Grogan’s Castle, a white and red mansion on an isolated hill rising from the plain, deserves a little detour on the way to Lake Jipe. This extraordinary residence was built during World War II by Ewart Grogan, one of the most influential early colonists. His mixed reputation was founded on a walk from the Cape to Cairo, which he undertook in 1898, on a notorious public flogging that he carried out on three of his servants (nearly killing one of them), and on his wealth: his status was such that he was able to dictate terms to the governor of Kenya before he even arrived in the colony, and at the peak of his prosperity his holdings extended to more than 2500 square kilometres.
The “castle”, which Grogan hoped would become a government agricultural training school (it never did), was run-down for decades, during which time it provided roosts for birds, bats and insects, but in 2010 the current owner, the high-profile former Taveta MP, Basil Criticos, opened it as a quirky hotel. It’s an enigmatic building, part hacienda, part folly, with huge arched windows. The enormous circular main lounge gives spectacular 360-degree views out towards Kilimanjaro to the north, the Pare Mountains to the southwest and Lake Jipe to the south. It’s a completely unique place, where you can share the sheer exuberance of Grogan’s vision – and even sleep in his room (Room 1) and use his claw-foot bath.