Kaywana Hall

near Dartmouth, Devon, United Kingdom Book from

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.


  • 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
  • Stylish décor and spoiling, thoughtful details in your room: robes, slippers, umbrellas, candles, homemade fudge, fresh milk, wine glasses…
  • The pleasing juxtaposition of secluded forest setting and space-age architecture: a case of treehouse meets the Thunderbirds' Tracy Island
  • 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


  • Kaywana doesn’t serve dinner so you will have to walk, or drive, to the nearest pubs and restaurants (1km to Kingswear, where there's a good pub, or a short ferry hop from Kingswear to Dartmouth)
  • With only 4 rooms, you will need to book well in advance - especially at weekends
  • Breakfast is served at a communal table, which won't please everyone
  • 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.

Great for...

Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique B&B
  • 4
  • Breakfast only (restaurants nearby)
  • Over 16s only
  • Closed: 1 Nov 2016 - 28 Feb 2017
  • Heated Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym


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. We're yet to see The Roundhouse, but it promises to be a decadent space perfect for a special occasion.

Key features in all rooms include luxurious beds and linens, stylish chromed Nick Munro beverage sets (kettle, cups, cafetière), robes and slippers, fresh fruit, homemade cookies and fudge; for the terrace, citronella candles, deckchairs and sun shades; and, in the bathrooms, Korres natural toiletries. There are towels for the pool, umbrellas in case it rains, and roller blinds at the windows to cut out the light.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Candles
  • Central heating
  • Coffee maker
  • Coffee tea making
  • Deckchairs
  • Hairdryer
  • Ipod dock
  • Iron
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Pool towels
  • Radio
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet


Breakfast is served - more or less on demand - at a communal table 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. First, you will be presented with pretty white dishes of homemade granola, fresh seasonal fruit (berries or a compote) and yoghurt. Next there will be breads and pastries (chocolate croissants, local champagne bread), fresh juices and a cooked breakfast to order: choose from a Full English or the daily special (mushrooms on toast, for example, or 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, particularly in Dartmouth. Tony and Gordon recommend, among others, waterfront seafood restaurant The Seahorse run by Mitch Tonks (Dartmouth’s answer to Rick Stein), Angelique (Dartmouth’s Michelin-starred restaurant), and the lively Jan and Freddies Brasserie. For more casual dining, or a takeaway, head for Mitch Tonks' Rockfish Seafood and Chips (basically a high-class chippy). And closer to home, the Ship Inn in Kingswear does decent pub food.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Coffee maker
  • Coffee tea making
  • Communal dining
  • Cooking classes
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurants nearby


  • Just hang out on the deck or in the garden and, in the summer, dip in and out of the heated pool. There are sunloungers and parasols for warm weather

  • Take a stroll down to pretty Kingswear - it takes around 10 minutes and there’s a scenic route along the river. Its main attraction, other than the harbour slipway, is the view across the water to Dartmouth, but worth a visit is the salty old Ship Inn

  • Bike hire can be arranged, or take the train - the delightful Dartmouth Railway runs steam-train excursions between Kingswear and Paignton during the summer (from April to October). From Paignton, the half-hour journey takes you along the English Riviera’s “Geopark” coastline before plunging through woodland bordering the Dart Estuary

  • There are water taxi services plying the river between Kingswear and Dartmouth, but more fun, perhaps, is the curious Lower Ferry - a tray-like float, with room for just 8 cars, pulled across the water by a tug. There is room up-front for a few pedestrian passengers

  • Explore the town: salubrious Dartmouth is a maze of narrow back streets lined with Tudor buildings (including the Grade I-listed Butter Walk), arcades, boaty quays, lots of galleries, delis and posh little shops, and an open-air market

  • Board a Harbour Cruise boat from the quay, taking in Kingswear and Dartmouth castles, Dittisham village and Britannia Royal Naval College, among other Dart Estaury attractions

  • Lace up the walking books - there are lots of lovely walks (Tony and Gordon will point you in the right direction), a good example being the Dart Valley Trail to the National Trust’s Greeancre house - former home of Agatha Christie

  • Go on a cookery course at Manna from Devon, next door to Kaywana Hall. Choices include bread making, fish dishes, wood-fired cooking or Asian specialities

  • Hit the beach: the busy town beaches on the English Riviera resorts (Torquay and Paignton) are within a 20-minute drive, but for a quieter alternative closer to home, head for Blackpool Sands. Said to be one of the cleanest, loveliest beaches in Britain, it’s 3.5 miles south of Dartmouth

  • For a change of scene drive north 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

Activities on site or nearby include:

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


This is an adults-only place.

Kid Friendly:

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