One of the most spectacularly situated of all Sri Lankan towns, HAPUTALE (pronounced “ha-poo-tah-lay”) is perched dramatically on the crest of a ridge at the southern edge of the hill country with bird’s-eye views in both directions – south to the plains and coast, and inland across the jagged lines of peaks receding away to the north. The town itself is a busy but fairly humdrum little commercial centre with a mainly Tamil population, though the mist that frequently blankets the place adds a pleasingly mysterious touch to the workaday shops that fill the centre.
As with Ella, the principal pleasure of a stay in Haputale is the chance to get out and walk in the surrounding hills – most notably up to (or down from) the magnificent viewpoint at Lipton’s Seat. Specific sights around town include the tea factory at Dambatenne, the evocative old country mansion of Adisham and the impressive Diyaluma Falls. The major drawback to Haputale is the weather, exacerbated by its exposed position. The marvellous views usually disappear into mist by midday, while the town receives regular afternoon showers of varying severity for much of the year – September to December is the wettest period.
Views excepted, Haputale has little to detain you. The town comprises a small but lively mishmash of functional concrete shops and cafés, while a small fruit and vegetable market straggles along the approach to the train station, offering the slightly surreal sight of crowds of loquacious Tamil locals in saris and woolly hats haggling over piles of very English-looking vegetables.
Sadly little remains of Haputale’s Victorian past. The principal memento is St Andrew’s, a simple neo-Gothic barn of a building with a homely wooden interior which lies just north of the town centre along the main road to Bandarawela. The churchyard is full of memorials to nineteenth-century tea planters, along with the grave of Reverend Walter Stanley Senior (1876–1938), author of the once-famous Ode to Lanka, Victorian Ceylon’s great contribution to world literature.