There are very few lovely old houses such as ‘Rosslyn’ still remaining in Nairobi – and perhaps none which have been owned and lived in by the same family for over 50 years. Built in 1919 by Major Andy Anderson, a well-known hunter and safari guide in early colonial Kenya, and surrounded by coffee plantations for the first sixty years of its existence, the house was bought by the present owners in 1963.
Rosslyn is first and foremost an elegant, comfortable, much-loved and lived-in family house – and one with a history, personality and authenticity that are hard to find in modern-day Nairobi. It is furnished and decorated throughout with antique and colonial furniture, family portraits, paintings, photographs and mementoes, and has an excellent and extensive library of books on Africa.
“An incredible opportunity to walk into a bygone colonial era. A wonderful house with hosts to match. Sylvia is full of fascinating recollections and charm and Bruce can advise on whatever you need to know about modern Nairobi. The garden is an absolute joy and the double room has its own private terrace to enjoy it from. We took dinner in the house – it was five stars and served in a manner fitting with the setting. Although close to the city it is an oasis away from the traffic and bustle – treat yourselves to something unique!”
The house is also a must for fans of the excellent 2005 film The Constant Gardener, based on the 2001 novel by John le Carre. It features frequently in the film as the home and garden of British diplomat Justin Quayle, played by Ralph Fiennes. Rachel Weisz, playing Quayle’s wife Tessa, received a best supporting actress Oscar for her role. And in its more distant colonial past the house had other connections with Hollywood celebrities and British Royalty.
There are two single bedrooms and one double bedroom which can be rented independently from each other – or the whole house can be taken together to accommodate a family or group of friends. Guests have access to and use of all the living areas of the house and grounds – including the elegant, high-ceilinged drawing room and dining room, front and side verandas, kitchen, courtyard and two acres of English-style gardens with expansive lawns.
“I have stayed here a number of times and dream of my next return. Its beauty, charm and simple elegance will take your breath away. You will feel as though you stepped back in time. With beautifully kept gardens and incredible history, this is a must stay in Nairobi. Sonia is a wonderful hostess with her warmth and amazing stories of the early days in Kenya.”
Carmen, Pennsylvania, USA
Guests can interact with the owners or other guests as much or as little as they like, and can opt to remain private or join whichever family or guests are staying there at the time. Rosslyn’s owner and hostess is Mrs Sonia Ryrie, known for her charm, erudition and wide knowledge of Kenyan history. She is often joined at Rosslyn by her son Bruce and other family members. Guests always comment upon how very welcome and at home the family and staff make them feel – as well as how peaceful and relaxing they find their stay.
Full English breakfast is a house specialty – with fresh fruit, tea or freshly brewed fine Kenya coffee, cooked breakfast with bacon and the house’s own free range eggs, toast, marmalades and muesli, oats, porridge and home-made yoghurt. Bernard and Charles who look after the house and kitchen make sure that guests are well looked after and provided for.
“An absolutely lovely stay in what is a wonderful house. The house and gardens have real charm. We were very well looked after, and everyone we met (dogs included) were very welcoming. If only we could have stayed for longer!”
The house is quiet, secluded and calm – a world away from the hustle and bustle of modern Nairobi. There is, however, good access to various different areas of the city. It is just a 5-minute drive to the Village Market shopping centre, 7 minutes to the United Nations offices at Gigiri (more at peak times), 10 minutes to Westlands or Muthaiga, and, traffic permitting, as little as 20 minutes to downtown Nairobi and 45 minutes to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Wilson Airport.