Kaywana Hall

near Dartmouth, Devon, United Kingdom Book from Book from £210 per night

A unique architectural gem of a B&B, set in tranquil woodland within minutes of Dartmouth and the south Devon coast
At the end of a drive that winds uphill into 12 acres of private Dart Valley woodland, Kaywana Hall was built in 1962 by south Devon architect Mervyn Seal. A cantilevered glass rectangle, jutting out of a hillside like some misplaced California canyon house, it has his signature butterfly roof (each inverted pitch sloping upwards). It was built for sunshine and brilliant blue skies. And for current owners Tony Pithers and Gordon Craig it was love at first sight - though the house they bought was not as healthy as it looked.

When demolition seemed the only option, the couple hired a younger architect, Stan Bolt, who agreed to rebuild the house along its original lines: keeping the same footprint, the same style, the retro carport and fish-bone staircases, the wing-like roof. The guest rooms - reached via steps and outdoor walkways lined with pebbles - were planned into this build. They look out over trees, the glamorous heated pool and the spectacular house (all glassy geometry, split-levels, light and shade). Like most examples of contemporary architecture, it won’t please everyone, but for lovers of modernism, this is a rare treat.

Highs

  • Perfect for R&R. Tony and Gordon really look after you and there's a wonderful sense of privacy - each self-contained room has its own entrance, its own decked terrace
  • We loved the juxtaposition of secluded forest and space-age architecture: treehouse meets the Thunderbirds' Tracy Island
  • Spoiling details in your room include robes, slippers, umbrellas, candles, homemade fudge, fresh milk, wine glasses…
  • Excellent breakfasts, and a 10-minute walk to the ferry port for foodie Dartmouth; Tony and Gordon can recommend the best places
  • The quirky ferry across the River Dart - one of southwest England’s great little journeys

Lows

  • Kaywana doesn’t serve dinner so you will have to walk or drive to Kingswear or Dartmouth
  • With only 4 rooms, you will need to book well in advance - especially at weekends
  • A slightly tricky turn-out from the drive - watch the traffic as you edge onto the road
  • No children allowed - a high for some!

Best time to go

To get the most out of the California poolhouse experience and the rooms’ private outdoor decks, visit in late spring, summer or early autumn. But if you are here to explore, then the Dartmouth area is a good year-round destination. Key local events include Dartmouth Royal Regatta (late August) and Dartmouth Food festival (mid-October). Tony and Gordon usually close for a couple of weeks during the winter but the time of year varies.

Our top tips

Architecture buffs may like to do a little research on Mervyn Seal, the Torbay architect who designed Kaywana Hall - one of a series of distinctive butterfly houses built in the area in the 1960s. The name Kaywana, by the way, was inspired by the Kaywana Trilogy, a set of novels penned in the 1950s by Guyanese author Edgar Mittelholzer.

Foodies should book ahead for a cookery course at Manna from Devon, next door to Kaywana Hall. Choices include bread making, fish dishes, wood-fired cooking or Asian specialities.

Great for...

Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
  • Boutique B&B
  • 4
  • Breakfast only (restaurants nearby)
  • Over 18s only
  • Closed: 1 Oct 2019 - 31 Dec 2019
  • Heated Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
Room: Ash

Rooms

One of the big advantages of purpose-building a B&B was the opportunity to plan every detail. There are 4 lovely rooms, all self-contained with their own front doors and decked terraces, and all offering simple, unfussy modernist design: wood floors, contemporary art, floor-to-ceiling windows and lots of natural light.

We stayed in Beech, a large and airy, elevated glass cube, with a terrace overlooking the garden, and steps down to the pool. A free-standing storage unit cleverly divides the room into 2 - a kingsize bed on one side, and a comfortable sitting area on the other. The bathroom has both a tub and a lofty semi-circular walk-in shower of white mosaic tiles. The view of the pool was slightly marred by a blue plastic cover - which helps keeps the heated water hot - but everything else was perfect.

Ash and Oak are set into the hillside above the house and are accessed via steps and walkways. They slightly smaller, but Oak's bed is a super-kingsize and Ash has a super-kingsize which can be converted into twins. Both have smart bathrooms with slate floors and a separate shower and tub.

As for The Roundhouse, this is the newest and most striking room, with curved walls of glass looking onto woodland, a lovely bathroom boasting freestanding tub and double sinks, and a circular private sundeck outside. It's a truly decadent space perfect for a special occasion.

All rooms include luxurious beds and linens, robes and slippers, homemade cookies and fudge; for the terrace, citronella candles, deckchairs and sun shades; and, in the bathrooms, Bramley natural toiletries. There are towels for the pool, umbrellas in case it rains, and roller blinds on the windows to cut out the light.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Bose speakers
  • Candles
  • Central heating
  • Coffee / tea making
  • Coffee maker
  • Deckchairs
  • Hairdryer
  • Iron
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Pool towels
  • Radio
  • Satellite TV
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

A superb breakfast is served - more or less on demand - in Tony and Gordon’s dining area, providing an opportunity to admire Kaywana’s decked open-plan living spaces, the dreamy views and the drama of that sloping roof. We loved the pretty white dishes of homemade granola, fresh seasonal fruit compote, warm pastries (chocolate croissants, local champagne bread), and excellent juices. Hungry types can order cooked dishes too: our daily specials included crumpets dipped in beaten egg served with crispy bacon and maple syrup, or homemade smoked haddock and salmon fishcakes served with a poached egg. Most of the ingredients are sourced within a 5-mile radius.

For lunch and dinner, there’s a wealth of good places nearby. Tony and Gordon recommend Dartmouth's waterfront seafood restaurant The Seahorse run by Mitch Tonks (Devon's answer to Rick Stein), or his Rockfish Restaurant housed within Brixham fish market. For Michelin-starred cuisine, book The Elephant in Torquay; for something simpler, try The Weary Ploughman in nearby Churston (big portions, open daily).

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Coffee / tea making
  • Coffee maker
  • Communal dining
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurants nearby
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Stroll down to pretty Kingswear - it's a scenic 10-min walk along the river - for scenic views across the water to Dartmouth, a bustling harbour slipway, and the salty old Ship Inn

  • The Harbour Cruise takes in Kingswear and Dartmouth castles, Dittisham village and Britannia Royal Naval College; or water taxis will whisk you further afield to secret coves and coastal walks. Or jump on the curious Lower Ferry - a tray-like float with room for 8 cars and a few pedestrians, pulled across the water by a tug

  • Salubrious Dartmouth is a maze of narrow back streets lined with Tudor buildings (including the Grade I-listed Butter Walk), arcades, boaty quays, galleries, delis and an open-air market

  • Board the delightful steam train between Kingswear and Paignton (runs from April to October): a half-hour journey along the “Geopark” coastline and through the Dart Estuary woodlands

  • Lace up your hiking boots for the lovely Dart Valley Trail to Greenway (former home of Agatha Christie, now National Trust) - Tony and Gordon will point you in the right direction

  • Of south Devon's many beaches, we love Blackpool Sands - one of the cleanest in England, and only 5 miles away via the Dartmouth ferry; busier Torquay and Paignton are also within 20 mins' drive

  • For a change of scene drive to Totnes, which, aside from a reputation for alternative culture, offers the 15th-century St Mary's Church, the 11th-century Guildhall and the healing waters of Leech Wells

  • Just hang out on the deck or in the heated pool: there are sun loungers and parasols for the vagaries of Devon's weather

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Beaches
  • Boat trips
  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Kayaking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Paddle boarding
  • Sailing
  • Shopping / markets
  • Steam train excursions
  • Swimming

Kids

This is an adults-only place.

Kid Friendly:

Location

Kaywana Hall is set in its own woodland in the Dart Valley, near the small village of Kingswear, across the estuary from Dartmouth in Devon, southwest England.

By Air
The nearest airports are Exeter (55km) or Bristol (154km). Kaywana Hall can arrange a taxi transfer or you can hire a car.

By Car
A car is handy but not essential (there's plenty to explore on foot or by bike). It is a 4-hour drive from London, 2 hours from Bristol and 45 minutes from Exeter. There's free parking at the B&B.

By Train
Totnes station (18km away) is on the main line from Paddington to Penzance via Exeter.

Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.

More on getting to the UK and getting around

Airports:

  • Exeter 55.0 km EXT
  • Bristol 154.0 km BRS

Other:

  • Beach 5.0 km
  • Shops 1.0 km
  • Restaurant 1.0 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 1 independent review from i-escape guests

10/10
Room
10/10
Food
10/10
Service
10/10
Value
10/10
Overall

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