Hill End - Was it worth the wait?
Words and images: Michael Osborne
Hill End has always been on my list of places that 'one day' I will go there. Now, after taking the short drive from Sydney, I am disappointed I had not done it sooner.
Hill End is locked into our history, mostly for the very significant gold discovered there in the 1860s and extracted in large quantities. A significant town grew in valley, with one time a population of around 10,000, 28 pubs, an opium den, five banks, a brewery, two newspapers and an oyster bar.
I was told that there is still gold to be fossicked by those in-the-know, but 'they' wouldn't elaborate too much.
The area is an important historic site being a well-preserved gold mining ghost town. Most local buildings are managed by the National Parks & Wildlife Service as a ‘Historic Site’ of national significance.
The drive from Sydney is fairly easy, travelling from Mascot; we used the M5 and M7 toll roads, across the Blue Mountains through Katoomba and were in Lithgow in around an hour and a half.
A driver reviver break and we continued on to Bathurst.
We took local advice and drove via Tourondale, (see map) instead of going through Sofala, as this way has some unsealed sections, and it had been raining fairly heavily. The scenery along the way is brilliant, rolling green hills and valleys, the road is well maintained and marked, with plenty of room to stop and take photos or have a break.
Hill End Lodge. When researching for our trip, naturally we were looking for accommodation that would suit the mature traveller. Some attractive looking B&Bs, others had share facilities, and camping and caravan parks. We sent an email to Hill End Lodge, explaining the purpose of our visit, a quick reply explaining what they had to offer, indicated that this should be the place.
As we drive down the road, the sign for Hill End Lodge Motel is very evident, as John said it would be. Up the drive and over a small crest and a surprise, in front of us is a modern country style motel, made to look about 100 years old.
Our hosts, John and Karen came to greet us and we are taken to our apartment. The rooms are spacious, well-appointed and ultra clean. The grounds and gardens are well maintained.
The next surprise was the restaurant and bar. In true country hospitality, guests are invited to sit in the lounge area and enjoy a cocktail, meet the other travellers and talk about the days discoveries.
When on limited time, we always listen to the experiences of others; it can lead to places you may never have found.
Being somewhat isolated, the next delight was the in-house licensed restaurant, the menu, relying on fresh local produce was very innovative and the food delicious. The wine list relies heavily on the best of wines from Mudgee and other local wineries. 10 out of 10.
The team at Hill End Lodge is all about making your stay as successful as possible, they have great knowledge of all the best places to see. In fact they are so hospitable that a huge percentage of their guests return again and again. Including some notable people and celebrities. Make sure you see their autographed plate collection.
Hill End – Now part of the National Trust and controlled by National Parks , this historic town will be preserved, not only as a window into our past, but as an interesting place to visit and enjoy.
The Visitor Information Centre should be your next point of discovery, with plenty of maps and other useful information.
Driving and walking around is very easy and there are plenty of sign posts and information points.
A short drive up to Bald Hill Lookout is well worth it. The panorama of the valleys and the chance to see how far the original town stretched is worth a few great photos.
Call into the shops in the historic buildings, we found the locals very prepared to answer our questions and offer assistance. The Royal Hotel should not be missed, with many photos, drawings and paintings from the famous artists who have lived in the valley. Hill End is noted for its quality of light that has attracted many artists over the years.
We chose to stay at the Hill End Lodge www.hillendlodge.com.au