Take the high coun­try roads

A con­vivial cy­cle among vil­lages and vines

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION AUSTRALIA - AN­DREA BLACK

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

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