The Standard Group Plc is a multi-media organization with investments in media platforms spanning newspaper print operations, television, radio broadcasting, digital and online services. The Standard Group is recognized as a leading multi-media house in Kenya with a key influence in matters of national and international interest.
  • Standard Group Plc HQ Office,
  • The Standard Group Center,Mombasa Road.
  • P.O Box 30080-00100,Nairobi, Kenya.
  • Telephone number: 0203222111, 0719012111
  • Email: [email protected]

Of the departed Queen Elizabeth II and the dying Treetops hotel


A section of Tree Top Hotel in Nyeri where the late Queen Elizabeth II spent her night in1952. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

The Treetops Hotel in the heart of the Aberdares Forest of Central Kenya has for decades been a symbol of royalty, opulence, and the complicated history between the Kenyan highlands and the British monarchy.

The hotel became famous on February 5, 1952, when the then Princess Elizabeth visited with her husband Prince Phillip, for the night, and became Queen Elizabeth II the following day after the death of her father.

It was built in 1927 by Major Erick Sherbrook Walker, who at the time was a close friend of the founder of the Scouting Movement, Lord Baden Powell,

He had settled in the country and was the owner of the Outspan Hotel.

Treetops started out as a hunting platform for British colonial settlers.

In their characteristic khakis and round hats, they would be perched atop a wooden cabin armed with rifles waiting, watching, poised to kill wildlife.

According to local hunting guide Amos Ndegwa, who has been at the hotel for over 30 years, the original platform was expanded in 1952, when the single room was extended and they ended up with two more rooms.

Considered one of the oldest safari lodges in Kenya, the treehouse on the edge of a watering hole was the perfect spot to watch animals in their natural habitat.

Several animals

The hotel, located along the elephant migratory route from Aberdare National Park offered a unique tourism experience for the lodge's guests.

"On that night while Queen Elizabeth, Prince Phillip, and hunter Jim Colbert watched the animals, waterbucks visited the watering hole and two males fought each other to the death," Ndegwa said.

Ndegwa recalls how the Queen authorised the management of the lodge to preserve the dead animals' head, which was stuffed and mounted in Outspan Hotel.

"The three rooms they stayed in during their visit were newly built. That night she saw several animals before she went to bed, as we all know, she went up the tree a Princess and came down a Queen," he said.

Two years after Queen Elizabeth left the lodge, it was burnt down by Mau Mau fighters on October 10, 1954.

Ndegwa was born on the day of the fire. His parents were employees of the hotel and were shocked by the news.

"My grandfather was one of the carpenters who built the lodge, while my father would later become a cook at the same hotel. My mother went into labour when she heard the hotel had been destroyed," he said.

The facility has been their source of livelihood for generations, as they lived next to the forest.

It would later be rebuilt, into what it is today, with a rustic feel, on large wooden stilts, to allow for wildlife to pass under it freely. It had a capacity of 70 guests and towers over the watering hole.


A portrait of the late Queen Elizabeth II at Treetops Hotel in Nyeri where she spent her night in1952. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

Honeymooners' room

The Queen would visit the hotel again 29 years later in 1983 when she was booked into Queen Elizabeth suite, Room 18, famously known as the honeymooners' room.

Nyeri County Director of Tourism, Mary Mithamo said the Nyeri itinerary is not complete without a mention of Queen Elizabeth II.

Even British history is not complete without a mention of Nyeri county.

During that visit, she also visited St Philip's ACK Church in Naromoru which she officially opened in 1952.

"She planted a commemorative tree which still stands, with a plaque "Brazilian Rosewood donated by Major Baynes on the occasion of the visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for mourning service on 2/2/1952 To God Be the Glory," Mithamo said.

But while the historical significance of Treetops Hotel positioned it as a world-class destination for tourists, it has fallen on hard times following the Covid-19 pandemic.

The hotel has been closed since 2020.

"During peak seasons, we would have at least 70 guests which is full capacity, with tourists from Spain, China, UK, and the US visiting to catch a glimpse at the lodge in which a princess was transformed into a queen," says Ndegwa.

Nowadays, it is empty, stark, and cold, with lone buffaloes and waterbucks grazing around the watering hole.

Occasionally, they majestically strut past the vacant hotel that was once full of guests armed with cameras ready to capture memories.

"When the hotel was established the guests used to be armed with rifles aiming to shoot the animals, but later we became a place where tourists were armed with cameras," Ndegwa said.

But nowadays, Ndegwa, and a handful of locals can only look on as the once vibrant attraction for tourists sits forlorn and empty, a relic of the bygone era.

[email protected]

Related Topics


Similar Articles


Recommended Articles