It’s a rainy day in Vermont. We are sitting in the study of Naulakha with a fire roaring. I read my kids the words of my favorite poem by Ruyard Kipling.
“Now this is the Law of the Jungle — as old and as true as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back —
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.”
As I sit here, the reality that those words were written in this very room sink in and I think of how wild that is. I look out the window at the dark tunnel that cuts through the giant rhododendron bushes, it’s twisted branches beckoning you to enter. It looks like it will transport you to another world. I wonder if Kipling walked down that garden trail looking for inspiration and saw the Jungle Book come alive in his mind.
Although Rudyard Kipling spent most of his early years between India and England, he moved to Vermont in 1892 and promptly began building. Naulakha means “great jewel” in Hindi and it was aptly named by Kipling as it was the only house he ever built.
Kipling designed the house to look like a boat. It is long and skinny, 90 feet by 22 feet to be exact. Even stepping out on the balcony feels like you’re stepping out onto the deck of a ship. Large windows allow you to take advantage of the sweeping views of the Connecticut River Valley.
The Landmark Trust USA is a nonprofit organization based in southern Vermont that preserves historic properties through creative, sustainable uses for public enjoyment and education. The trust purchased Naulakha in 1992 and restored it to it’s former glory. The house is now available year-round for short term vacation rentals.
The three-story house has four bedrooms, three bathrooms and sleeps eight people. Naulakha has a fully equipped kitchen with everything you could possibly need to prepare and serve a meal. There is also a washer and dryer in the basement. It is the perfect place for a jubilant family gathering or just quiet contemplation.
When we arrived at the home, the kids ran up and down the labyrinthine staircases, getting lost in the endless rooms and ending up in the game room perched on the third floor. They found a billiard table, board games and a checkers set that kept them busy for hours.
Staying at Naulakha is more along the lines of staying in a museum. You are sitting at Rudyard Kipling’s desk, soaking in his tub, and sleeping in his bed. His books still fill the study and his golf clubs hang in an upstairs closet. When Kipling strolled those hallways, he glanced up at the very same artwork you see.
My kids were a bit young to fully appreciate that they were staying in the home of a Nobel Prize winning author. “You are sitting on the same toilet that Rudyard Kipling sat on!” was usually met with screams of “Mom get out!”
What I couldn’t get over is how much of the house remains original. This is in part because the house sat vacant for 50 years, but also because the Landmark Trust puts so much effort into carefully retaining the character of the house. For example, swapping out a new faucet would have been a quick and easy fix. The Trust had the original turn of the century faucets re-nickeled.
My favorite part of the house was the study. It is a cozy room with a big leather couch and chairs. A gas log fireplace turns on with a turn of a dial. There is no television in the house, but the WIFI is strong. Since my children’s only knowledge of Rudyard Kipling is through Disney’s Jungle Book, we watched the movie on our laptop.
A door off the study opens up to “the bow” of the Kipling ship. I could sit in the wicker rocking chairs all day. There is such a beautiful view of the mountains. The foliage in the fall must be spectacular.
My kids also loved walking through the tunnel of rhododendron bushes that came out to a stone pergola. I think we walked that circuit 20 times and it never lost it’s charm. Our visit was during mud season but I can’t imagine how magical it must be when the rhododendrons are in full bloom.
Arthur Conan Doyle, the British writer who created the character Sherlock Holmes, visited Rudyard Kipling at Naulakha. Doyle gave Kipling a pair of skis and it is believed they were the first in Vermont. The clay tennis courts, which are available for guest use, were also a first for the state.
It seems that there is history at every turn in this area. The Scott Farm just around the corner is where Cider House Rules was filmed. To read our full travel guide to the town of Dummerston, click here.
While you feel perfectly secluded on the Kipling property, just a 10 minute drive will bring you to downtown Brattleboro. There are lots of boutique shops to explore as well as great food to enjoy.
Here is a video tour of this amazing property:
Related: Travel Guide to Dummerston, VT
Just driving up the winding tree-lined driveway, you know you have arrived somewhere very special. Rudyard Kipling was inspired to write The Jungle Book, The Days Work, The Seven Seas and Captains Courageous while living at Naulakha. A place has to be pretty remarkable to influence that kind of creativity.
Naulakha has been designated as a National Historic Landmark. There are artifacts that look like they belong in a big city museum. Instead of being ushered along in a crowd, they are there for you to enjoy in private. It is such a unique experience you will find nowhere else in the world.
Click here to book you stay at Naulakha. Know that the money you spend on a rental will go towards the good work that the Landmark Trust does. Your donation will allow them to continue to save historically important properties such as this one.