27-06-2021 by Freddie del Curatolo
Kenya is full of fantastic places, but some of them are also unique.
One of these is undoubtedly Grogan's Castle in Taveta.
Imagine being in a historic early 20th-century English building perched on a hill overlooking miles and miles of green Africa, enjoying a 360-degree panorama that includes Kilimanjaro, Tanzania's Pare and Meru mountain ranges, Lake Jipe and Tsavo West.
But also to stay in rooms that retain the atmosphere of colonial Kenya, to be inside a conservancy that protects more than 300 wild animals, and to feel pampered by a boutique hotel, overlooking the cool infinity pool and enjoying a comprehensive menu in the excellent restaurant, with special cocktails prepared by the in-house barman and...an American-style pancake that alone is worth the start of the day.
You wouldn't believe that such an incredible place could exist in East Africa, but when you hear the legendary story of who thought it up and built it, and the equally interesting story of who transformed it while keeping the myth intact, you'll understand!
In 1900, the young Briton Ewart Grogan, a former Cambridge student, decided to cross the entire African continent on foot for the love of a woman: from Cape Town to Cairo.
Only in this way will the parents of his beloved Gertrude grant him their daughter's hand in marriage.
Grogan encountered wild animals, cannibal tribes, unknown tropical fevers and many other adventures on his way, which he wrote about in his diary "From Cape to Cairo, the first traverse of Africa from south to north".
Grogan succeded, married Gertrude and lived with her for over 40 years in Kenya until her untimely death, in whose memory he built and named Gertrude's Garden Children Hospital in Nairobi, one of the country's first specialist health facilities, which is still in operation today.
But the works of the eccentric Londoner do not end there: Grogan designed and built the current port of Mombasa, owned hotels, coffee plantations and the Standard newspaper.
In 1930, he built Grogan's Castle in one of his favourite areas, between Nairobi, Mombasa and Tanzania. He intended the castle to be the spearhead of an immense agricultural area, for which he set up a futuristic irrigation system. But the British Empire did not support him and Grogan went ahead by his own means, sleeping in his fortress in a small open-air bed on the terrace, protected only by mosquito nets.
Today that tabernacle, intact, is part of the suite of the boutique hotel run by Basil Criticos and his wife Barbara. After the death of the explorer and entrepreneur in 1967, the castle in which he had lived during the last years of his glorious life slowly fell into disrepair, and it was thanks to another extraordinary personage, the Kenyan of Greek origin Basil Criticos, a former member of parliament and farmer who was in love with Taveta, that today it is once again reviving its ancient splendour and allowing guests to enjoy it.
Completely restored in the spirit of the past, equipped with every modern comfort (wi-fi, air conditioning, as well as a spectacular swimming pool carved out of the rock with a sill overlooking Africa), Grogan's Castle has seven suites plus the special one (Ewart Grogan's original room), which still have their original furniture and are all different from each other. The enviable location does the rest, and the unspoilt nature at the foot of the hill is a perfect immersion in total relaxation and at the same time in the breath of history that is cloaked in adventure, splendour but also tragedy and pain, in pure African style: a few kilometres from Grogan's, during the First World War, one of the bloodiest battles between Her Majesty's army and the German army took place. Between the not-to-be-missed excursion to the virgin mirror of Lake Jipe, to Tsavo West Park and to the volcanic Lake Chala (but also on the 'home safari' of the Grogan's reserve), Taveta is also home to the only cemetery in Africa where the fallen of two enemy nations are buried together.
At Grogan's Castle, surrounded by nature and peace, breathing in more than a century of history and enjoying excellent service, you can spend moments that will be difficult to forget, at prices that are decidedly affordable for the uniqueness of the stay.
For information: email@example.com
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