by Sally Hammond
A place in the country – aaah, your friends go, picturing crisp frosty mornings and open fires at night. What’s the address, they ask next, and you know what they’re thinking. They’ll be down for a visit. Soon.
But a sea-change (or tree-change, or whatever other change you call it) is not for everyone. Many of us have city jobs and commitments.
What’s more while that place in the country – or at the beach, or in the mountains – may sound romantic and restful, the chances are if it’s a weekender, you are likely to spend those weekends away fixing things, cleaning up, and working harder than you would at home. Suddenly you have two houses to maintain.
If that’s the case it’s time for a ‘mini-change’.
Why work hard when all you really want is a place to stay and play? Why not choose your hideaway spot, then book into somewhere glamorous and gracious where the hosts will spoil you rotten?
Here are a few places in New South Wales which I can highly recommend, having stayed there recently.
I could hardly believe it when my hosts told us their property was just five minutes from the sprawling tablelands town of Armidale with its schools and churches. It was. But then sitting on a cane chair on the wide verandah and looking at the expanse of lawns it still seemed impossible.
Inside, a side table in the lofty great hall stood ready with port and chocolates. What luxury. I felt truly ‘to the manor born’.
'Palmerston' was built in 1911 and painstakingly restored. Our room, one of seven, turned out to be immense, with snowy covers on the bed, and a five-star ensuite. But if we thought that was good, the healthy home-cooked breakfast the next morning in the sunny drawing room was even better.
Only thing left to do was to wander to the winery and taste the Peterson’s wines.
The views from these aptly named stone cottages really do seem to go on forever. Owner and builder Kyle Wallace has poured his talent and creativity into crafting these exquisite places – several cottages along the ridge, with another to come, as well as a pool.
Nothing has been missed in making these truly exceptional places – ours had an inviting spa bath, a deep and comfortable lounge, and a kitchen as well-equipped as any city apartment, and laundry. I could have moved right in and felt totally at home!
The Canowindra region is often called Australia’s ‘hot air ballooning capital’ and you can see why floating over the patchwork of paddocks, vines and hillsides would be such an uplifting experience. Although, given the comfort of these cottages, I reckon you could be forgiven for simply kicking back on the deck with a chilled drink and watching them drift over.
Everview Retreat, 72 Cultowa Lane, ‘The Vines’, Canowindra, NSW. Phone 02 6344 3116.
Let’s clear up one thing. The name has nothing to do with eggs. My rudimentary high-school German made me translate this as ‘beautiful egg’, which seemed a little strange. But feasible, I thought, as the logo is a goose (or is it a duck?) wearing a bow-tie.
However when we arrived, owner-chef Richard Everson put me right. Richard with his wife Evelyn have spent much of their working lives in Europe, and worked together in Switzerland. Schonegg simply means, in Swiss, ‘pretty corner’.
If the visitor’s book is anything to go by, the Eversons who established Schonegg six years ago, have the perfect formula. People repeatedly remark on the tranquillity, the comfort of the rooms, the hospitality …. and oh yes, of course, the food!
Using the best local produce and created and delivered with great style, the breakfasts are something always talked about – and dinners can be arranged at local restaurants – and are undoubtedly what many people return for again and again. I know I would, too.
Country Guesthouse Schonegg, 381 Hillview Drive, Murrumbateman, NSW, Phone 02 6227 0344,
As a child, growing up in the country, I spent quite a lot of time around shearing sheds. I found them interesting – but smelly and dirty. I never in a million years considered spending the night in one!
That was until I was invited to this place near Orange in the Central West of the state.
Here, the hundred-year-old corrugated iron shearing shed has had a makeover that has uncovered its best features and retained them, while gently smoothing out the damage of years of use. So you have pieces of shearing equipment still in place and lanolin-soaked original floorboards in the central part of the shed forming a sort of great hall and dining area, alongside the latest in creature comforts.
The five guest suites are country-comfortable with enough rustic charm – think, more galvanised iron in the bathroom – to make them interesting.
Despite the stunning views and this unique accommodation, I remember most my host, Helen Napier’s stunning breakfast: a homestead breakfast you won’t believe, with dishes I wish I could find in a suburban café near me.
Black Sheep Inn, 91 Heifer Station Lane (off Forbes Road), Borenore, NSW, 02 6369 0662.
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