As an artist & gallery operator, it’s rare to have a weekend off. So for our 10th wedding anniversary, I decided a driving holiday was a good way to celebrate. I read an magazine article where the writer travels the Old Bells Line of Road in the Hawkesbury region. I didn’t know this part of the lower blue mountains existed let alone it’s gems. While she provided lots of historical spots to visit, my husband and I were more keen on architecture, breweries and gardens. We did a blend of hers and our own driving trip, and with travel less than 3hrs from Canberra to Windsor, we found it a breeze.
Once you get off the highway to head to Windsor, the changes in scenery and housing becomes more relaxing as we pass by small to large properties from pastel coloured weatherboard to sweeping driveways with wraparound verandas and cast iron lacework. Windsor has Australia’s oldest pub, the Macquarie Arms Hotel, and my other half was keen to sit and have a drink. We felt we were in an episode of the ABC’s TV show Jack Irishas two old timers enthusiastically regaled their tales to all in listening distance!
From here we found The Doctors house, retaining its pretty colonial Terrace architecture style from 1819. A short walk along the river has a paddle steamer on show at the Bridge & retracing your steps back towards Deerubbin Park makes this all very slow paced but for good reasons.
We head to our B&B The Willows in Kurrajong via Richmond where an avenue of plane trees provide a grand entrance to this quaint town. More on this later. We head to the hills winding in & out up the valley & once we leave the main road, discover properties tucked away in the bushes far from city life. Purple wisteria falls from an original shed as we drive down the cream gravel to our B&B. It’s everything I imagined. Wide open veranda, sweeping lawns, a few lambs & quiet apart from a song or two from local birdlife. Janet greets us like we’ve known each other for years, she shows our private entrance to the house, two rooms & discreetly leaves before you’ve put down your bags. We melt into the cushioned chairs on the verandah & don’t move till we head out for dinner. We begin to unwind.
We book into Lochiel House, as recommended by the article and one of three places that host Bruce recommends in the local vicinity. We are greeted with an enthusiastic waitress Lucy who makes our night. She’s chatty and knows when to give us our space. We eat three courses – all of which we enjoy – as everything is sourced locally and made fresh. My dessert is the best pistachio and lemon cake ever! A new menu is due to come out mid October … we are tempted to go back.
After a sleep in on Sunday, we head off to The Blue Mountains botanical gardens at Mt Tomah. We fail to find the Bells Point lookout as written in the article along with a few other sights…we begin to wonder if they exist.
Luckily, we spy the Hillbilly Cider brewery sign and a sharp right (traffic on the long weekend a bit crazy) means a little gravel screeching in Bilpin. As Adam is driving, I get to taste the vintage cider and instantly sigh. It’s like champagne but much softer. Me being Miss Practical thinks we will only buy two bottles. Adam says why buy two when you can buy a box! Which we do but on our return home as we don’t want to jiggle the cider on our road trip.
Off to the gardens and the car park is nearly full. It’s the long weekend and we luck in with a spot. Coats, scarves and brolly are needed as it’s unpredictable in this cooler part of the lower mountains. Upon entering and heading to the lookout we suddenly realise this is a huge garden … at least two hours of meandering it’s many paths, different variety of gardens and endless insta moments at every turn. The gardens are simply stunning and we’ve hit the right time to see spring flowers in bloom. Give it a few weeks and we think it would be just as spectacular as so many buds were yet to bloom.
We are now starving. I had spied a cafe earlier & it turns out to be a very popular place that’s been hammered by its weekend visitors. We are told it’s a long wait for food but happy with our cider/ beer to keep us company. It’s worth the wait & we enjoy Kingfish & Sirloin on the deck covered in Cherry Blossoms. Time to hit the road, collect our cider, purchase dinner from the local deli who’s owner is chatty & friendly & head back to our retreat. We settle in for an afternoon of reading watching the sunset and a roaring fireplace as the temps drop quickly. Sleep comes easily.
A quiet morning to rest & later lunch in the town of Richmond. It’s a public holiday so not much is open but Adam spies a record shop and off he disappears into the network of little rooms themed for its style – rock, metal, country. Several bought records later, we then find some takeaway food and sit in the local park overlooking the cricket ground. Families, couples, friends enjoying the extra day off and the brief summer warmth of what’s to come. We check out some of the older buildings that have been faithfully restored. The School of Arts is my fave….well I do run a gallery!
We wake to another warm Spring day and bid farewell to our lovely hosts. Off to Oberon for our last activity before heading home to Canberra. I read about Mayfield Garden in another magazine and knew instantly we had to visit. Again, another cool climate location where the weather can change so this time it was sunscreen, hats and water. A quick bite to eat in the cafe and then off to explore the largest privately owned garden in the Southern Hemisphere. Grand. Is all we can say. Everything from the obelik to the grotto means a serious love of European gardens to turn a bare dirt landscape into a lush, blooming oasis for all to enjoy. We plan to come back late Spring as so much had yet to bloom.
Time to head home & reminisce our four day getaway. It’s amazing how an extra two days can give you that chance to fully unwind. So, if you can, stretch your next weekend for that perfect getaway.