The small and deliberately undeveloped hill station of RANIKHET, 50km west of Almora, is essentially an army cantonment, the home of the Kumaon Rifles. New construction is confined to the Sadar Bazaar area, while the rest of the town above it, climbing up towards the crest of the hill, retains atmospheric leafy pine woods. Beautiful forest trails abound, including short cuts from the bazaar to the Mall; leopards still roam some of the more remote areas within the town boundaries, despite efforts by army officers to prove their hunting skills.
Ranikhet’s Mall – something of a misnomer, as it’s a quiet road with few buildings apart from officers’ messes – starts just above the town and continues for 3km along the wooded crest of the ridge. Above the Narsingh Stadium Parade Ground, at the very start of the Mall, the KRC Shawl and Tweed Factory, in an old church equipped with looms and wheels, offers the opportunity to watch the weavers in action, a fascinating display of concentration, dexterity and counting. The herringbone and houndstooth tweeds are sold in the shop next door. For a taste of Indian military life, men and women can join the Ranikhet Club, 1km up the Mall, which has a rather fine bar, restaurant and billiards room, and features men with grand moustaches calling each other chaps.