The Gileemale Walawwa is conceptualised and materialised by its current sole owner Ishantha Avinda Senerath Dassanayake who is a sixth-generation member of the lineage of Pagoda Punchi Bandara, the original owner of the mansion and the village “Gileemale”. Ishantha has achieved a delicate balance infusing his own character and innovative vision while preserving the mansion’s ancestral history of more than 300 years to build an entity of sustainable hospitality that rekindles the bygone glory of the Sabaragamuwa culture.
Provide a unique culture & heritage experience of Sri Lankan plantation Estate at Gileemalee Walawwa; a 300-Year-old mansion turned into a mid-range eco-responsible nature retreat in the heart of Adams’ Peak valley.
To offer the opportunity to experience all the diverse and distinct details of Sabaragamuwa from a historic manor house (Walawwa). And provide multiple immersive experiences with a focus on sustainability and community involvement.
Provide a hospitality experience that demonstrates sustainable practices & community involvement through a hybrid of modern and traditional approaches.
History of Gileemale Walawwa Mansion
The Gileemale Walawwa is a remarkable and unique testament of Sri Lankan history, ancient spirituality, and culture, especially that of the Sabaragamuwa region. The Walawwa (the Sinhalese word for “mansion”) has passed through generations, perfectly preserving the memories of kings in the past taking rest at the Walawwa before embarking on pilgrimages to the mystic Adam’s Peak.
The story of the mansion began in the era of King Rajasinghe I, also known as Seethawaka Rajasinghe who ruled the country from 1581 to 1592. , Legend has it that the king gifted a youth named Appu from Pagoda, Kotte the village now known as Gileemale for successfully undertaking an open challenge to climb the Kunudiya Rock. The king also permitted Appu to settle with his relatives and friends in Gileemale, upon which Appu’s surname was changed to Bandara, and to build a mansion which is known as Gileemale Walawwa today. For generations, the Bandara family served as the hospitality partners for the king’s officials. The legend says that the king’s officials lit a fire at the location of the mansion, en route to Adam’s Peak.
The mansion has undergone several renovations—one of which was adding the first floor and the Victorian-style façade in 1911. Also, as the generations of owners passed, the Bandara family implemented agriculture in the premises which resulted in the current plantations of tea and cinnamon to name a few. In 2016, additional renovations began along with additional cultivations to modernise the mansion with modern amenities while preserving its authenticity. The recent refurbishments infused the Walawwa with an ambience of an upmarket holiday home.
The renowned English photographer, William Skeen in his novel Adam’s Peak has described how ‘most hospitably’ he was entertained at the Gileemale Walawwa in 1870. Today, the magnificent mansion which once hosted kings and other dignitaries offers guests that same unrivalled hospitality.