Now, before you get any ideas, let me tell you that the path to this award-winning hotel in the Landour Cantonment area in Mussoorie is certainly not rocky at all. Instead, rocky would refer to (pun intended) the hair-raising, nerve chilling experience we had, while on our way to this place. Not for the faint-hearted, but read on!
There are always going to be some things that you want to do no matter what. Some things that you plan to do eventually. Some things when you are really close to doing them, you actually want to take an about turn and disappear. And that’s exactly how I felt when I was just ten minutes away from this beautiful hotel in the steep mountains of a captivating hill station.
Visiting Rokeby Manor has been on my wishlist for quite some time now and though I have been to Mussoorie many many times, this just never happened. So, here I was with my family of two boys and the husband on our way to a ‘castle’ as my boys decided to call this English style manor, ever since I told them all about its history and significance.
We had reached halfway up the steep climb when our car got stuck in between two big cars, both at the back and front. Now, this is a common situation in mountainous terrain, even at 7500 above sea level and if you’re a mountain- raised child like me…it’s no big deal. But yes, it is decidedly dangerous when the car in front of you surges ahead in gallops like a horse because the clutch isn’t working.
So when there’s no space to go behind because there’s a car queue and none in front because there’s a car queue there as well… it’s a between the devil and deep sea situation. Not very palatable at all. From the edge of the driver’s seat, all I could see was an endless mouth gaping valley waiting to swallow anyone who made a wrong move and a deadlock situation that continued for almost an hour.
Seriously folks, any of you, who want to visit Rokeby, be warned of this. It’s a peculiar situation that makes absolutely no sense! Stuck as we were, too scared to make a wrong move, given that there were thinly lined barriers that separated us and the valley below, this can be so very scary. And perhaps this was the most defining moment of my trip to the hills this time, warning me of not being taken up with any must-visit places where basic amenities like good roads, don’t exist! Either park your cars below you start up this hilly road or walk it up, as most people seemed t be doing. For us, with two small kids, this just wasn’t possible so we drove.
Many stones later, well… the ones that were placed in front of the car whose clutch wasn’t working and the good-natured people who came to help us out…we finally got out of this mess. Finally, we were there. But alas, our woes didn’t end! It, being a Saturday, it was as if the whole world and its cousins had descended on this place. There was no place to park and it was sheer madness to see hordes and hordes of people smilingly make their way up the gates, much to the chagrin of the gatekeeper who told everybody that they were bursting at the seams.
We actually had to toss a coin to see whether we should venture into the hotel and see if it was worth waiting an hour or even more to get a table there or should we scoot. But the journey to return was even more daunting so we decided to stick on. Having kids with you at such times can be a bonus so we were ushered inside, probably because they were creating such a ruckus and finally, wonder of wonders we even managed a table, to many waiting, hateful glances.
Emily’s, the cute place there, has an English tea-room type decor, with the attached Wilson bar that has a lot of bookshelves making drinking and reading an interesting proposition. It probably has about 40 covers or so…I wasn’t counting at that point and a single terrace with two tables there. Now, if you ask me, what’s really the big deal about Rockeby Manor? I would say, other than it being a British style big bungalow ( I have a weakness for all things British; blame it on my British principals in my school who ingrained in me a love of anything British; food, TV shows, movies, people, actors, actresses, houses, mansions, parlours; you name it..I go weak in the knees) that was astoundingly charming with the wooden structure refurbished by the Mars group to make it more modern and the stunning, stunning view from the top, that’s really all about it.
The ambience is comforting and yet since it is small, it gets crowded after a point. You are kind of locked into your chair and your table here and too much movement can mean, you bump into the servers here and their trays of food. So, just sit tight! The food is more or less average. In fact, the continental food in the United Coffee House in Connaught Place in Delhi scores much better, I feel. Still, when you’ve had a horrendous journey climbing to the top and after much heartburn finally get a place to sit, you have to grateful for mall mercies so we dug into out the Chicken Stroganoff that was a tad too salty, the Chicken burgers could have made the cut but the patty inside failed it.
The Fish and Chips, however, saved the day; I don’t think you can go wrong with something basic like this. Add to that, some very excellent coffee at the terrace where we finally got to sit and some good, service from the hospitable guys here and we were much mollified. Strictly no smoking rules apply at the restaurant unless you want to go down to the car park and puff away. So, in a nutshell, what you come to Rokeby for is the majestic view of the valley and town area below; the slow-starting fog that follows you around as you sip your coffee and good, honest, unpretentious service.
In the end, as my younger one put it, “Mum, though we loved it, we did go to a whole lot of trouble just to see a silly old castle!’ Point taken!
INFO & HISTORY: Rokeby Manor, a luxury hotel in the heart of Landour, is situated at 7500 feet. In 1840, Captain G.N. Cauthy purchased a 2-acre patch in the quiet hills of Landour and built a grand mansion. He named it after a book-length poem of Sir Walter Scott which describes heroic battles fought near Rokeby Castle in England. After completion, the bungalow was passed onto Lt. Col. Reilly, who mortgaged Rokeby and Ralston – his lavish Mussoorie estate – for Rs.25,000 to controversial adventurer Fredrick ‘Pahari’ Wilson. After the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny, Wilson deserted the British army, came to Garhwal and married a local lady at Harsil. Later, Wilson’s son Henry sold it. It changed hands many times until the present, where it is managed by the Mars Group.