Monday, 24 November 2014

As you can tell from my posts since coming back from Sri Lanka, I had an amazing holiday.

This was in part due to being away with the loved one, but was also largely due to our choice of hotel.

We had originally toyed with travelling down the coast and staying in a couple of hotels, however in the end we took a punt on The Fortress hotel, as it not only looked gorgeous from the website but also because it came with rave reviews on Trip Advisor.

We arrived at the Fortress at around midday, after a long drive from Colombo. 

We pulled up at the huge gates, and the valet immediately came over to help us into the hotel with our bags, before parking the car for us. We were led to a seating area in reception by warm, smiling staff, and yet more smiling staff brought us cups of deliciously refreshing mocktails with a hint of ginger, called the 'Fortress Secret' cocktail. We were also brought beautifully fragrant cold flannels, which were so welcome after the flight and the drive. 

Freshened up, our documents were processed for check in, and we sat and read our books until our room was ready.

One thing I liked about the hotel was that everything was open. As you can see from the below picture, once you are through the front gates of The Fortress, everything is open plan. The reception area can be seen in the centre of the photo, and the seating areas look out over the infinity pool and ocean. It certainly makes for a beautiful view upon arrival.

We were led up to our room by a lovely member of the reception team. 

When she opened the door, we were met with the most amazing warm, spiced fruit scent. I later discovered that after the rooms have been cleaned, a candle is lit in the bathroom under an oil burner, hidden below the sink, creating the most wonderful aroma. Iv never been in a hotel room that smells as good as ours did.

The room was beautiful, and kitted out with a DVD player and Bose sound system, which we were shown how to use (Matt was on DVD duty, I just nodded along politely!)

The bed was enormous and decorated simply with a flower. Everyday after breakfast, we would come back to an array of beautiful petals laid out on the bed artistically in hearts, or flower patterns.

I have to add, this was the comfiest bed I have ever slept in, in my entire life.

Through a doorless archway, the bedroom opens out into an enormous bathroom. The biggest shower I have ever seen dominated the right hand wall, and the left wall was lined with his and hers sinks, and a huge free standing bath tub.

Every day, we were given fresh towels (and I'm talking proper, full size bath towels. Iv stayed at hotels with pathetic tiny towels before, but these were the real deal!), and stocked up with Pecksniff's products.

What I will say about the bathroom, was that you have absolutely no privacy whatsoever. If you and you're bed neighbour aren't entirely comfortable with each other, I'm not sure this is the hotel for you. 
Everything is open plan, there is no door separating the bedroom from the bathroom, and the toilet is only cornered off by a glass door. Not one for the shy folk!

The only real negative to the room was the view. We stayed in a Fortress Room, which the website states has a 'garden view'. Don't be fooled into thinking from the website photos that your garden view might be this:

No, no, no. In actual fact, it is this:

A wall. With a tree.

But it really didn't matter at all. It gave me and my mum a bit of a laugh when I Facetimed her to show her my 'magnificent view', and it had absolutely no negative impact on our holiday whatsoever.

If your budget allows it, I would recommend the Ocean View rooms, or the Beach rooms, both of which face out to sea.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served at Pepper. This is a lovely open sided restaurant that looks out over the pool and the ocean.

So many hotels have a canteen feel about them, but here you are always dining outside, although you are under shelter if it does rain.

The breakfast buffet has plenty on offer: fresh fruits, fresh yogurts, home made jams, pastries, fresh scones, eggs, cooked breakfast, curry (for those who can manage it for breakfast!), pancakes, etc etc.

Lunch and dinner follow the same A La Carte menu, which is quite extensive with meals to suit a variety of tastes. The menu changes slightly every single day, and on most evenings there is a themed buffet to choose from. We experienced the Sri Lankan buffet, Indian buffet, seafood buffet and BBQ buffet all whilst we were there for one week.

All of the food is beautifully presented, and the portions are huge.

We didn't have one disappointing meal.

There is very little around the hotel by way of alternative restauraunts to eat at, so I think this hotel cater to this fact incredibly well, by offering a delicious variety of meals, in such a beautiful setting.

Everywhere is spotless, and the grounds are kept looking lovely. The pool area is vast, and there are plenty of sunloungers. A pool attendant pops over as soon as you've picked your bed, to tuck fresh towels in around the cushion to make you comfortable.

The hotel also has direct access to the beach. Directly outside the hotel there isn't much by way of beach but it quickly opens up into an endless expanse of golden sand. The waves are pretty rough so this is a great area for surfing.

If you feel like you are in need of a little pampering, the Fortress have a lovely spa and it is SO reasonable. We indulged in the Couples Massage, which was nearly two hours long, and was amazing. I would highly recommend a treatment at the spa. The spa staff also come around the pool area to tell you about their daily spa offers, so some days you can wangle yourself a spur of the moment discounted treatment.

The staff at The Fortress are always smiling. Literally, always. From the reception team, to the restauraunt staff, to housekeeping, to the pool attendants, I have never stayed at a hotel before where you are constantly met with smiles by whoever you see throughout the day. 

It really helps to create a good holiday mood, and we certainly felt very welcome.

Whilst the hotel has direct acces to the beach, I must admit I didn't think there was too much around in terms of things to see and do. Ours was mostly a relaxing holiday so we were happy to spend our days by the pool, and walking along the beach, but it would have been nice if there had been a couple more options. 

A drive half an hour in either direction didn't reveal too much, however I would recommend a trip to Galle Fort, and a visit to Mamas Rooftop cafe for some delicious home cooked food. 

The hotel also have a notice board informing guests about the trips that they run. We booked our elephant safari trip through the hotel and it was fantastic.

This hotel isn't a beach club/kids club kind of hotel by any means. It isn't really a hotel for children at all, I didn't see one whilst we were there.

There is a small (but very well stocked!) bar in the restaurant, who knock up delicious cocktails, and every day between 6pm and 7pm they have a happy hour.

The hotel instead showcase the culture of the country by inviting artists to set up their paintings, or their lace creations, so that guests can view and purchase if they so wish.

One evening, we were invited to a management cocktail hour, where we could meet some of the staff properly over a cocktail, and then we were treated to some cultural dancing with drummers and fire eaters. My camera didn't capture this well at all, but it was very impressive!

The Fortress is beautiful. It was expensive, but well worth it in my humble opinion! We drove past several other hotels in the area and none looked nearly as lovely as ours. If I was visiting Sri Lanka in the future, I would definitely stay at The Fortress again. It is no wonder they were awarded Best Luxury Hotel awards two years running, in 2011 and 2012, as it really is very luxurious.

It is rated as a 4* hotel but I feel it has elements, in particular the rooms, that outshine many of the 5* hotels I have visited before.

This is very much a relaxing getaway for couples, so if this is what you are after, then The Fortress is for you.

You can visit their website for more info.

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