Tafaria Castle and Country Lodge is a unique holiday destination in the central highlands of Kenya.
George Tafaria Waititu and his wife Eunice chose the gently rolling hillsides of sheep and dairy farms as the location for the hotel.
Tafaria opened in 2012. Waititu says he was fascinated by the architecture of European castles as a child, so he designed a hotel that looks like one.
We drove up a paved driveway to the front of a sandy-brown castle with rounded tower corners. The staff welcomed us with a refreshing glass of apple juice.
From the hotel you can see the Aberdares range in the west and, on a clear morning, the summit of Mt Kenya in the east. Artwork and sculptures around the gardens are by top Kenyan artists such as Bertiers, Longinos Nagila and Kevin Oduor.
The hotel has medieval fixtures such as a crenelated roof, chariot seats at the check-in desk, ancient motifs embedded in the floor, a dungeon room for late evening entertainment, and a Roman-type outdoor amphitheatre for events.
A huge crown hangs over the large wooden doors that lead into the reception area, which has a mish-mash of décor with different coloured sofas that do not quite blend. It seems as though insufficient thought went into merging the styles of furniture and fixtures.
After a hassle-free check-in, we were led down flagstone pathways to our rooms. The exteriors of the 48 rooms are designed in different styles with names from the middle ages.
The Knights Quarters look like mini-castles, the Viking’s Quarters are tented rooms, and the Lord’s Court on the upper floor of the castle is reserved for VIP guests. I stayed in a Damsel Room that resembles a small town home fitted with modern amenities, as are all the other rooms. This region gets cold at night, so the hot water bottles in the beds were welcome; some of the larger rooms have fireplaces.
The lights along the pathways are shaped like the mushrooms that sprout overnight when it rains. However, a number of walkways had no lights, and neither does the periphery fence, so one had to be careful walking around at night.
A colourful outdoor gym, an imitation of similar facilities found in European parks in the summer, was more popular with children than grown-ups. I did n