Feel of the country in Yercaud

Rural beauty

It is hard to believe that a mere 22 kilometres from chaotic, noisy and lively Salem, at a height of 4,970 feet, lies Yercaud, a quaint hill station in the middle of Shevaroy Hills in the Eastern Ghats.

Yercaud, the “jewel of the south”, is not as well known as Ootacamund or Kodaikanal and therefore spared the ravages of droves of tourists, but it is a popular hill station because it is relatively less expensive and has comfortable weather conditions throughout the year. Tracing its etymology to the Tamil term yer meaning lake and kadu meaning forest, Yercaud, literally means the forest around the lake, and is believed to have been inhabited first by the tribes from Kanchipuram, when Tamil Nadu or Thondai, as it was then known, was invaded by Telugu rulers.

We know about Yercaud from the time Sir Thomas Munroe discovered it on 1842. Planters made a beeline after David Cockburn, the collector of Salem in the 1820s, facilitated the establishment of plantations with coffee, pepper, orange, apple and other citrus fruit plants imported from South Africa. Cockburn has since been known as the Father of Yercaud.A 45 minute drive from Salem on a fine ghat road is one of the USPs of Yercaud.

This drive is best done in the morning, so that you can admire the 20, scary hairpin bends, the beautiful scenery and the clusters of baby monkeys and their families. You know you have reached Yercaud when the lake appears. This is quite a sight — a serene body of water ringed in by mysterious beautiful hills and dotted with colourful boats. There are other sights too in Yercaud. The Lady’s Seat, perched up on a precipice gives a vantage view of the hills all around, the sunrise and the sunset.

It is named so because the women of the Raj would sit there and pass the time of the day soaking in the sun and the beauty with a pair of binoculars. At the Botanical gardens, you can see the diverse flora and fauna of the Shevaroy Hills right down to the insectivorous pitcher plant. The Killiyur Falls, into which the lake empties out, is another beautiful sight, if you can manage the trek. The Chennai Trekking Club organises some interesting treks. The view from Pagoda Point and the Karadiyur Point in Karadiyur village, 12 kilometres from Yercaud are worth a visit.

For those who swear off the traditional sightseeing spots, Yercaud offers many small streets and bylanes through which you can amble gently, soaking in the quaint colonial bungalows like

The Grange, which was built by the collector in the 1820s or the Fairholme Bungalow. Stop by and tease a butterfly and quaff a cup of tea from the chai kadai (shop) in the typical old world thick glass tumbler. Pick up some absolutely fresh green peppercorns, bite into soft avocados and taste some uncommon fruits right off the trees in the plantations. Or get into the car and drive around the 32 kilometre loop road, which starts at the lake and ends at it — a road straight out of the picture book complete with the canopy of trees. 

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