Laven­der is the new Black­heath

ROOM AT THE INN

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SHARON FOWLER

THE World Her­itage-listed Blue Moun­tains re­gion to the west of Syd­ney is renowned for its nat­u­ral at­trac­tions, yet it’s also home to charm­ing vil­lages.

If bustling Ka­toomba is akin to the moun­tains’ main thor­ough­fare and stylish Leura is the grand boule­vard, then Black­heath is the eclec­tic neigh­bour­hood that’s colour­ful, cre­ative and wel­com­ing. And that’s just one rea­son for my fam­ily’s visit.

While there is an abun­dance of gor­geous her­itage- style ro­man­tic abodes dot­ted through the moun­tains, to find child- friendly, wheelchairac­ces­si­ble cot­tage ac­com­mo­da­tion is harder. We hit the mark with Laven­der Manor, a four-bed­room prop­erty about five min­utes by car from Black­heath vil­lage. While we dis­cover a laven­der theme in­side (sprigs, bath salts, pot­pourri), the ti­tle aptly de­scribes the vi­brant ex­te­rior paint­work, en­sur­ing a dis­tinc­tive fa­cade that’s hard to miss.

De­spite the name, Laven­der Manor is less about luxe, and more about pure coun­try com­fort.

On ar­rival we step into a large liv­ing area with fire blaz­ing and three sink­into cush­ion-plumped lounges. There’s a tele­vi­sion and DVD player with a large se­lec­tion of movies, stereo, a wooden din­ing ta­ble for 10, large kitchen per­fectly fit­ted out to whip up a hot break­fast, bar­be­cue and a welle­quipped laun­dry. Bed­rooms have com­fort­able beds with warm du­vets and good pil­lows. Laven­der Manor does home-away-from-home so well that my young son is ready to move in. This is def­i­nitely a good op­tion for fam­i­lies how­ever the clien­tele tends to be groups of women on hens’ week­ends or friends catch­ing up or cel­e­brat­ing birth­days. The draw­card for such girls’ get-to­geth­ers, as I hap­pily dis­cover, lies just be­yond the drive­way where a for­mer garage houses a re­lax­ing spa suite.

While I’m as­sured fe­male guests gen­er­ally tip-toe through the gar­den in bathrobes and slip­pers, the mer­cury is at 6C dur­ing my stay so I’m am­ply lay­ered for my visit. An elec­tric blan­ket, heater and plush blan­ket en­sure it’s snug enough to dress down for a re­ju­ve­nat­ing mas­sage.

Laven­der Manor’s jill-of-all-trades owner, Nicky Vaux, used to do the treat­ments her­self, but now calls in lo­cal ther­a­pist He­len Toner to tend guests both here and at award-win­ning sis­ter prop­erty Laven­der Ma­jes­tic. For those look­ing to splash out, this his­toric home in Ka­toomba of­fers both a more up­mar­ket set­ting and on-call but­ler ser­vice.

It seems Black­heath lo­cals have a pen­chant for multi-task­ing. Toner also teaches cro­chet at Black­heath’s re­cently opened House of Wool, one of sev­eral shop­ping gems that in­clude Stu­dio 52, stock­ing the hand­i­work of lo­cal artists and de­sign­ers; Har­mony at Home, brim­ming with fab­u­lous kitchen­ware; Tommy Ruff Fish­mon­ger, spe­cial­is­ing in qual­ity seafood and gourmet deli pro­duce; and the Vic­tory The­atre An­tique Cen­tre, with two lev­els crammed full of vin­tage good­ies. When it comes to food, Ashcrofts has long held Black­heath’s fine-din­ing crown while Es­carp­ment (mod­ern Aus­tralian), Pied­mont Inn ( gourmet pizza) and the re­cently opened Vesta (rus­tic Ital­ian) are also pop­u­lar. We en­joy break­fast at Anony­mous, a small cafe with an even smaller menu (hearty, tasty meals in­clude a sig­na­ture plough­man’s lunch).

I or­der scram­bled eggs on sour­dough while pe­rus­ing a dis­play of portraits by lo­cal pho­tog­ra­pher Gra­ham McCarter; at the next ta­ble, a lo­cal gent sips cof­fee while por­ing over ar­chi­tec­tural draw­ings. The dis­tinc­tive blue hue of the moun­tains is not all that’s colour­ful up here. Black­heath’s cre­ative lo­cals have made their vil­lage a vi­brant desti­na­tion. Sharon Fowler was a guest of Laven­der Manor.

Groups of girl­friends; fam­i­lies. Yes (af­ter nav­i­gat­ing two steps at the front). Mark O’Flynn’s The For­got­ten World (set in the Blue Moun­tains in the 1800s). Bush­walk­ing, scenic look­outs, mar­kets. Open liv­ing space is chilly on early morn­ings. Plenty to keep guests en­ter­tained in­doors; also pet-friendly.

Laven­der Manor, a five-minute drive from Black­heath in the NSW Blue Moun­tains, is great for weekend get-to­geth­ers

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