Ella's Cottage, Clunes review: Grand old lady lives on

Read our writer's views on this property below

Ella has gone but the cottage bearing her name is just as charming, writes Kristin Lee.

The state's first gold was discovered in the mining township of Clunes in 1851, but we feel as though we have struck upon an authentic little gem of our own at the tastefully refurbished two-bedroom Victorian Ella's Cottage.

Keen to settle into our self-contained lodgings, we are delayed when the owner, Romany Lambert, phones (mobile reception is patchy around town) to apologise and explain that cleaning is taking longer than expected. It's worth the wait.

Located just past the bridge that crosses Creswick Creek, which flooded in January last year, this small, pleasant house sits on a large corner block with a rambling garden.

Planted with pretty seaside daisies, classic climbing and bush roses plus lavender, we also love the big old walnut tree in the front yard.

Inside, the cottage exudes an understated elegance. The rooms are filled with light and there are polished floorboards in the hallway and throughout most of the dwelling.

Indeed, it would have been a sight to see this little 1880s abode being transported by jigger and traction engine from the mining town of Ullina to its present site in 1936.

Sold to William and Ella Jones in 1940, four years later the cottage amazingly escaped the town's worst bushfires with nothing worse than scorched weatherboards.

In 1975, Ella was widowed and she relocated 11 years later.

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The locals continued to refer to it as "Ella's House" and despite changing hands a few times, it seems fitting that the present owners have officially named it after its well-regarded long-term resident.

One of Jones' daughters, with her daughter and granddaughter, has stayed at her revitalised childhood home.

The living room has a gas log fire, a large ottoman and two comfortable cream leather couches that we sink into for reading any number of the terrific books and magazines, listening to CDs or watching DVDs on the flat-screen TV.

The kitchen has a vintage wooden dining table, lovely crockery, a multipurpose Solardom oven - a convection, microwave and grill in one - plus an old wood heater, which is now a decorative feature.

Both bedrooms have secluded garden outlooks, crisp linen and heaters. The main bedroom has a high queen-size bed; the other has two single cast-iron beds. Our well-mannered Dalmatian, Ella, enjoys roaming the fully fenced garden and is welcome inside, just not on the beds or couches.

The casual sunroom and new sparkling-white bathroom, with bath and shower head plus heated towel rack, provide flower-filled views of the back garden. Natural additive-free toiletries are handmade by the owners.

The front porch has two white cane chairs with cushions. Out the back is outdoor timber furniture, a market umbrella, a chiminea and a barbecue.

Next to the cottage is Queen's Park, with its ornate fountain.

When not lounging about the tranquil cottage, we take the three-minute stroll into the broad, and remarkably well preserved, Fraser Street. Here, talented photographer Neil Newitt has his gallery (some of his images are featured on the cottage's living-room wall).

It's an affable town with a couple of good eateries, myriad bookshops, plus a great greengrocer and cellar door.

Although Ella's Cottage is the kind of place in which you can simply be, I smile when I notice our pooch stop to smell the roses.

VISITORS' BOOK

Ella's Cottage

Address 1 Cameron Street, Clunes.

Phone Romany Lambert, 0416 116 667; see ballarat.com/ellascottage.

Cost $145 a couple a night midweek; $185 at weekends, minimum two-night stay. Includes breakfast provisions.

Getting there Clunes is about 90 minutes from Melbourne. Head up the Western Freeway and take the Clunes/Maryborough exit (C287).

Summary Simple elegance, nostalgia and soul, inside and out.

Verdict 16

The score: 19-20 excellent; 17-18 great; 15-16 good; 13-14 comfortable.

All weekends away are conducted anonymously and paid for by Traveller.