Lavender is the new Blackheath
ROOM AT THE INN
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