A charming hill town, Ooty has been lauded as the capital of the Nilgiris district in Tamil Nadu. A place I call ‘my second home’, it was once colonised by the British and now a historical tourist attraction for travelers from all over the country. When I was a child, it was my favourite pastime to walk along the streets of residential areas trying to spot houses that still retained the old-world charm of typical English buildings. Although such houses have been replaced by more modern structure these days, many of the historical sites remain intact and are well-preserved by the government. Some of the top historical sites that will take you back in time and is considered must-see in Ooty are shared below.
Historical Sites in Ooty
- Nilgiri Mountain Railway: The ultimate train ride of South India
An engineering marvel, Nilgiri Mountain Railway was built by Swiss engineers over a century ago under the British rule. To this day, the heritage train is functional – a commendable task that has earned the train a position in the World Heritage List. I travelled in the train from Mettupalayam to Ooty. During the journey, it unveiled spectacular scenery as it passed through multiple tunnels, over waterfalls, and tea estates. I recommended this experience for anyone who wishes to watch the Blue Mountains in all its glory.
Nilgiri Mountain Railway Toy Train
- St. Stephen’s Church: An abode of peace and tranquility
St. Stephen’s Church was built in 1830’s to fulfill the need for a church in Ooty during the British period. I visited this church during the summer last year. Painted in pale yellow and green, the church stood perfectly in tune with the surrounding vegetation and bright yellow flowers lining the path. I was informed by the security guard that the main beam and timber for making furniture were dismantled and brought from the Tipu Sultan’s palace in Srirangapatna. Inside the church were beautiful stained glass paintings depicting scenes ‘The Lord at the gate of Heaven’, ‘Crucifixion of Christ,’ and many others.
St. Stephen’s Church
- Ootacamund Club: The Gentlemen’s Club since 1830’s
Founded in the 19 century, the Ootacamund Club stands today as the testimony to the culture and traditions of the British. The building has been well-maintained over the years and still displays ‘hunting trophies’ in the large ballroom of the Club. I was awe-struck by the high-quality rosewood furniture, windows with brass fittings, and the high panelled walls. Currently, the club has over 700 members from all over India.
- WelcomHeritage Fernnhills Royale Palace:The ideal heritage retreat
A grand bungalow resembling a Swiss chalet located in the highlands of Ooty is Fernhills Palace. Over the years, the palace has been owned by many prominent personalities and now a heritage hotel managed by the WelcomHeritage group. I consider myself lucky to have experienced the finesse of this historical building by staying two nights in an impressively decorated suite room.
- The Nilgiris Library: Treasure trove of rarest books and journals
Home to 30,000 books and British journals from the 19th century, The Nilgiri Library is a historical building treasured by book lovers in Ooty and across the nation. Built in gothic style, the library is 153 years old and has close to 5,000 books on my favorite topic: travel. It is one of the oldest public libraries in the country. Also, the library hosted its first ever literary festival last year in 2016.
The Nilgiris Library
- Adam’s Fountain: Standing symbol of the long gone past
After considering three different locations, the 19th century Adam’s fountain was finally built at the junction of three roads called the Charring Cross. For me, it is an important landmark to remember routes when I visit the historical monuments by walk. It is an important tourist landmark of Ooty as well.
- Government Arts college (Stone house): A fine example of European Architecture
It is a widely known story that the land where Government Arts College of Ooty stands today was purchased for one rupee from the Toda tribes by John Sullivan, the founder of Ooty. It was nicknamed ‘Stonehouse’ and called Kal Bangala in the local language as the building was constructed mainly of massive stones in colonial style.
The Stone House, Ooty
I have seen that the salubrious climate and scenic mountains of Ooty have always attracted travelers from all over the country. But, the other side of Ooty, its historical side marked by various monuments dating from the 19th century is still unknown. With splendid beauty and rich history, to me, Ooty is unarguably one of the pleasant hill towns to spend your holiday.
Hotels recommendations in Ooty:
Ooty has plenty of hotel options, be it within the city or in the periphery. Some of my favourites are:
- Taj Savoy Hotel, Ooty: Centrally located, this hotel is at a reasonable distance from many tourist attractions such as St.Stephen’s Church, Botanical gardens, and the like.
- Kings Cliff, Ooty: A budget property close to many tourist attractions, this ranks high on value for money.