May 27, 2022
Former British soldier the late Eric Sherbrooke Walker.
  • For nearly a century now, the Outspan Hotel has stood the test of time and served as a unique experience to both local and foreign visitors in Nyeri.

    With a fascinatingly lush green background, the hotel’s guests are well versed with safari tours but not so much with its founder, a little known British soldier from the 19th century who survived World War I in Germany.

    Born in 1887 in Edgbaston, England, Eric Walker attended King Edward’s School before heading to Oxford University.

    After his education, according to a book he published in 1928 titled Confessions of a Rum-Runner, he joined the elite Royal Flying Corps but was captured and imprisoned in Germany.

    Former British soldier the late Eric Sherbrooke Walker.
    Businesslive.co.uk

    He, however, never lost hope, attempting to escape 36 times and finally succeeded after Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scout movement, sneaked wire cutters in his harm which he used to escape.

    He then joined the British Military Mission in south Russia where he served as a temporary Captain fighting against the Bolsheviks and received the Military Cross award for his gallantry.

    In 1926, he went to England, fell in love with Lady Elizabeth Mary “Bettie†Fielding and in an attempt to raise money to marry her, he set up a business smuggling alcohol into America at a time when the move was frowned upon.

    He was forced to exile in Canada after shooting a man who attempted to steal the whisky. Walker and his lover moved to Kenya and began their journey of owning two iconic hotels, the Outspan Hotel and Treetops, where Queen Elizabeth vacationed when she ascended to the throne.

    The duo bought 70 acres of land in Nyeri where they set up the two hotels. Outspan was an area for travellers to rest and refresh their animals while Treetops was to aid in the night-viewing of wild animals.

    Treetops rose to prominence in 1952 February after the arrival of the then Princess Elizabeth and her husband who were on vacation. Their trip was, however, cut short after the death of her father which then prompted her to return and assume Queen roles in the Monarchy.

    Some of the other celebrities who visited the properties include the late comedian, Charlie Chaplin and singer, Paul McCartney.

    The two hotels, however, ran into financial problems in 2021 which forced the shut down of the Treetops Hotel in October following low tourist turnout due to the pandemic.

    Outspan Hotel, on the other hand, was put on sale around the same time seeking offers within the range of Ksh550 million. It is hailed for maintaining its colonial architecture design. 

    The property consists of a hotel with ancillary buildings set on 20 acres of a garden that borders the Chania River, giving customers an excellent view of Mount Kenya.

    An undated image of Outspan hotel in Nyeri County
    An undated image of Outspan hotel in Nyeri County
    File
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  • Source: KENYAGIST.COM

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