Kaywana Hall Luxury B&B Review
A Modernist Architect-Designed Devonshire Retreat
I first discovered Kaywana Hall completely by accident and fell head over heels in love from the start, so going to stay there felt like meeting my favourite celebrity - but thankfully without the disappointment!
I first set eyes on this idyllic place via the Twentieth Century Society who were offering a tour exploring the work of Devon architect Mervyn Seal. I had been ogling Palm Springs mid-century architecture that day, and Kaywana Hall looked like a slice of transatlantic modernist heaven, only instead of crossing a dusty desert to get there I just needed to embark upon a four-hour drive from the east to the west of England.
Kaywana Hall is a modernized version of a series of four ‘Butterfly Houses' designed by architect Mervyn Seal in the 1960s around the Torbay area. Local architect Stan Bolt was commissioned by owners Tony and Gordon to design a contemporary remake of the neglected building on the site of the original, retaining the essential features including the distinctive butterfly roof.
On arrival I was expecting to glimpse Kaywana Hall from the road, but discovered that it is well hidden in 12 acres of private woodland on the outskirts of the pretty village of Kingswear. The first indication that you have arrived is the rather grand entrance, and as you make your way up the winding drive to the house its splendor is slowly revealed.
We were met at the top of the drive with a friendly welcome from owners Tony and Gordon, who carried my bag to our room. I was pretty much awe-struck from the moment we ventured up the path (a feeling which continued until the moment we left). Kaywana Hall is even more impressive in person than any photos could portray - something I didn't believe possible. It brought to mind a mini-modernist Portmeirion - undulating curves, intriguing slate 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 private entrance, and our room, Beech, had impressive views of the pool and house. The room certainly had the 5-star luxury treatment - kingsize bed, luxurious bathroom, sumptuous soft towels and bathrobes, a stocked mini-fridge and home-made fudge and biscuits, not to mention our own private terrace accessed through the glass sliding doors - a perfect suntrap!
Although reluctant to venture outside of our oasis, after a rest and a bit of exploration we decided to head to the seaside 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 the bedcovers turned down. On the bed we discovered a box of artisan chocolates, an aromatherapy pillow spray and print-outs of the weather forecast for the next day - such thoughtful touches! After consuming half of the chocolates there and then, a most contented and comfortable night's sleep was had.
The Kaywana Hall breakfast seems to be the stuff of legend if the reviews are to be believed, so we were really looking forward to finding out for ourselves. Being a vegetarian I opted for the delicious fruit, granola and fresh yoghurt. My partner went straight in for the fry-up (no surprise there). All the ingredients are sourced within a five-mile radius - good for the environment and the local economy. My partner considers himself rather a connoisseur of the cooked breakfast and he maintains this was one 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 walk through the village to the jetty and then take the passenger ferry over to the town of Dartmouth, situated directly opposite.
Here we explored the local shops, had a lazy stroll around and enjoyed fish and chips for lunch on the quayside. Being a fan of vintage nicknacks I was pleased to find a vintage wicker bin in the shape of a large frog in one of the collectibles shops!
In the afternoon we drove to the town of Brixham, where another of Mervyn Seal's series of 4 Butterfly Houses - Parkham Wood House - can be seen perched up high overlooking the town with views out to sea. This one is the earliest of the series and appears mostly unchanged (externally at least) and so it was interesting to see the contrast between this and Kaywana 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, we had the opportunity to soak up some early evening sunshine on our private terrace. This time we were pleased to find a complimentary Kaywana Hall stick of rock waiting for us (which I have kept as a memento as I can't bring myself to eat it!). The thought of leaving Kaywana Hall in the morning was deeply unpleasant, but we consoled ourselves with the thought of another one of those legendary breakfasts - and the promise that we would definitely return, and next time our stay would be longer.