Both your hosts have travelled very extensively, and have stayed at a wide range of hotels in almost every part of the world. Therefore, even though we had no experience as hoteliers before acquiring Ellerton we were nevertheless very well aware of how we wished it to be. Moreover, we were fortunate and privileged to “inherit” fully trained staff who, not only are professionals but also very lovely people. It is mostly to their credit that Ellerton is what it is.
But the most important component of any hotel is the guests. We want you to feel that you are staying at a friend’s house and so, although Ellerton may lack some features that one would have in a big hotel, we feel that this is more than compensated for by a genuinely relaxed and informal atmosphere (there are no bars and restaurants nor shopping malls in the close vicinity of Ellerton!) Within reason guests are encouraged to treat Ellerton as their own home. With the exception of the bedrooms, they may feel free to use all the public spaces irrespective of where your room is situated. We have no formal reception area, but you will be met on arrival by our staff and after a short tour of the hotel will be accompanied to your room. We respect your privacy and therefore purposely avoid hovering about. But staff will respond promptly should you press the bell switches which are to be found in the bedrooms or public areas. Most of our staff live within the hotel premises and therefore always around to attend to your needs.
Water at Ellerton is free, as water should be. Pumped from our own well and after having gone through a thorough purifying process, it is safe for drinking. You will find bottles of water on the side tables in your bedroom, in the fridges and in the restaurant. This applies also to the water in your bathroom taps. If you wish, we will be happy to show you the purifying plant which is at the back of the house. This is also our way of reducing the use of plastics.
We have three pets. Polly the dog and kitty who are both rescue animals and are about 13 years of age. They spend most of their time lying around mainly at the back of the house but can be seen roaming now and then in the garden. We also have Sam who is a very young black labrador. All three are well trained and do not bother our guests. If you have allergies or are afraid of animals, please let us know in advance and we will do our best to keep them away for the duration of your stay. But more often than not, our guests come looking for the three pets!
Here at Ellerton, in the midst of rural Sri Lanka, we are in the tropics. The lush vegetation affords fertile habitat to all manner of creatures which is wonderful. But whilst you might enjoy the beautiful gardens, the birds and insects, you must also be aware of the more unpleasant creatures such as snakes and scorpions. Human activity, as well as our pets, have scared them off to a great extent, but it is always best to be aware. Therefore we advise you to have footwear and carry a torch should you walk around at night. Torchers are to be found on your bedside tables. In fact, this rule should apply to where ever you are in Sri Lanka.
The meals served at Ellerton are often graded as very good or excellent. Seasonal and regional produce is used to prepare non-complicated but tasty meals. We can accommodate most dietary requirements; please let us know in advance or at the very least when you check in. Nothing is too difficult for our three excellent chefs!. We offer Vegan (most curries are) Vegetarian, and gluten-free meals.
Breakfast is plentiful and varied. Fresh fruit, fresh juice, curd and honey, cereal, continental, traditional Sri Lankan, full English, a variety of egg preparations or just simple bread butter and jam is served with tea and coffee.
The Lunch menu offers hamburgers, salads, omelettes, pasta, soup and various sandwiches. Most meals are accompanied by a side dish of potato chips. Drinks of your choice are included in the price.
Dinner is a three-course meal which gives you a choice between two starters, two main courses (one curry and one non-curry), two desserts and is served with very good imported wines. Of course, you can have any other non-alcoholic drink as well.
There is no multichannel television in the bedrooms. There is satellite television in the Main House which will receive CNN/BBC World and various sports channels. You can get coverage of most international sporting events too. There are no telephones in the bedrooms but we happy for you to phone anywhere within Sri Lanka for free from our office. We are also happy to help you to print your boarding cards.
You will find a map and directions inside the blue information folder which is placed on your bed when you first arrive. The walks are explained very well but more information can be obtained from our staff in the office. We have six mountain bicycles, which you can borrow, at no charge. There are a large number of roads and tracks around Ellerton which are good for bicycle trips and walking, ranging from relaxed to the quite challenging.
There are quite a number of wild animals around Ellerton; such as monkeys, mongeese, porcupines, wild boar, barking deer and hare. The monkeys are the most visible, whereas you would be lucky to see any of the other animals. There is a fascinating variety of bird life, in particular, the Sri Lankan hanging parrot, golden orioles and the plum-headed parakeet. Noises on the tin roof are likely to be squirrels!
There are a wide variety of books in the reception rooms of Ellerton. Please borrow any that you would like to read and if you haven't finished it by the time you leave, and if it is a freely available paperback you can most certainly take it away. Just please let us know before doing so.
There is a choice of board games (scrabble, monopoly, trivial pursuit etc), cards and jigsaw puzzles. Drawing books, coloured pencils and beads to do handwork is also available. The latter being very popular with our younger guests. Footballs and table tennis is also available.
Sri Lanka is well endowed with guidebooks, most offering useful and practical advice.
Probably the most important advice about Sri Lanka is NOT to attempt to do too much. This is a very common mistake, aggravated by the illusion of what seems to be small distances between destinations. Distance v time makes no sense when compared to the same distance/time in the UK or other countries. The roads in Sri Lanka, although much improved now (there are even several highways) are extremely congested, especially close to urban areas. A trip by road from Colombo to Kandy can easily take up to four hours, whereas it is about 2 1/2 hours by train from the main railway station in Colombo. If it is at all possible try to book your train tickets well in advance. Your travel agent will do this for you or if you are an independent traveller, you can do so online. Read about train services.
Do not try to do everything in one day. Plan on a relatively short itinerary, reserving several hours “for the road”. This is even more recommended if you are travelling with small children. There are many clean eateries along the roads where you can stop for a warm meal or a snack. The drivers usually know where to stop. If you are an independent traveller staying at Ellerton, please feel free to contact us for information and advice.
If you are an independent traveller, it makes a great deal of sense to hire a car with a driver – the cost of the driver is built into the car cost and Sri Lankan “chauffeur-guides” are usually well versed in history; politics; geography; wildlife of Sri Lanka. Also, the system is well-established whereby MOST hotels give free accommodation to the driver, and indeed most restaurants will feed your driver, while you have your meal in the main restaurant.
Our advice is to avoid credit cards (whose operators can be rapacious in their charges), therefore, whenever possible change money into rupees and pay with cash. Most shops and Hotels will add an extra 3% to your bill if you pay with a credit card. You can change money at the many bank counters which are situated at the arrival area of the airport. Do keep a small pile of 100, 500, and 1000 rupees notes for tipping. Your porter at the airport will be very happy with a 500 rupee tip. An ATM can be found at almost every street corner!
The Sri Lankan mobile network is relatively efficient, and those who want to make or receive international calls (or indeed make local calls) when in Sri Lanka, should consider getting a local sim-card. The mobile phone providers are also situated in the entrance area of the Airport. WiFi and broadband cover up to 80% of the island.
Most Sri Lankans speak English albeit to varying degrees. Some are fluent and others not. Sign language and a good dose of patience usually work.
Sri Lanka is extremely relaxed in terms of dress. The only restrictions are if you are visiting a Buddhist temple, Hindu kovil or Christian church. Both ladies and gents are expected to cover their arms (no sleeveless or strap dresses or vests) and have their knees covered. Most temples rent some sort of cloth; scarves, skits and sarongs. But by and large, you are free to dress in any way which takes your fancy. Still, this being by far a traditional society there is a certain amount of “respect” for those who are dressed modestly; especially in rural areas.
Many tourists imagine that Sri Lankan food is always hot and spicy, which is certainly not true. Because of this many hotels and restaurants tend to offer either western or “oriental” dishes, but we would urge people to try curries, which can be very varied and delicious. Unfortunately, the food in the larger hotels do tend to cater to the mass tourist market, and, in our opinion should be avoided. There is much more creativity in smaller hotels and restaurants. Do not drink tap water unless you are sure it is purified (like at Ellerton). Do not eat food which has lain around for hours. Instead, try to eat food that is freshly cooked and is served piping hot.
“Ceylon is the cradle of the human race because everyone here looks an original” -George Bernard Shaw-
Indeed ours is a melting pot of races and religions. In our genetic makeup are traces of the Aryans of the north and the Cholas of South India, Arab and Chinese traders, the Portuguese, Dutch and English colonialists as well as African sailors. It is a common site to see a temple, kovil, mosque and church standing in close proximity to each other. Our culinary heritage reflects all those who have been or passed through the land. Therefore it is entirely acceptable to have roast chicken with rice and curry or Chinese mixed noodles with beef curry and onion sambal!
According to the latest statistics, 92% of the population is literate. By nature, Sri Lankans read a lot; especially the daily newspapers. But, it's in their nature to be laid back and easy going. Don't think they are lazy or foolish; these days the vast majority of couples work; some at 2- 3 jobs in order to make ends meet. Their ways are simply different from yours.