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Horton Plains National Park

Hotron plains was declared a park in 1998 and consists of 3,159.8 hectares. It gives access to the sheer drop known as World’s End with its spectacular view (on clear days) over the distant hills and valleys to the south coast. The best time to visit is from October to April.

Planter Thomas Farr ‘discovered’ these plains and named the area after Sir Wilmot Horton, the then Btitish governor (1831-37). What became Farr Inn was the planter’s hunting lodge and then a resthouse, even though it could only be reached by foot. In 1999 it ceased to be a resthouse and is set to re-open as a visitor information centre.

The sweeping plains are reminiscent of the grouse moors of Scotland. It is not hard to see why the British fell in love with place. Interspersed amongst the plains are big pockets of elfin forest, with a characteristic stunted and windswept look. The trees are encrusted with lichens, colloquially referred to as old man’s beard, the undulating plains have a haunting melancholy air, very different in atmosphere to anywhere else in Sri Lanka.

The plains are on highland plateau at 2,100m above sea level. The protected area is contiguous with the Peak Wilderness Sanctuary. Sri Lanka’s second and third highest peaks are found in the park; Thotupola Kanda(2,357m) and Kirigalpota(2,389m). There is a trail to Thotupola Kanda, whick is regularly climbed. The trail for the short climb is in generally good condition. These peaks are not as conspicuous as the conical peak of Sri Pada (Adam’s Peak).

As with many tropical forests, the mammals are difficult to see, although lucky visitors have seen leopard. Most visitors are content with seeing sambhur, a large kind of deer. In recent years the lichen-clad cloud forest has been dying back. Acid rain and acid mist is suspected as the possible cause. The acid probably stems from atmospheric pollution from the exhaust fumes of cars from all over country.

The trees in the park are dominated by keena, Syzgum roundifolum and Syzgim sclerophyllum and species from the Lauracea family. The undergrowth is dominated by dwarf bamboo in the open swampy areas. The rhododendrons are native and have affinities with those on the mountains of southern India and the ferns are a conspicuous feature and many fine examples can be seen on the road Farr Inn from Pattipola.

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