monsoons in hills. But I was able to convince her, and we got set for our vacation. Since Uttrakhand lifted travel restrictions about special permits and COVID-19 negative certificates. Hence I got my & mom’s Covid test done as we had taken, only one dose of injection. Next, I registered to get an ePass from the Dehradun Smart City website before travelling. Also, at Neemrana Bungalow, I had to submit my COVID test result along with my IDs.
The next day was beautiful, as the sky was like a dome of plasma blue. And the clouds looked like airy anvils drifting under the gleaming disc of the sun. We started around 7 am from Gurgaon, as the distance we had to cover was 357km, a drive of 7 hrs 45min approx. We were lucky to get minimum traffic; hence took a minor halt to reach our destination. Ramgarh is a small hill-town that lies in the folds of the Kumaon hills. The town is divided into Malla (the upper section) and Talla (the lower), and the Neemrana bungalows are located in Malla Ramgarh.
It was a bright sunny day, and travelling through the thickly forested hillsides and babbling brooks was serene. We finally got to Ramgargh around 4.30 pm. And I was awestruck looking at the beautiful cottage with a green lush flowering garden. The peace and purity in the air just elevated my soul. And interestingly me & mom were the only lodger, so no noise at all. I was pretty happy since I needed this solitude. I checked in & freshened up; by then, my tea & freshly baked cookies also arrived. Sitting on the verandah of the cottage, I sipped my tea & enjoyed the overlooking valley. The feathery clouds descending slowly over the green valley, covering it under its white sheet, was a beautiful event to watch.
Later I took a walk around the cottage; Ramgarh Bungalow dates back to the 19th century, situated in the foothills of the Himalayas. I was staying in the Writer’s Bungalow that dates back to 1860. Once housed by the Britishers, these heritage structures later were used by the Indian officers. The Ramgarh Bungalows has six different bungalows for tourists- The Old Bungalow, The Writers’ Bungalow, Ashok Vatika, Cliff House, Vista Villa, Rose Cottage. The Old Bungalow dates back to 1830, while the Ashok Vatika was a guest house for visitors, and the Cliff House is a designer’s delight. On the other hand, Vista Villa opens up to the breathtaking views of the valley and Rose Cottage, with its private terrace, which is ideal for a cosy hideaway.
If I have to talk about the Writer’s Bungalow, I was smitten instantly when I saw the photographs over the internet. And secondly, I absolutely love Neemrana‘s quaint ‘non-hotel” hotels and heritage spaces. A cluster of charming colonial cottages tucked away in a quiet corner of the Kumaon region. These refurbished colonial Bungalows served as Dak Bungalows, guesthouses for the British, and a gatehouse and a cowshed. Interestingly, this iconic property was also once housed by Rabindranath Tagore. He stayed here for quite some time with his daughter.
I stayed in the Butterfly suite with bay windows, verandahs, and terraced gardens to enjoy the company of birdlife and butterflies. It was a quaint & gorgeous room with a double bed & seating with a bay window. It has an adjoining room with a single bed, an attached bathroom along a back door leading to the dining room. Further, the room was adorned with cutesy artwork, rustic-finish walls and a fireplace to add the old-world charm. In true Neemrana tradition, each room is differently designed and has its own charm.
I spent the evening at leisure; I had an early dinner at the Bungalow and then bedded. The morning was tranquil, as the serrated valley loomed in the distance, and the silence that followed was spine chilling. After our morning tea, we went for a short stroll to reconnect our legs to our planet. I wanted to visit the other properties of Ramgarh Bungalows but could not as there was a movie shooting going on. Hence walked around the area, heaved my chest and took all the oxygen back into my lungs.
Since our breakfast & dinner were included in the stay, therefore had a wholesome, hearty indulgence. Later we decided to visit Mukteshwar; my mom wanted to revisit the Shiva temple. As we drove towards Muketswar, looking around the surrounding, I realized Ramgarh, concealed within the bosom of the Himalayas, is the perfect get-away to sate your wanderlust. As the car picked speed, it began as a whispering in the air, with the sky as a dome of plasma-blue saying enjoy your vacation.
Mukteshwar is a sleepy hamlet surrounded by thick and dense forests of coniferous trees and fruit orchards. It was previously named as Muktesar as cities in Jim Corbett’s book ‘The temple tiger’. The name changed in 1947 and was renamed Mukteshwar. Legend states Lord Shiva had a fierce battle with a demon at Mukteshwar, who was annihilated. Later, Lord Shiva gifted him the boon of salvation or ‘Mukti ‘. Therefore, this got its name from a 350 years old Shiva temple.
It was an hour drive from the Bungalows; I stared out of the window, looking at the fragile sky pellucid-blue in colour. And the clouds are frail, and angel-white carrying light and ruffling breeze. We drove through the untouched natural beauty of dense pine forest. The air is so calm that it pervades the city. Suddenly a misty rain fell on my cheeks; the dew felt like warm butter melting on a face. The sky turned tar-black, with large clouds were moving towards me. There was a tap on the window, and then it became a pitter-patter. I heard the murmuring of the rain through the window and o the roofs of the cars. Eventually, the noise deadened, and the drops faded into a musical chime. And we also reached the temple.
We parked the car and took the winding path of stone stairs to reach the temple. Dedicated to Lord Shiva – the Supreme Hindu deity, this temple enshrines a white marble Shiva Linga with a copper yoni. For years, this temple has been a significant shrine for Agaries – an iron ore miner community and people from the Maheshwar sect. This temple has been mentioned as one of the 18 important Shiva temples in Hindu scriptures.
The shrine’s architecture is simple, with a flight of stone stairs that lead devotees to the main shrine. Apart from the sacred Shiva Lingam, it houses idols of various other deities like Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and consort of Lord Shiva.” After offering my prayers, I sat for a while to soak in the purity & calmness of the place.
Mukteshwar Temple has a picture-perfect setting, which makes it an ideal haunt for nature and photography lovers. The natural landscape around the temple is impressive, as I could see the valley lush & green. Since it was cloudy, I could not see the snow-capped Himalayas.
Further ahead of the Temple is Chauli ki Jaali, the highest point to sit and chill. The entire Kumaon valley 270-degree view can be seen from Chauli ki Jaali, a natural latticework on the rock. It is the perfect spot for the famed mountain sunsets spotted on Trishul, Nanda Devi, Nanda Kot and Panchachuli. But due to cloudy weather, I could not catch the sunset.
Spending an hour at the temple & Chauli ki Jaali, we drove back to the Bungalows; on the way, we stopped by Kilmore shop. It’s a unique shop to buy local handicraft souvenirs made from locally sourced material. I purchased some woollen wear & handmade soaps.
It was late afternoon, and I was hungry, so I stopped by the roadside restaurant to eat Kumaon delicacy. I ordered Kumaon Thali, which comprised- Bhatt Ki Churkhani, Dhubuk, Pahadi Kheere Ka Raita, Thechwani, Aloo Ke Gutke, Chainsoo, Mandua Ki roti & Rice.
The food was simple, yet delicious with a very different taste & cooking style. After a sumptuous lunch, we drove towards the Methodist Church, is hidden church set amid cedar trees built about 100 years ago. This structure was beautiful in red and white with lovely stained windows and a steeple bell. The church opens only on Sundays. Hence I just clicked some pictures from outside & took a walk around the area.
By the time we reached the Bungalows, it was our tea time; I chit-chatted with the Neemrana staff. While sipping tea, I heard them stating restoration of these properties was not an easy job. The Bungalows condition was dilapidated but keen on conversing the past, hence choosing to restore the place’s implicit charm. Thus the restoration work first started on the Writer’s Bungalow, as it was better than the Old Bungalow.
I came out in the verandah and decided to take a walk on the lawn before dinner. My mom accompanied me, open sky with sparkling stars, the lovely cool breeze, and silence. The sound I could hear was the twigs crackling underfoot, or unless we spoke. The lawn air was filled in with the sweet smell of the blooming flowers. There was nothing except peace and wilderness all around. It was magical. By 8 pm, our dinner was served; hence I had to pause my walk. The night was quiet, and I could only hear the sound of crickets & a few night birds. Before I drifted to sleep, I heard thunderstorms & rain on my window.
It was my third day in Ramgargh & I finally woke with a mesmerizing sunrise. A gleaming sun, rising across the valley shedding its golden light over the clouds, is a mystical watch while sipping tea.
Today’s breakfast spread was a rich continental breakfast associated with Upma, fresh juice, Jams from their orchards. Even I ordered two bottles of jam & cookies to take back home.
While eating my breakfast, I felt, at times, doing nothing was also something. Wandering through villages pathways or in the orchards laden with fruits is unburdening oneself from the daily chaos. And being away from the pressured lifestyle and polluted metros is in itself a great feeling.
Hence I drove to Tagore top to relive the memories of the great Rabindra Nath Tagore. Later I visited the Mahadevi Verma Museum, one of the greatest exponents in Hindi literature.
Later, we drove to Nathuakhan, a quaint postcard-perfect village at a 20min driveable distance from the Bungalows. The drive was picturesque through the pine trees, a river flowing along.
It was a 20min drive to the village when I saw the vast stretches of the lush green valley with the Nanda Ghunti and Chaukhamba peaks gleaming in the sun. What a marvellous view! I just stopped to soak in the beauty of the snow-capped mountains. I sat down at the nearby tea shop to fill my lungs with the fresh air and eyes with the greenery around.
While driving back, the weather changed suddenly, clouds floated over me, and it drizzled along the way till we reached the Bungalows. If you wish to disconnect and connect with your inner being, then Nathuakhan is the place to be.
On our way, we stopped by the apple orchards. I was delighted to see the tree laden with apples & pears. It was like a dream to see apples & pears hanging on the branch. The best part of the cloudy afternoon is spent feasting on these beauties. Peaches, plums, apples, pears, apricots, and cherries orchards abound in acres in Ramgarh. In the village, I learned that Ramgarh is the supplier of all these fruits across India, hence called the ‘Fruit Bowl’ of Kumaon.
I asked the orchard owner to pack small wooden boxes of apples & pears. I also drank fresh apple juice; it was yum!. I sped up my pace as the postcard-perfect was changing. Clouds began to gather in the sky. making beautiful cocktail-blue shade darken into gravel-grey. The whole day sun played hide & seek in with the clouds. Despite the changing weather, we finally reached Bungalow. And enjoyed the rain sitting in my verandah with a hot cup of tea.
It was my last night; hence the staff at Neemrana served us continental for dinner. The food was delicious & by large in portion for us. After an adventurous day, the night was harmonious. I went to bed early since the next day was a long travel. I woke by 7 am, had a quick shower & heavy breakfast. It was time to leave the tranquillity & walk back into the chaos.
We drove to Bhawoli first since there was only one petrol pump in the vicinity. Finally, it was time to depart, so I bought a few plants from a nearby nursery as a souvenir. Looking out at the rain while driving back, I felt deep within that the sound of rain needs no translation.
How to Reach.
The nearest airport is Pantnagar, approximately 76 km away from the central city. At the airport, hire taxis or cabs to reach the city.
At a distance of 45Km Kathgodam is the nearest railway station to Ramgarh. Kathgodam connects well with all the cities in India. You need to hire private cabs or take a shared taxi from the station to reach Ramgarh.
Ramgarh is well-connected via road with Norther India & other closeby Kumaon cities. Buses, private cabs, shared taxis ply to Ramgargh from these places. You can also take a private cab or a shared taxi. You can Opt to drive too.