It’s easy to see why Galle, a town on Sri Lanka’s south west coast, draws so many visitors, who come to while away a few days wandering the cobbled alleyways that wind around its old Dutch quarter, Fort. The fort is lined with cafés, galleries and boutiques, and bordered by stone walls that drop straight into the sea. Tour the walls at sunset and you’ll see local children flying kites, couples canoodling under umbrellas and all ages snacking on peanuts sold from roadside vendors.
Like the red-tiled guesthouses inside the fort, The Dutch House or Doornberg, is a colonial villa, built in 1712 by a Dutch spice exporter. Like its sister property The Sun House opposite, it’s a five-minute tuk tuk ride or short walk up a hill via a road that was built especially for it. The bungalow became a hotel in 2002. Since then, its drawn celebrities such as the shoe designer Christian Louboutin – who’s stayed for dinner a few times – and the British singer Sting, who stayed in the ballroom suite.
The ballroom suite is the biggest of the three rooms available to the public, as the fourth is reserved for the owner. I stayed in Voc, which is named after the logo of the Dutch East India Company, which traded spices in the 1600s. A heavy golden key makes the front door swing open, revealing a vaulted ceiling and lamp-lit lounge decorated with stone Buddha heads, rattan armchairs and vases filled with birds of paradise.
An archway leads into the bedroom, which features a four-poster bed and an antique wooden wardrobe. The bathroom is just as memorable. A roll top bath, long candles and his and hers sinks are perfect for honeymooners, while a conservatory roof made me feel like I was showering outside.
Chances are you’ll have the place to yourself, so factor in time to enjoy the grounds. Play croquet, watch chipmunks scampering around the sun loungers or take a dip in the L-shaped pool, which is surrounded by native palms and vines.
Breakfast is included, and you’ll be glad it is. All the dishes are prepared to order and you can choose to dine in the garden, courtyard or on the veranda. Using your fingers like the Sri Lankans do, rip up hoppers – light, bowl-shaped pancakes – and use them to scoop up handfuls of egg curry, mung beans and coconut sambol, a blend of grated coconut, lime and chilli.
No wonder Sting likes to stay here. And like his 1985 hit, Fortress Around Your Heart, you’ll fall in love with Galle Fort and want to return.
The Dutch House, 18 Upper Dickson Road, Galle, Sri Lanka
Tel: +94 91 438 0275
The Dutch House is located on Sri Lanka’s south coast and close to the UN World Heritage site of Galle Fort, Buddhist temples, wildlife reserves and superb beaches. It’s just a five-minute tuk tuk ride or 10-minute walk from Galle Fort and Galle bus and train stations.
Type of Hotel: Boutique Villa
Number of Rooms: Four suites
Price Band: High
Reviewer’s Rating: 10/10
Photographs courtesy of The Dutch House