· · · · · ·

Review: Rosyth Estate House, Kegalle, Sri Lanka

Colonial charm meets Vogue tropical-photo-shoot-style at Rosyth Estate House. Two hours north of Colombo airport, Rosyth Estate House is the perfect soft-landing spot for a Sri Lanka arrival.

Owners Farzana and Neil Dobbs creatively combine the retro style of the original 1926 tea planter’s bungalow with contemporary design flair.

Set within the 62 acres of a tea and rubber plantation, Rosyth provides a range of onsite Sri Lankan experiences: early morning yoga, cookery classes, a plantation walk, spa treatments, tea-tasting at their new tea-factory and superb locally inspired cuisine.

The welcome

Rosyth Estate arranged for a driver to meet us at the airport and deliver us to this luxury boutique hotel a couple of miles from Kegalle.

Whilst porters take luggage to our suite, we are welcomed with a chilled ginger and cinnamon tea. Plus a massage for tired feet.

Many a weary traveller, soothed by the masseur’s hands, immediately book their first spa treatment.

The suite

Clove plants, wrapped with pepper creeper, and tea trees appropriately line the path to the Tea suite. Jack tree wood, easily mistaken for the rich deep tones of mahogany, frames the large windows and doors.

Every line of sight within the light room focuses on a dramatic plunging valley of mahogany, palm and yet more clove and tea trees. White wisps of cloud partially obscure a distant craggy peak.

Textured oriental rattan runs from the bedhead, through the suite and out onto the chairs and sun-loungers on the terrace. A gentleman’s valet stand, with a drawer for cufflinks, is a Somerset Maugham days-of-empire touch. Burnt orange blinds bring dashes of colour to the simple colour scheme.

A wall behind the bed provides storage and effectively a dressing room. A discreet alcove neatly houses the fridge as well as the tea and coffee facilities. Nothing is allowed to detract from the main attraction: the panoramic view.

The bathroom

The interior bathroom has two wash basis and a shower.

Outside, on the terrace, an indulgent deep bath again looks out over the valley.

The facilities

Fresh fruit platters alongside Sri Lankan egg hoppers are the stars of breakfasts served in the dining pavilion. Burgers, salads, soups and wraps are available throughout the day.

In the evenings, a team of experienced chefs run through a repertoire of traditional Sri Lankan favourites. Dinner for Sri Lankans is not just rice and one curry of beef, chicken, fish or vegetables but an array of perhaps bean, aubergine, red lentil and spinach curries as well as a sambal speckled with chilli flakes. And, then of course, a dahl too.

Stay three or four evenings and you’ll enjoy the flaming food-theatre of Sri Lankan street food, as chefs’ chopping knifes clash like cymbals.

Sun-loungers surround a sapphire of a swimming pool. Select a book from the library and relax for an hour or two.

Take a plantation walk with naturalist Hetti past the organic vegetable gardens. Then he’ll demonstrate how the estate’s rubber trees are tapped. Some of that rubber will find its way into latex surgical gloves.


A 20 minute drive leads to Pinnawala where you can walk with elephants and feed them an outsize fruit salad. A mere aperitif for the 150kg of food they eat every day. Help with elephant bath time too.

Kandy, home of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth with its manmade lake, is only an hour away. Cover your legs and shoulders, hire a guide and take off your shoes for an introduction to the legacy of the 28th Buddha. Our guide emphasises that followers do not pray. They worship.

A free tour round Kandy’s Herb and Spice gardens is a detailed introduction to the side-effect-free wonders of Ayurvedic medicine but you may wish to resist the sales pitch on red oil for arthritic knees, baby pineapple for weight loss and remedies that work to smooth skin.

“No Nivea, no Ponds,” exhorts our guide eyeing up our wrinkles. On a grander scale there are the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kandy.

Other nice touches

This is gentle and sincere Sri Lankan hospitality at its very best. Half the staff emerge to wave goodbye, as if we were royalty.

The Dobbs offered work on the estate to the 70 families who had lost jobs when the nearby tea factory burnt down, even though they were not the owners. They continue to supply breakfast for local school children three times a week.

Hetti, the naturalist, knows the whereabouts of every frog and gecko around the estate house, knowing too when the pond lilies will open their flowers.

The best bit

The Dobbs are working to redesign one small part of Sri Lanka’s troubled tea industry. Increasingly, recruiting pluckers, willing to receive a mere £3 a day for long hours in tough tropical conditions, is becoming difficult.

Rosyth’s pluckers pick one leaf and a bud, rather than the traditional two leafs and a bud, to produce a hand-rolled artisan tea. Profits from this high-end product are shared between the employees.

Guests on the tea-tasting experience, learning how to roll and slurp, move through green tea to medium quality teas and finally to a pink-rimmed clear amber liquid free of any bitter hints. Far removed from everyday builder’s day this is the Dom Perignon of teas.

The cost

A three night stay in low season begins from £390 per person, based on two sharing a Classic Room, excluding flights and transfers.

The final verdict

Rosyth’s 10 rooms range across budgets from the original simple rooms in the bungalow to the uber-luxurious Rock Villa.

Featuring superb Sri Lankan food, Rosyth Estate House is a luxurious base camp for a tour of the island or for a final few days of relaxation before heading for the airport.

Disclosure: Our stay was sponsored by Rosyth Estate House.

Michael Edwards

Michael Edwards is a travel writer from Oxfordshire, UK. Although Michael had his first travel pieces published nearly four decades ago, he is still finding new luxury destinations to visit and write on.

Did you enjoy this article?

Receive similar content direct to your inbox.


  1. Sri Lanka has always been on my list of countries that I want to visit and one of the things that has put me off is that I’ve never quite known how to do it.

    Rosyth would be a brilliant place for the start and possibly the end of a tour.

    Thanks for this post as the pieces of the jigsaw are beginning to come together.

  2. We did a Sri Lanka tour last year which was utterly amazing. None of the places we stayed at were anyone near as good looking as this. If we had stayed somewhere like Rosyth it would have been the icing on the cake.

    1. It’s not just the quality of the accommodation but also the warmth of the welcome too. We were lucky enough to be there at the same time as the Dobbs who are great hosts. Even when they as owners are not around the staff are also equally welcoming.

  3. We’re thinking about a couple of weeks in Sri Lanka early next year. At the moment doing all the research and planning is overwhelming. Trying to sort out where to stay on booking sites when prices go from £9 to over £400 is intimidating. Nice to have some sensible advice from this post.

  4. I can see myself using the Rosyth as a first stop, booking extra nights, and never moving on.

    There’s plenty to do and plenty of spots to relax and chill out too.

    1. Yes, Rosyth is perfect for the first stop. A 2 hour drive isn’t too far and they really know what they’re doing with the tea and massage welcome. It’s probably a good idea to give yourself a day to unwind after the flight with some time around the pool, a spa treatment and an interesting book from the library.

  5. I read this when it was first published on the old site and then thought I’d take another look. I was surprised to see the new site. It looks much better and I prefer it.

  6. To be utterly honest we’ve always wanted to visit Sri Lanka as it looks such a beautiful country with so many great experiences.

    The thing is that we’ve been worried about the standard of accommodation that we might book. No such worries with Rosyth though, it is obviously first rate. Thank you for putting our minds at rest.

  7. When you sense those pictures, especially, the aerial ones where the foliage is really dense, it looks more like jungle than forest.

    I’ve been to Sri Lanka a couple of times and experienced some of the torrential rains of the monsoon seasons. That gives you some idea of why they can go back to the same tea bush every week and pick yet more new leaves and buds.

  8. Lots of people feel uneasy about continuing the ideas on colonial life, in fact some people even have hang ups about using the word colonial. I think it would be a pity if we lost it as it’s a useful label for a whole style of architecture.

    Anyway it seems to me that Rosyth has moved on from the whole colonial wra with its tea set-up which can only be a good thing.

  9. It’s nice to see Sri Lanka getting some positive publicity. It is a lovely country and the people are so friendly.

    I feel so sorry for them as they’ve had to endure the Civil War, the Boxing Day Tsunami and then the horror of the Temple bombing. It’s such a pity that these experiences have stained so many people’s images of Sri Lanka.

    My brother had two weeks touring the island last year and he said that he felt very safe and that the people were very welcoming.

    1. Yes, Sri Lanka has experienced some tough times over the last half century. The people are lovely and welcoming. I got the impression that everything is set up to welcome visitors. Let’s hope that they can now look forward to a trouble free run.

      It’s a good time to go as nowhere was too busy. Even the airport, by capital city standards, was quite calm and civilised.

  10. Redesigning the tea industry after it’s been pootling along for over 150 years is a brave move.

    I don’t suppose Rosyth will be revolutionising the way that most of us drink our tea. I can see that there’s certainly room at the top end for change. Whenever I’ve had a top quality pot with an afternoon tea, going home to our dusty tea bags always seems to be a step backwards.

    Nice post as it’s made me think again about something that’s been part of my life for over half a century.

  11. I recently visited Rosyth Estate House in Kegalle, Sri Lanka, and it was a truly enchanting experience. The colonial charm, lush surroundings, and delicious Sri Lankan cuisine made it a perfect retreat. I highly recommend it for a peaceful and memorable getaway.

  12. I’ve now read all 3 of the recent posts on Sri Lanka and together they’ve begun to change how I see Sri Lanka. It’s all a lot more luxurious than I thought though I should have expected nothing else from A Luxury Travel Blog.

    Before when I had thought of Sri Lanka I always had lots of beach scenes in my mind, these posts are a nice reminder that there’s far more to the island than beaches.

  13. Rosyth ought to host a refresher course for supermarket tea buyers as well as cafe managers. It seems to me that here in Britain we’ve lost our way when it comes to making tea.

    Too many tea bags are only made up of dust, not even a fragment of a tea leaf in sight. Even some of the swanky afternoon teas in 5 * hotels get it wrong. They wait precisely for 4 or 5 minutes for the tea to brew then fail to decant it into another pot. Leaving the tea in means it’s stewed. We need to think about tea again in the UK.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *