A few meters from the entrance to Aberdare National Park, in Nyeri is the Treetops Hotel, the very place where Britain’s longest-serving monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, ascended the throne in 1952.
The hotel which was built by British hotelier, Sir Eric Sherbrooke Walker in 1932, was initially a wildlife viewing station, but after 1952 it gained popularity as a place where elderly Elizabeth 25, went to bed as a princess and woke up as a queen. Elizabeth II, after the death of her father, King George VI.
The three-bedroom house was originally built on top of a Mugumo tree and provided a good vantage point for guests to observe the big five that frequented the water pond and natural salt pan at the base of the treehouse.
Two years later, in 1954, Mau Mau freedom fighters would raze the initial treehouse on suspicion that it was being used as a sniper base by British soldiers.
The destruction only paved the way for the construction of the current picturesque three-storey hotel, which houses 48 accommodation rooms.
The new establishment borrowed heavily from the initial treehouse, in that it was still built on top of trees and parts of branches formed part of the pilings that supported it.
Surprisingly, only two suites have private shower rooms, one of them being the one called “Princess Elizabeth Suite”, for the other 46 rooms the bathrooms are a common affair.
The dining experience is also a communal affair and includes long Victorian-style dining tables that allow guests to interact. This is in addition to a lounge and bar adorned with elephant tasks which were given to Sir Eric Walker. The living room offers close-up views of the waterhole from the second floor.
In the hallway leading to the bedrooms, framed photos of wildlife sightings at night, postcards, notes of appreciation and photographs of Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip and other visiting royals the establishment. After her coronation in 1953, the Queen visited the hotel again in 1959 and 1983.
The most notable setting is a handwritten wildlife sighting recorded the night the Queen and Prince spent at the hotel on the night of February 5, 1952.
The frame reads: “Animals seen…Elephants about 40. Waterbucks (many) and a fight broke out on the steps,” read the opening sentences.
“Herds of elephants (about 50), rhinos all night…in the morning two bulls fight,” continues the parchment signed by Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip.
Unfortunately, the iconic hotel closed in 2020 after the outbreak of Covid-19 and has yet to recover from the ravages of the pandemic.
When visited by KNA in June this year, much of the 98-year-old establishment was still in its pristine condition and the water trough provided a mud bath and watering hole for buffaloes and waterbucks. who still frequent the hotel without worrying about their place. in history.
By Wangari Mwangi and Kiama Wamutitu