This glorious place, set on a cliff overlooking Bantry Bay and owned by the Edwardian shipping magnate Sir John Ellerman, is an intensely private, cosseting space; non-residents are only permitted if they are visiting a guest, or on an official art tour. For this little beauty (there are just 13 bedrooms in the house) positively shimmies with one of the finest South African art collections in private hands.
The owner, conservationist Paul Harris, says sharing it with others is part of the fun. We set very high standards,’ he says,’but we don’t take ourselves too seriously.’ And what a warm welcome awaits. The snug library and separate sitting room, with its grand piano and sea-green walls coated with priceless, 19th-century Pierneef landscapes, open out onto a wide dining terrace, from which a balustraded staircase leads down to the lawn and Mediterranean-blue swimming pool lined with plump sun beds.
Below this, almost invisible from above, is a bespoke bunker of a cutting-edge contemporary-art gallery; there is also a massive wine cellar, spa and two vehemently modern villas. But the real charm, of the kind that warms the cockles, will always lie in this much loved pink-stucco house with its polished mahogany antiques and crystal whiskey decanters, fine-china tea sets, deep-pile carpets and heavy drapes, now with added twinkle after a recent, barely imperceptible and entirely appropriate refurbishment. There is little doubt Ellerman continues to be the most exceptional place to stay in the fairest Cape of all.