The historic Wallawwa (meaning mansion or manor house in Singhalese) which was voted one of the top 100 hotels in the World by Condé Nast Traveller’s Gold List 2015, is a mere 15 minute drive from Colombo airport and 45 minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Owned by Teardrop Hotels, it was originally the residence of the Dias-Abeysinghe family (head chieftain of Galle) and more recently Mr. Tampoe, an esteemed Sri Lankan lawyer. Its rich history also extended to lodging some of the Royal Air Force during the 2nd World War. The main structure that now houses the front verandah, kitchen, lobby, office, shop, study and library is over 200 years old, while the spa, rooms and suites were built as recently as 7 years ago.
The newer parts of the hotel that were designed by Architect Asela Perera and the interiors that were done by Michael Davies, one of the Directors, have both seamlessly married the past with the present.
“We wanted to create the feeling of staying in an old Colonial mansion, but blended with modern amenities one would expect in a luxury hotel,” says Henry Fitch, the Managing Director. “The old building (predominantly made using coral for the walls) was preserved in its entirety; the only key structural alteration was raising the roof on the rear-side of the hotel to connect the bedroom block.
Keeping the antiquity of the property in mind, the roof was traditionally laid with clay tiles straight onto the rafters and reapers. The front verandah remains essentially unchanged, except for the polished floors and painted walls; while the restaurant is located where the garages once were,” he explains.
The design aesthetic of the Wallawwa is a tasteful amalgamation of Colonial architecture and contemporary elegance that can be appreciated in the interiors of the spacious bedrooms, the Garden Suites and the exclusive Mountbatten Suite. High ceilings create a light and airy space, while bespoke furniture, sourced from Indonesia and Sri Lanka give rooms a homely feel.
All bathrooms have natural daylight flooding in from a skylight above, terrazzo double sinks and sumptuous rain-showers.
The spa and some of the guest rooms have been planned around a central courtyard pond (the pond ensconced by the rooms became a natural habitat for frogs soon after) where columns have been constructed out of coconut wood, laid on top of terrazzo bases and topped with granite.
Indian slate tiles and natural stone were used to intermingle inconspicuously with the existing gardens in the pool area – the Benjamina tree and the Traveller’s palm dominate this area, while the Cannonball, Frangipani and Amherstia trees canopy the front garden creating an oasis of greenery.
Wallawwa also has a flourishing organic farm on 2 acres of its property, growing fresh fruit and vegetables for the hotel kitchen. The restaurant chefs can often be found gathering fresh produce like passion fruit, pineapple, banana, papaya, rocket, cherry tomatoes, micro herbs, bell peppers and even honey to be served to the guests.
Teardrop Hotels is a small independent collection of hotels that also have other unique properties in the pipeline that include The Fort Bazaar in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Galle Fort, and three renovated Tea Planters’ bungalows in the verdant hills of Sri Lanka.
Each property has been designed with both luxury and comfort in mind, whilst also allowing guests to feel immersed in their natural surroundings. The Fort Bazaar will be opening in December 2015 and the 3 tea bungalows between December 2015 and April 2016.
Text By Natalie Pedder-Bajaj
Photographs Courtesy The Wallawwa