Moun­tains of re­lax­ing to do

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Escape - - HIGH SPIRITS -

THE Grampians in Western Vic­to­ria has long been a mag­net for ad­ven­ture lovers. It has also been home to farm­ers and pas­toral­ists since the 1800s.

The town of Dunkeld, in the South­ern Grampians – about 3½ hours from Mel­bourne by car – was orig­i­nally built around the Mt Stur­geon sheep sta­tion, named af­ter the moun­tain that looms above it.

Dunkeld is now a thriv­ing lit­tle coun­try town, more fa­mous than most other towns of its size due largely to one of its draw­cards – the Royal Mail Ho­tel. The ho­tel is a mod­ern in­car­na­tion of one of the town’s orig­i­nal pubs, and at­tracts people on the food and wine trail.

But I am here to sam­ple some of the area’s other at­trac­tions and, just a few kilo­me­tres out of town, I turn into the red dirt drive­way for Mt Stur­geon Es­tate.

The orig­i­nal home­stead on this his­toric property re­mains and has been turned into a lux­ury ac­com­mo­da­tion and wed­ding venue. But I will be stay­ing in the orig­i­nal cooks’ and shear­ers’ quar­ters – one of six quaint blue­stone cot­tages. All face Mt Stur­geon and its sur­round­ing peaks, which, as I ar­rive, are bathed in the glow of a set­ting sun.

Smoke is curl­ing out of the chim­ney of my cot­tage and

The rugged western Vic­to­rian land­scape of­fers ad­ven­ture, ca­ma­raderie, and am­ple op­por­tu­nity to just switch off and en­joy the beauty of na­ture, writes Jennifer Adams

in­side the wood fire is keep­ing the rooms cosy. A sump­tu­ous bed and taste­ful fur­nish­ings hon­our the char­ac­ter of the cot­tage which, af­ter ren­o­va­tion, re­tained its blue­stone walls and stone floor, but I now have ac­cess to ameni­ties in­clud­ing a kitch­enette and a bath­room set within a wa­ter tank.

There is no tele­vi­sion and mo­bile re­cep­tion is scant. This leaves guests no choice but to sim­ply switch off, re­lax and en­joy the peace, which I hap­pily give in to. Af­ter a rest­ful sleep I am greeted by a sun­rise light­ing up the moun­tains.

On the other side of town, with a dif­fer­ent panoramic view of the same moun­tains, I ar­rive at Griffins Hill Yoga Re­treat. Owned and run by cou­ple Frank and Jane, it is a pas­sion project and busi­ness.

Frank is one of the coun­try’s most em­i­nent yoga in­struc­tors and, with more than 40,000 hours of yoga in­struc­tion un­der his belt, he draws people from all over the coun­try and the world to his re­treats, which can last any­where from two to seven days. He also runs ca­sual classes and the Mt Stur­geon and Royal Mail guests are en­cour­aged to visit dur­ing their stay for a bit of body, mind and spirit bal­ance “Grampians style”.

Dur­ing my visit, I join a group of people who are mid­way through a seven-day re­treat. They hail from all over Aus­tralia and most have trav­elled specif­i­cally to be here. For some, it is their sec­ond or third time here.

Yoga is not the only at­trac­tion at Griffins Hill, though. Jane has her own tal­ents and caters to the groups with a “pad­dock to plate” food phi­los­o­phy. From her or­ganic veg­etable gar­den just out­side the yoga stu­dio, she har­vests pro­duce daily and turns it into in­no­va­tive meals.

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