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Sri Lanka - advice needed

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My DD and I are planning to go to Sri Lanka in August this year. Yes, I know it is quite late. What can I say.
We would like to divide our time between a stay in a rain forest, the hill country and (perhaps) a beach area. We can stay for +- 16 days - depending on budget.
I am not really interested in the temples and religious sites.
I am longing for beautiful walks and just being in nature. I prefer staying a bit longer in one place, rather than moving on every 2nd day.
I have read the TRs on this site by ccc, Kathie and Esme. They all leave me drooling!

My questions:
The recommended way to getting around seems to be to hire a driver with a car (even if it turns out to be a 'crappy toyota' ;) I would so prefer not having to deal with the personality of a stranger - although I do acknowledge that it can work out really well if you get the right guy. I would perhaps prefer not to take that chance, but I am willing to change my mind. According the Man in Seat 61, train travel can be OK and even beautiful. Would it make sense to travel by train (1st class) and rent a car / taxi in each place as needed? Or would that complicate things?
What I read about Colombo does not sound enticing. Would I miss much if I just book a room there for the 1st and last evenings?
At the moment I have only one guide book (Bradt). The info looks solid and comprehensive enough. Any other books that you can recommend?
We are not into a 'cocktails, sun and sand' type of holiday. Are there pretty and unspoilt beaches where DD can do some snorkelling and I can watch the tide go out?
Can you recommend specific nice, safe, beautiful places for us to stay?

Thanks in advance, dear wise Fodorites!

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