Take the high country roads
A convivial cycle among villages and vines
There’s a commotion in Victoria’s former goldrush town of Beechworth. An out-of-town developer has just bought the jail — again. This isn’t any jail but the one where Ned Kelly was locked up — twice. His mother, Ellen, was also an inmate.
Kelly’s descendants had rallied for it to be turned into a museum in his honour but their crowd-funding appeal raised just $1100. The prison sold for $1.75 million. Besides there’s a repository for the outlaw in town already — the Ned Kelly Vault in Beechworth’s Sub Treasury Building has the largest collection of Kelly Gang articles and memorabilia in the world, including Ned’s death mask.
The region of northeast Victoria is Kelly country and there are reminders everywhere. I’m at Bridge Road Brewers, housed in a former coach house and stables, where my guide from Tour de Vines, Damian Cerini, is giving a rundown on a weekend itinerary of cycling via farm gates and cellar doors. Depictions of Ned’s armoury feature on craft beer bottles. Between slices of pizza, the hot topic of conversation is the future of the jail. Will it ruin the community? Everyone has an opinion.
I’m staying at Barnsley House B&B where hosts Eileen and Steve have made the 1850-built house into the ultimate in cosy guest quarters. There’s sherry and port in the lounge room should you wish a nightcap, a conservatory to catch the morning sun, and five guest retreats with private patios. The gardens are immaculate — hedges are pouffed, water features babble and cherubic statues look out to rose gardens. And there are doilies everywhere; even the milk bottle in my guestroom’s fridge is wearing one as a lid. Breakfast is a generous spread cooked by Eileen and served by Steve in his finest tartan waistcoat.
Cycling through the vines at Boynton’s Feathertop Winery, above; rustic charm in Myrtleford; accommodation at Panoramia Villas, opposite page