Ruskin Bond’s home town Landour charms you with its treks and tales
Landour, the quiet cantonment suburb of Mussoorie, is known for its charming walks, age-old structures, and English-style cafes. Here’s a curated guide to Landour, celebrated writer Ruskin Bond’s hometown.
“The best kind of walk, and this applies to the plains as well as to the hills, is the one in which you have no particular destination when you set out.”
These words by one of India’s most beloved authors Ruskin Bond hold true for Landour–a charming cantonment hill town in Uttarakhand that is contiguous with the ever-crowded Mussoorie, also known as the ‘Queen of Hills’.
Named after a village called Llanddowror in South West Wales, Landour is dotted with colonial-era structures shaded by the lush canopies of deodar trees. The oldest structure that whispers secrets of Landour’s antiquity past is Mullingar, a house built in 1825 by Captain Frederick Young, an Irish commandant of the first Gorkha battalion to fight for the British.
It was on one of his hunting expeditions that Captain Young discovered Landour and fell in love with it. In fact, it reminded him of his hometown Mullingar in Ireland, which is what prompted him to give his home the same name.
A few years later, during the Gorkha conquest of Kumaon-Garhwal, Landour turned into a convalescent station for the military when they migrated here from the plains of Dehradun.
It’s fascinating to witness how a steep three-and-a-half kilometre climb from Mussoorie transports you far from the madding crowd to the serene environs of Landour where time continues to stand still.
Landour remains untouched by commercialisation that haunts other hill towns, largely because there are stringent rules around construction of any new structures. Today, it is well-known as the home of its very famous residents, including author Ruskin Bond, actor Victor Banerjee, and filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj.
While there may be only a handful of things to see and do here, Landour is worth a visit.
Explore the Upper Chukkar trail
There is no better way to explore Landour than by foot. The Upper Chukkar trail, a three-kilometre walk, is the perfect introduction to this hill town and forms an infinity or number eight, giving it the name ‘chukkar’.
Take a leisurely walk on the winding roads that are punctuated with deodar trees, stopping every few minutes to admire an old English house or a heritage structure with stunning architecture.
Today, there are several houses with interesting names such as Kenilworth, Scottsburn and Redburn. If you are lucky, a local may invite you home for a cup of tea!
Sip and bite at Char Dukan
As you walk through the Upper Chukkar trail, you will arrive at the village square of Char Dukan, where a cluster of shops (a little more than four) will greet you with activity. These establishments were once known to serve the British in the 1800s.
Trust us, you cannot miss this square where the inviting smell of baked goodies mingles with the aroma of coffee, making you surrender yourself right away!
The most prominent among the shops here is Anil’s Café with a signage that points to its establishment 60 years ago. Former Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar is said to be fond of this place.
Catch a breath and enjoy piping hot paranthas, Maggi, or cheesy toasts paired with their popular ginger honey lemon tea at this café. Try and find a spot indoors if you don’t want monkeys to be your lunch date!
Get charmed by the churches
Since Landour was once inhabited by British soldiers, the hill town has a few magnificent churches and a Christian cemetery.
St Paul’s Church, located near Char Dukan, is an Anglican church that was built in 1839 and first consecrated on May 1, 1840 by Bishop Daniel Wilson of Calcutta. It was managed by military chaplains from 1840 to 1947.
The stained glass windows and wooden interiors of the church, along with special pews to accommodate rifles, are the biggest draws here. Most people come here for the Sunday mass.
The church opens at 10 am every morning and welcomes visitors until 6 pm every evening. It is shut between 1.30 pm and 3 pm for lunch.
There’s also Kellogg Memorial Church, a Presbyterian church that was built in 1903 in the memory of Dr Samuel H Kellogg–an American Presbyterian missionary in India who had a significant role in revising and retranslating the Hindi Bible.
It is much known for its Gothic style architecture boasting of brown stone and stained glass windows.
Interestingly, the church houses one of the oldest Hindi schools of India, the Landour Language School, which is frequented by travellers from all over the world. The centre also takes lessons in Sanskrit, Urdu, Punjabi and Garhwali. To get a glimpse of the church, plan a visit on Sunday as that’s the only day when it opens.
Landour also has a Christian cemetery, which is regarded as the oldest in Mussoorie, dating back to the 1830s. It is believed that British soldiers who were suffering from symptoms of malaria and similar diseases were brought to Landour for healing. But many couldn’t survive the illness and were buried in the cemetery on the north side of the hill.
Savour meals like the English
Finally, indulge in classic delicacies à la the English at Landour Bakehouse and Emily’s at Rokeby Manor, a prominent country estate hotel.
Enter through the sparkling green doors of Landour Bakehouse at Sister’s Bazaar (a few shops named after British nurses who inhabited this area) to immerse yourself in the wafting aroma of pies and pastries and good old coffee, with a side of history.
YS Life recommends the bakehouse’s English madeleine cookies, carrot cake, and tiramisu.
Browse through the selection of books on Mussoorie here and you won’t realise the hours go by.
Emily’s is another restaurant that must make it to your list. Nestled in the striking Rokeby Manor, built in 1840 by Captain GN Cauthy, it will take you back to the colonial times with its refined architecture.
If you get a chance, reserve a meal in Rokeby Manor’s library that is bedecked with tall cabinets, proudly showcasing stacks of books. Its continental offerings– Shepherd’s pie and Chicken Stroganoff, are worth ordering. You could also try Emily’s Uno pizza with smoked chicken. Do yourself a favour and indulge in the sticky toffee pudding that will take you straight to food heaven!
If you have some time in your hands, savour a meal at Doma’s Inn that draws you with not just its Wong Kar-wai interiors but also its selection of Tibetan delicacies like shaptak, shabaley, thukpa, and momos.
Next door is Ruskin Bond’s home, Ivy Cottage. If you are lucky, you may spot him feeding birds or catching a breath by his window.
There’s also Lal Tibba, the highest point in Mussoorie at 2,275 metres, where tourists make a beeline to catch the panoramic views of the valley on one side and the Himalayas on the other.
Another must-visit place is the house of the first Surveyor General of India, Sir George Everest. Built in 1832, the structure is set amid a spectacular location with the Doon Valley on one side and the Aglar river valley on the other.
Lastly, don’t leave Landour without making a stop at A Prakash and Co, a food store at Sister’s Bazaar that opened its doors way back in 1928. Grab a few jars of its famous fresh fruit jams, chutneys, peanut butter, and cheese.
Edited by Swetha Kannan