The little settlement of Chail was once the ‘summer capital’ of the princely state of Patiala. This lies on a side road that leads off the Kalka-Shimla highway. Chail is built over three hills – the Palace Hotel (the former palace of the Maharaja) crowns Rajgarh Hill, the 'Sidh Baba ka mandir' is atop the Sidh Hill, while the third is Pandhewa Hill which holds the house of the one-time British Resident to Patiala. Chail's famous cricket ground was built in 1893 after levelling out the top of a hill. This stands at 2444.4 meters (8019 feet) and is one of the highest cricket pitches and polo grounds in the world. Chail’s well-known Military School uses this field as its playground. The Chail wildlife sanctuary was once the private hunting reserve of the Maharajas. Surrounded by valleys and forests, several easy walks can be done in and around Chail. Fishing is possible on the Giri river, at Gaura. All around are small farms and glass houses with the latest and one of the more lucrative industries of the area, floriculture. As destination, Chail is a small self-contained little place that offers good walks and drives, magnificent views and is surrounded by woods.
To tell the story of Chail in more than just dates and distances, one needs to turn to nearby Shimla and its hectic social life when it was the ‘summer capital’ of British India. The story is told of the banishment from Shimla of a Maharaja of Patiala in the late 19th century. Smarting at this insult – which may well have had both social and political overtones - the Maharaja began exploring the hills that bordered Shimla with a single factor to guide him. He planned to find a hill that was within sight of Shimla - but higher. Surrounded by deodar (Himalayan cedar ) woods, the little village of Chail seemed perfect. Shimla lay in direct vision - and most important, Chail’s altitude was above the British controlled town. And then, large tracts of the land already belonged to him. These had been given to his ancestors for services rendered during the 'Gurkha Wars' which had come to an end in 1815-16.
A site was selected and the Maharaja began building his summer palace. But an ill omen seemed to hang over the construction area. According to local legend, the moment anything was built, it would collapse overnight. Dozens of snakes would appear from nowhere and attack the labourers. Then the Maharaja had a dream. A 'sidh', sage appeared before him and declared that the site the Maharaja had chosen was where he had meditated till he was taken by the earth - and his peace should not be disturbed. The Maharaja had another site levelled out and a splendid mansion was built and sumptuously furnished. At 2226 meters (7303 feet), a good hundred metres above Shimla's average height, Patiala's 'summer capital' was prepared to take on the British one at equal terms.
In 1972, the property set in about seventy-five acres of land - including peripheral cottages, woods, sport and recreation facilities and even an orchard - passed into the hands of Himachal Tourism. This is now the Palace Hotel – and has the distinction of being one the earliest hotel resorts in the country. It retains many elements of its princely past - and a large elegant lawn, complete with pavilion and fountain, adjoins the old palace