MUDGEE: ROOM AT THE I NN
It’s Sunday night in Mudgee, in NSW’s central west, and the stars are aligned. I am huddled with my family in a paddock so dark and icy that I’m beginning to wonder how this could possibly have seemed like a good idea. Then I step into a small, pitch-black dome, clamber a few steps up a metal ladder and through the viewfinder spot Saturn, its rings clearly visible about 1.4 billion km away. Sparkling above it is Titan, and after a quick rotation, there’s Alpha Centauri.
Through several telescopes outside we’ll also spy the chalky surface of the moon, dips and crags so defined it’s like looking at the palm of your hand. This is Mudgee Observatory, the creation of John Vetter, an amateur astronomer and natty telescope builder who’s been stargazing for more than 40 years. He welcomes students, astronomers and general punters like me who barely know Alpha from Orion.
Mudgee is a smallish country town with more than a few shining lights, not least of which is our accommodation. Earlier in the day we arrived at Barn End Cottage, part of the beautifully restored Trelawney Farm, a crisp white exterior and scarlet door beckoning as we drove up the blossom-lined driveway. Barn End is the smaller of the homestead’s two self-contained sections, and it looks a treat, with its fireside armchairs, antique iron beds and chic bathroom with clawfoot tub. We plop on the sofa, which will become our prime viewing spot for starry nights and misty mornings, awakening each day to a palette of watercolour blues and purples.
The main part of the property, The Coach House, also contains a generously proportioned living area plus library and three bedrooms, one of which is a sweet child’s retreat complete with chalkboard walls and rocking horse.
Trelawney Farm’s decor is a carefully curated blend of family antiques, vintage finds (from glass milk bottles to porcelain Chinese vases) and industrial accents. There are whimsical touches, too, with text graphics curving over walls and quirky blackboard illustrations. It’s the handiwork of Kathy Collins, a Sydney-based interior stylist and co-founder of boutique renovation company Urban Splash, who purchased the dilapidated farm several years ago and meticulously restored it to a family home, with Barn End originally designed to house visiting friends and relatives. So while everything looks in its perfect place, comfort hasn’t been forgotten (and the longer you stay the more you feel at home).
The night after our observatory adventure, we wake up to an icy -2.4 degrees. Visit in less glacial conditions (I’m picturing balmy summer evenings) to take advantage of the wide deck on three sides, the entertainingsized alfresco dining table, the yard’s clay pizza oven and even a discreet outdoor bath tub.
Lying between Trelawney Farm and the Mudgee Observatory, the compact town centre is sprinkled with heritage architecture and more than a few tasty treats. We start each day with brewed coffee at the atmospheric Butcher Shop Cafe; lunch at Arbuckles Restaurant, a casual place decked out in retro kitsch; and slip into Eltons Eating + Drinking, where there’s contemporary art, crisp wood-fired pizzas and craft beers on tap.
There are shopping gems too, such as the eclectic mix at Juliet Horsley Homewares, which includes lovely leather bags and straw cowboy hats in rainbow shades.
Mudgee is wine country and good drops beckon. Logan, on the way into town, is a favourite, its glasswalled tasting room perched atop a hill (try the perky shiraz and silky pinot noir). We are travelling with a small child and distractions are in order, which we find at the Motorcycle Museum at Robert Stein Winery and Vineyard. At Short Sheep Micro-Winery, a new lamb nuzzles its mum metres from the cellar door; and at Lowe Wines, an organic vineyard, farm and winery, we find chooks, donkeys, ducks and a strutting brilliant-blue peacock. Our son adores the welcoming baby goats at Leaning Oak Dairy.
There’s plenty of stargazing on offer in Mudgee, and making yourself at home at gorgeous Trelawney Farm is a stellar idea, too.
While everything looks in its perfect place, comfort hasn’t been forgotten
Barn End Cottage at Trelawney Farm, above; and bedroom and living area