Nestled two hours north of Colombo Airport, Rosyth Estate House stands as an ideal haven for those stepping onto Sri Lankan soil, blending colonial allure with Vogue-style tropical aesthetics.
Owners Farzana and Neil Dobbs have seamlessly intertwined the vintage charm of the original 1926 tea plantation bungalow with contemporary design ingenuity.
Set amidst a sprawling 62-acre tea and rubber plantation, Rosyth offers an array of authentic Sri Lankan experiences: sunrise yoga, cooking classes, plantation strolls, spa treatments, tours of the new tea factory, and exceptional local-inspired cuisine.
Clove plants, pepper vines winding gracefully, and tea bushes line the path leading to the Tea Suites. Jackwood trees, often mistaken for dark mahogany, frame large windows and doors.
Every sightline in the bright room converges on an expansive window revealing a breathtaking valley adorned with rosewood, palm trees, cloves, and tea bushes. Wisps of white mist partially veil distant rugged peaks.
From the bedside to the entire suite, there’s textured oriental wickerwork. A gentleman’s coat rack with cuffed drawers exudes a Somerset Maugham-era style. Burnt orange blinds add a splash of color to the otherwise simple palette.
The wall behind the bed doubles as storage, cleverly forming a dressing room. An inconspicuous niche houses a mini-fridge and tea/coffee facilities. Nothing distracts from the main attraction: the panoramic view.
The indoor bathroom boasts two sinks and a shower. On the terrace, a luxurious deep tub once again overlooks the entire valley.
Fresh fruit platters and Sri Lankan omelets steal the spotlight at breakfast, enjoyed in the dining pavilion. Throughout the day, burgers, salads, soups, and wraps are on offer.
Come evening, a team of experienced chefs crafts an array of traditional Sri Lankan delicacies. Dinner, for Sri Lankans, is not just rice and a curry of beef, chicken, fish, or vegetables; it’s a spread including curries of beans, eggplant, red lentils, spinach, and accompanied by sambal sauce with chili slices, and of course, dal.
Staying three to four nights treats you to a fiery street-food-inspired culinary performance, where the chef’s knives clash like loud cymbals.
Lounge by the sapphire-like swimming pool, pick a book from the library, and unwind for an hour or two.
Join a stroll with naturalist Hetti through the organic garden. He’ll demonstrate how rubber is extracted from the estate’s rubber trees. Some of this rubber will be used to produce latex surgical gloves.
A 20-minute drive takes you to Pinnawala, where you can walk with elephants and feed them a massive fruit salad, just an appetizer for their daily 150kg food consumption. You can also assist in giving the elephants a bath.
Kandy, home to temples, is only an hour’s drive away. Dress modestly with legs and shoulders covered, hire a guide, and enter the legacy of the 28th Buddha. Our guide emphasized that followers don’t pray; they venerate.
A visit to the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kandy offers a detailed introduction to the wonders of Ayurvedic medicine with herbs and spices. However, you might want to resist the sales pitch for remedies like red oil for arthritis, small pineapples for weight loss, and herbs for smoothing the skin.
Our guide, eyeing our wrinkles, remarked, “No Nivea, no Pond’s.” On a grander scale, Kandy also boasts the Royal Botanical Gardens.
This is Sri Lanka’s most gentle and genuine hospitality. Half the staff waves us goodbye as if we were royalty.
The Dobbs couple is redesigning a small part of Sri Lanka’s troubled tea industry. It’s increasingly challenging to recruit tea pickers willing to work long hours for a meager £3 a day.
Rosyth’s tea pickers pluck only one leaf and a bud each time instead of the traditional two leaves and a bud, producing handcrafted rolled tea. Profits from this premium product are shared with the staff.
In the off-season, a three-night stay starts from £390 per person, based on two sharing a Classic room, excluding flights and transfers.
Prices for Rosyth’s ten rooms range from the initially simple rooms in the villa to the ultra-luxurious Rock Villa.