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Where British Queen lived before taking the throne

A few metres from the entrance of the Aberdare National Park, in Nyeri is where you find the Treetops Hotel, the very place that Britain’s longest serving monarch, Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne in 1952.

The hotel which was built by British hotelier, Sir Eric Sherbrooke Walker in 1932, was first a wildlife viewing station but after 1952, it gained popularity as the place where the 25-year-old Elizabeth went to bed a princess and woke up as Queen Elizabeth II, following the death of her father, King George VI.

The two elephant tasks that form part of the Treetops Hotel architecture. The three deck hotel is built on trees, some of the tree branches that support the structure can be seen protruding in the hallways. Photo by Wangari Mwangi

The three-bedroom house was initially built on top of a Mugumo tree and it offered a conducive viewing point for guests to watch the big five that frequented the water pan and the natural saltlick situated at the foot of the tree house.

Two years later in 1954, Mau Mau freedom fighters would raze down the initial treehouse on suspicion that it was used as a sniper base by British soldiers.

The destruction only paved way for the construction of the current picturesque, three-deck hotel, which houses 48 accommodation rooms.

The new establishment borrowed a lot from the initial tree house, in that it was still built on top of trees and that parts of the branches formed part of the stilts that support it.

Surprisingly, only two suites have private shower rooms, one of them being the one christened “Princess Elizabeth Suite”, for the other 46 rooms bathrooms are a communal affair.

The dining experience is also a communal affair and it features long Victorian style dining room tables that allows guests to interact. This is in addition to a lounge and bar decked with elephant tasks that were donated to Sir Eric Walker. The lounge offers a near-close up view of the water point from the second floor.

On the corridor leading to the rooms are framed pictures of wildlife sightings at night, postcards, appreciation notes and photographs of Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip and other members of the Royal family visits to the establishment. After her coronation in 1953, the Queen visited the hotel again in 1959 and 1983.

The most notable frame is a handwritten wildlife sighting recorded the night the Queen and the Prince spent at the hotel on the night of February 5,1952.

From the frame the following can be read: “Animals seen…Elephants about 40. Waterbucks(many) and a fighting broke out in the steps,” reads the first few sentences.

“Herds of elephants (about 50), Rhinos all night…in the morning two bulls fighting,” continues the scroll which was signed off by Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

Sadly, though, the iconic hotel shut its doors in 2020 after the outbreak of the Covid-19 and is yet to recover from the ravages of the pandemic.

During a visit by KNA in June this year, much of the 98-year-old establishment was still in its pristine state and the watering hole provided a mud bath and watering point for the buffalos and waterbucks that still frequent the hotel oblivious of its place in history.

By Wangari Mwangi and Kiama Wamutitu

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