Limuru neighbourhood is located 30 kilometres from Nairobi on the eastern edge of the Great Rift Valley. It is perhaps the coldest town in Central Kenya seemingly small town has so much more to offer than meets the eye.
To begin with, Limuru holds an incredible amount of rich colonial history, much of which has seen the small region grow to become one of the largest producers of tea in East Africa and beyond.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Today we explore some of the most unique facts about Limuru – from the rich cultural heritage to the modern quaint attraction gems.
1. Source of the World’s Highest Quality Tea
Kenya produces some of the world’s highest quality tea. And Limuru’s tea plantations lead the pack. The very first African tea bushes were planted in Tigoni, Limuru in 1903 when the European settlers experimented by planting a few tea bushes on a small two-acre parcel of land. These went on to become the foundation of Kenya’s largest export industry.
Today, Kenya is the third-largest producer of tea after Sri Lanka and India. The tea plantations around Limuru & Tigoni make for scenic and enjoyable walks. Undulating trails wind through the tea, small settlements, and past dams and reservoirs.
2. Home to the largest Shoe factory in East and Central Africa
The story behind Batas brand is incredible. At the end of the nineteenth century, just as colonial Africa was opening up as a market, all the manufacturers of shoes in Victorian England sent their representatives to Africa to see if there might be an opportunity there for their wares. All duly came back in time with the same answer. ‘Nobody in Africa wears shoes.
So, there is no market for our products there.’ All, that is, save for the Bata rep. He came back saying, ‘Nobody in Africa wears shoes. So, there’s a huge market for our products in Africa!’ Tom Bata went on to defy the odds and launch a brand that has stood the test of time. It’s why Bata’s shoes are known as the shoes of Africa.
Today, the Bata retail chain also includes accessories like ladies’ handbags, school and travelling bags and the latest in world-renowned sports and leisure brands such as Power and Weinbrenner. It is internationally known due to its production of high-quality shoes that the average person can afford. It has given work to many of the residents of the town which in turn makes the town grow economically.
3. The Award-Winning Cheese Farm
Established in 1979, Browns Cheese is a family-run Cheese Farm that produces Kenya’s Freshest Cheese that is also additive-free. This little factory makes more varieties of cheese than any cheesemakers in Africa.
Producing over seventeen different varieties of cheese using milk from over 3,000 small-hold farmers in the area, Brown’s cheese is legendary. The Farm has earned worldwide recognition, recently winning seven awards at the South Africa Dairy Championships as well as an award at the 2002 Nantwich Cheese show in the U.K.
For the lovers of cheese, the farm welcomes guests for cheese tastings and tours of the factory and farm, followed by delicious lunches with food sourced from their kitchen garden.
4. Dr. Louis Leakey was buried here
Dr Louis Leaky, the famed Kenyan paleoanthropologist and archaeologist whose work was important in demonstrating that humans evolved in Africa, was buried in Limuru at ACK All Saints Limuru next to his parents’ gravesite. He is particularly celebrated for the discoveries made at Olduvai Gorge with his wife, fellow Anthropologist Mary Leakey.
5. King George VI had a House in Limuru
That is right, the farm now known as Thayu Farm Hotel was once owned by King George IV. The original title deed was in his name. King George IV is the father of the current Queen Elizabeth II. According to the records, the main house was built in 1948 in a five-acre land. After several ownerships, it was acquired by the present owners in 1986.
Today Thayu Farm Hotel sit one this 5-acre family farmland with mature flower gardens and indigenous trees. It is located right opposite Limuru Golf Club, next to Tigoni Police station. ‘Thayu’ is Kikuyu for ‘peace’ and the log cabin conference facility here was built from wood from a horse barn on the farm.
6. The Floating Restaurants
Floating restaurants are rare. In Kenya, there are less than 10 floating restaurants and one of them is in Limuru. The Dam Redhill hosts a one-of-a-kind floating restaurant for a unique dining experience, boat riding & sports fishing.
Amidst the hustle and the bustle of the Nairobi City, it is possible to quickly disappear to Tigoni without a plan – less than a 30 minutes drive from the City – and have some fun. The Dam Redhill also has a 20 Km track for Bike riding and they also provide Zip Lining experiences for the Adrenaline junkies.
7. Kenya’s Second Longest Train Tunnel
Popularly is known to the locals as ‘Kimungu Kia bugs’, Buxton Tunnel is the oldest & second longest train tunnel in Kenya. Built around the 1940s, the tunnel is estimated to be 1.7km but very few can actually go beyond 50metres into the tunnel. You can, however, locate the tiny light at the end of the tunnel.
8. The late McDonell’s Legacy
The late Arnold Butler McDonell commonly referred to as AB among his friends travelled to Kenya in 1904. He was an avid farmer and an architect.
In 1910, he bought 350 acres of land in Tigoni, a small town in Limuru. McDonnell went on to become Kenya’s and Africa’s first commercial tea farmer. His farm, Kiambethu, has been hosting tea tours since the 1960s and McDonnell’s granddaughter, Fiona Vernon, has continued the tradition. Kiambethu’s acreage has however shrunk to 35 acres but the experiences of the tour are still worth it.
In 1922, Arnold McDonell established Limuru Girls’ was for his four daughters and any others who might join on his farm. His governess became the first Headmistress and his oldest daughter Evelyn Mitchell became the first old girl of the school. Evelyn Mitchell, the Mother of Fiona Vernon (current host of Kiambethu tea tours), died in 1998.
Arthur McDonnell – who was an English trained architect –designed the current look of All Saints ACK Church in Limuru.
9. Limuru is Named After Donkey Dung
This chilly neighbourhood got its name from the Maasai word ‘Ilmur’. It was named so because it is the indigenous home to many donkeys. Even today, when you walk through the roads of this small town, you will not miss a donkey or two in every corner. The residents here have trusted them as a means of transport, especially on luggage. This is so because many here are farmers and thus need help with moving their farm produce from one point to another.
10. Limuru has no Rivers
Being one of the coldest regions in Kenya, one would expect that there are water bodies all over. This assumption is also fueled by the fact that Limuru has some of the biggest tea plantations in Kenya. However, with Limuru having no rivers, the agricultural activities
are fulled by natural rainfall and man-made water reserves for small scale farmers.