Tried and Tested

Kaywana Hall Luxury B&B Review / A Modernist Architect-Designed Devonshire Retreat

I first discovered Kaywana Hall completelyby accident and fell head over heels in love from the start, so going to staythere felt like meeting my favourite celebrity – but thankfully without thedisappointment!
I first set eyes on this idyllic place viathe Twentieth Century Society who were offering a tour exploring the work ofDevon architect Mervyn Seal. I had been ogling Palm Springs mid-centuryarchitecture that day, and Kaywana Hall looked like a slice of transatlantic modernistheaven, only instead of crossing a dusty desert to get there I just needed toembark upon a four-hour drive from the east to the west of England.
Kaywana Hall is a modernized version of aseries of four ‘Butterfly Houses’ designed by architect Mervyn Seal in the1960s around the Torbay area. Local architect Stan Bolt was commissioned byowners Tony and Gordon to design a contemporary remake of the neglectedbuilding on the site of the original, retaining the essential featuresincluding the distinctive butterfly roof.
On arrival I was expecting to glimpse KaywanaHall from the road, but discovered that it is well hidden in 12 acres ofprivate woodland on the outskirts of the pretty village of Kingswear. The firstindication that you have arrived is the rather grand entrance, and as you makeyour way up the winding drive to the house its splendor is slowly revealed.
We were met at the top of the drive with afriendly welcome from owners Tony and Gordon, who carried my bag to our room. Iwas pretty much awe-struck from the moment we ventured up the path (a feelingwhich continued until the moment we left). Kaywana Hall is even more impressivein person than any photos could portray – something I didn’t believe possible.It brought to mind a mini-modernist Portmeirion – undulating curves, intriguingslate walkways and floating steps, whitewashed pillars and landscaped gardens;a private oasis of calm sheltered amongst the tall trees.
Each room at Kaywana Hall has its own privateentrance, and our room, Beech, had impressive views of the pool and house. Theroom certainly had the 5-star luxury treatment – kingsize bed, luxurious bathroom,sumptuous soft towels and bathrobes, a stocked mini-fridge and home-made fudgeand biscuits, not to mention our own private terrace accessed through the glasssliding doors – a perfect suntrap!
Although reluctant to venture outside ofour oasis, after a rest and a bit of exploration we decided to head to theseaside resort of Torquay for dinner which is less than 30 minutes away by car.On our return the room had been prepared for us, with ambient lighting and thebedcovers turned down. On the bed we discovered a box of artisan chocolates, anaromatherapy pillow spray and print-outs of the weather forecast for the nextday – such thoughtful touches! After consuming half of the chocolates there andthen, a most contented and comfortable night’s sleep was had.
The Kaywana Hall breakfast seems to be thestuff of legend if the reviews are to be believed, so we were really lookingforward to finding out for ourselves. Being a vegetarian I opted for thedelicious fruit, granola and fresh yoghurt. My partner went straight in for thefry-up (no surprise there). All the ingredients are sourced within a five-mileradius – good for the environment and the local economy. My partner considershimself rather a connoisseur of the cooked breakfast and he maintains this wasone of the best he’s ever tasted.
Kingswear is within easy walking distance(about 10 minutes), so after breakfast we decided to take the gentle walkthrough the village to the jetty and then take the passenger ferry over to thetown of Dartmouth, situated directly opposite.
Here we explored the local shops, had alazy stroll around and enjoyed fish and chips for lunch on the quayside. Beinga fan of vintage nicknacks I was pleased to find a vintage wicker bin in theshape of a large frog in one of the collectibles shops!
In the afternoon we drove to the town ofBrixham, where another of Mervyn Seal’s series of 4 Butterfly Houses – ParkhamWood House – can be seen perched up high overlooking the town with views out tosea. This one is the earliest of the series and appears mostly unchanged (externallyat least) and so it was interesting to see the contrast between this andKaywana Hall – both equally dramatic and entrancing in their own right.
Parkham Wood House, Brixham; another of Mervyn Seal’s butterfly houses
Back to Kaywana Hall for our last night, wehad the opportunity to soak up some early evening sunshine on our privateterrace. This time we were pleased to find a complimentary Kaywana Hall stickof rock waiting for us (which I have kept as a memento as I can’t bring myselfto eat it!). The thought of leaving Kaywana Hall in the morning was deeplyunpleasant, but we consoled ourselves with the thought of another one of thoselegendary breakfasts – and the promise that we would definitely return, andnext time our stay would be longer.
View Kaywana Hall on Host Unusual here.


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