The best kept Secret of Mussoorie - Landour
Landour, "the tiara" of the "Queen of Hills", Mussoorie, is an idyllic town, dotted with old country homes reminiscent of the days gone by. Drawing its name from Llanddowror, a village in Carmarthenshire in southwest Wales, Landour is located an altitude of 6,600 to 7800 ft and offers striking views of the Garhwal Himalaya with a wide vista of up to 200 km (125 miles) visible on a clear day. The visible massifs and peaks include (West to East) Swargarohini, Bandarpunch, Yamnotri, Jaonli, Gangotri, Srikanta, Kedarnath, Satopanth, Chaukhamba (Badrinath) and even Nanda Devi.
Swargarohini and Bandarpunch in the Himalaya, from Landour.
What started as a convalescent depot for the British troops is today the preferred getaway of artists, writers and nature lovers. The seclusion and verdant mountain scenary are perfect to spend some quiet time and commune with nature.
The area has long winding roads that are lined on one side by majestic deodar and pine groves. Here the air is nippier compared to the lower hill, and cleaner too as it is far away from shops and vehicular traffic.
Heading up from the Clock Tower to the top of the hill, a stiff climb takes you to Landour. The once cobbled streets of this tiny bazaar have now been tarred. You can take a break from all that huffing and puffing by browsing in the antique shops lining the road. The Castle Hill Estate where the Survey of India office is now, was the place where Sir George Everest mapped the Garhwal region. Also located in the serene environs of Landour is Woodstock School which was set up in 1854. The cantonment area here is home to Mussoorie's famous Sisters Bazaar. Shop for home-made jams and cheeses or relax at Char Dukan, a cluster of shops and shacks that sell tea and light snacks. Landour was also one of the first places in India where an American classic such as peanut butter was made commercially.
The first permanent building in all of Mussoorie-Landour was built in Landour in 1825 by Captain Fredrick Young, the "discoverer" of Mussoorie, who was also the Commandant of the first Gurkha (or Gorkha) battalion raised by the British after prevailing in the Gurkha War. Young's house, "Mullingar" (hinting at his Irish blood), was the family home during the hot summers in the plains.
Landour was initially built by and for the British Indian Army. From 1827 when a sanatorium was built in Landour, the town was a convalescent station for the military, and hence much of Landour is a Cantonment. The original sanatorium is now occupied by the Institute of Technology Management ("ITM") of the DRDO; it is at the eastern end of the Landour ridge. In the early 20th century, a full British Military Hospital (BMH) was opened, with a medical staff than specialized in tropical diseases; the hospital closed soon after 1947. Also within the ITM premises is the former Soldiers' Furlough Home, a holiday home for British and Irish soldiers and JCOs in Indian regiments who lacked the means to return to Europe regularly. Or, the holidaying soldiers were serving in British regiments on rotation in India, their tours of duty lasting anywhere from 6 to 48 months.
Racially, Landour was distinctly more European than Mussoorie. The events of 1857 led to a spurt in the European population of Mussoorie-Landour, with many families leaving the 'exposed' towns of the Gangetic Plain. Among the Britons who thus moved to Landour were the parents of Jim Corbett who were married at St Paul’s Church in Landour. Aside from the obvious British legacy, Landour has a thick vein of Americana too, with American missionaries having had a strong footing in the town since the 1830s, when the policy changes introduced by the supremacist Lord Macaulay prompted the rapid growth of American missions across India, particularly those of the Presbyterian and Baptist churches. Generations of American missionary children were educated at Woodstock School and/or born in Landour . Of late, their descendants have been deeming a dekko worthwhile. Nowadays, many young Americans on gap years or on exchange programs spend time learning Hindi at the popular Landour Language School, which was founded in the late 19th century to teach newly-arrived missionaries.