The Fort Printers

Galle & South Coast, Sri Lanka Book from

Reviewed by Emma Taylor
Cool, calm and collected: a restful retreat created from a historic building in the Unesco-listed Galle Fort
This elegant hotel in the Galle Fort is the perfect Sri Lankan retreat-from-the-heat. More private residence than hotel, you can either rent it as a fully-staffed villa or take an individual room. Behind its teak doors are spacious and airy interiors, with high ceilings, a huge lounge with oversized sofas and large boho bedrooms, some with beautiful vistas across the roof tops of Galle. Dip into the streamlined pool, swing in the hammock, or enjoy Mediterranean-inspired al fresco dining. Since its genesis, 2 simpler houses have also been added just along the road.

Most buildings within the Galle Fort have a story to tell, and the Main Hotel building is no exception. Dating back to the 18th century, it was first a college and later the home of a traditional printing company (you can see the original press in the grand hallway). After a renovation by husband and wife Dorine and Shahzad, it's now a subtle combination of modern design and original features (tiles, floorboards and balustrades) against a backdrop of white-washed walls, brightly coloured Indian rugs and silk cushions, infused throughout with an air of calm.

Highs

  • Large comfortable rooms with understated (and unquestionable) style
  • Great views from the upper hallways and some of the rooms
  • Warm, personal service and the feeling that you're staying in an elegant private residence
  • Delicious food with an Italian twist, in a tranquil setting

Lows

  • The pool is rather small, but great for cooling off
  • There is little outside space, although plenty of room for dining
  • Two newer wings have been added since our visit and, as such, we haven't had the chance to see them yet
  • If renting just one room, it could be a little too quiet for some

Best time to go

November to April has the best weather in this part of Sri Lanka; May to October is the rainy season. There is a reduction in rates at the house between February and December. Like anywhere in Sri Lanka the Christmas and New Year season is busy and should be booked well in advance.

Our top tips

Head to the waterside during the morning and watch the fisherman setting up their stalls by the small port, where kingfishers create bright blue flashes as they dart into the sun-lit waters

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
Family
Foodie
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel & Villa
  • 13
  • Breakfast (+ other meals on request)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room:

Rooms

In the main hotel building, you'll find 5 rooms with names revealing their former college incarnations. Head up the restored staircase and you'll find a wide shuttered gallery off which 4 of the rooms lead (but take a moment first to watch life on the street below).

The History, Geography and Arts rooms are all fairly similar: light and airy, thanks to high beamed ceilings and large windows, which to varying degrees have views over Galle. The beds are modern, raised platforms covered with silk bedspreads and cushions.

If you want to be top dog, book our favourite room: the Headmaster's Suite, also on the first floor. It overlooks the pool, but better still, you can see the Galle lighthouse from your bed. It has a kingsize double bed reached via a couple of steps, and a cosy seating area swamped with colourful cushions and daybeds which are perfect for children.

The Prefect’s Suite is in the courtyard next to the swimming pool, adjacent to the main hotel building. Decorated with rich velvets and silks, it has a large, modern bathroom with a bathtub (the rooms in the main building have showers only).

Just down the road, the Pedlar Street Wing awaits. Its 3 suites are slightly more modern in style, while polished concrete floors, and neutral décor. Not much further away is the Church Street Wing, holding 5 more suites. Though we haven’t seen these newer spaces yet, the suites' bathrooms look particularly luxurious with walk-in showers and freestanding bathtubs. Each wing has a communal living and dining space, plus a well-equipped kitchen, and all guests can move freely between the communal spaces of all 3 buildings.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Cots Available
  • Dishwasher
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Microwave
  • Oven
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Washing machine
  • WiFi

Eating

The food here is excellent - it was owner Shahzad's original idea to open a restaurant, so guests benefit from his passion. Fresh ingredients are key and the food served (either in the dining room or on the veranda) is healthy, colourful and well presented.

The chefs tailor the daily menu to guests' preferences, creating spicy Sri Lankan curries, fresh seafood and Mediterranean-inspired meals according to tastes. Typical dishes include grilled tuna with capsicum, citrus risotto with garlic prawns and couscous stew with calamari, as well as imaginative soups such as green gazpacho with pomegranate seeds and coriander. While the savouries are tasty and low-fat, the desserts are sinful - slabs of rich chocolate cake and apple strudels. The wine - mainly reasonably priced options from Australia - is also good.

The chefs bake wonderful bread and croissants for breakfast. You can also choose from pancakes, fruit, eggs, yoghurt and fresh fruit smoothies.

There are no set mealtimes - simply discuss with staff when you would like to eat.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Children meals
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Microwave
  • Oven
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • The Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a beautiful and intriguing place to explore. Start with a sunrise (or sunset) stroll around the walls - 2.5km in all.
  • Wander around the Fort's cobbled, labyrinth-like streets; the National Museum on Church Street has a small collection of Dutch and Singhalese artifacts and there is also a fully restored Dutch Reformed Church
  • Visit the working Buddhist Temple on Rampart Street to gain an insight into Sri Lankan religious life
  • Browse the many small boutiques which are springing up around Galle Fort. Start at AA Ibrahim's for fantastic gems, unusual necklaces, belt buckles and made-to-order rings, move on to Mimimango for Indian clothes and shoes and try Elephant House for lovely gifts, homeware and cards
  • If you want to spend some time by the beach, head to Unawatuna (4km / 3 miles from Galle) for laidback beers on the sand or visit trendy Weijia to socialise with eccentric expats
  • When you want to retreat from the heat, have an in-suite Swedish or Ayurvedic massage or work your way through the library while lazing in the hammock

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures

Kids

Children are very welcome by prior arrangement. There are no accommodation charges for children under 12 years old sharing a room with their parents, which can provide considerable savings.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

The Headmaster's Suite has day beds which are comfortable for two children. Futons or mattress beds can be supplied in all other rooms; the large Prefect's Suite is most suitable for this.

Babysitting:

Babysitting is available by arrangement.

Baby equipment:

Cots are provided free of charge.

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

The chefs tailor each day's meals to guests and will create dishes suitable for children on request.

Families Should Know:

Parents must sign a form stating that children will be supervised at all times due to the open nature of the pool area.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
9/
Food
9/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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