“The dream house and magical lakeside gardens of Sri Lanka's most famous architect, now a blissful hotel for those seeking peace and quiet”
Clustered at the top of the hill, with the gardens spread out below, are the old plantation houses. The rooms in 4 of them have been converted into double-bedded suites with private bathrooms. Left much as they were in Bawa’s lifetime, they’re furnished with antique Dutch furniture, sculpture and artworks from his collection. Each room has its own quirky style, but all are elegant, interesting and intensely personal. Consistent themes include white mosquito netting draped over big comfortable beds (some of them four-posters), low lighting and hints of Bawa’s distinctive monochrome décor (expressed through black-and-white paintwork, printed textiles and tiled floors).
The main Guest Suite is the only guest room in the main house, and the only one with air conditioning. It’s filled with Bawa’s paintings and objets d’art, even in the bathroom, which is furnished with a bath tub, an old-fashioned water heater and cranky plumbing. A tiny private courtyard guarantees peace and seclusion.
The Glass House, a bridge of glass spanning the entrance loggia, is a single room and full of sunlight, garden vistas and inspiration (the perfect artist’s retreat).
Alongside this is the Gallery, which the architect converted from a stable to house his private collection; international art and artefacts, vintage and modern, fill its large double bedroom, which has a dressing room and bathroom (with roll-top tub) overlooking the water garden. Below, a sitting room (or lower gallery) opens onto a terrace. This room is usually sold last, so that guests in other rooms can admire its treasures.
A short distance from the main house, next to the ha-ha in a dip between two hills, is the pavilion or Small House, which Bawa built to accommodate his architectural assistants. This split-level annexe, much of it decorated in Bawa monochrome, has the feel of a cottage and is now the only room with twin beds.
Further away, on the edge of a cinnamon plantation after which it’s named, is the Cinnamon Hill House, a 2-bedroom cottage. Its vistas roll across lawns, hardwood forests and the lake to rest on a distant Buddhist stupa. With two ensuite double rooms, inside and outside living areas and a private steward, it’s a regal and restful retreat for two couples or a family (extra beds are available) seeking perfection and privacy.
Staff serve breakfast (and other meals, on request) in one of the many beautiful corners of the grounds, away from the daytime visitors. There is a dining room of sorts in the living room; its few tables are constantly moved in and out of the French windows, depending on the moods of the weather, and are usually dressed with flowers and black-and-white linen. You can also choose to eat in your suite or in an outdoor space close by.
For dinner, with the house and grounds all to yourselves, Bawa's kitchen produces simple but delicious curries and other local dishes. We dined by candelight on spicy coconut and prawn curry and traditional Sri Lankan string hopper noodles.
A lovely idea for lunch is a picnic on a boat in the lake, returning for afternoon tea (freshly baked cake or scones with jam) in the main house. Lunches and dinners usually require a little notice, but you can state your preferences over breakfast or on arrival.
The hotel doesn’t have a bar, but will serve chilled beers and drinks such as gin and tonic on request.