New England stopover

We like having two nights stopover on our road trips so we can explore the place. Not for us arriving at night and taking off first thing next morning. 

Armidale is over the midway point on the more interesting route, the New England Highway. As a university town, the town itself has the buzz of youth. The town and surrounding area has a mix of beauty and things of historical interest. 

We stayed at Peterson’s winery. We’ve stayed here before and loved it – imagining being in our country estate as part of the squatocracy. While pricey, Peterson’s House is lovely. One night’s stay is not enough as you don’t get to make the most of the house and grounds. Those who only stay one night don’t get to play squatter and sit on the verandah and in the gardens.

Originally built by own of the first local settlers, one of the Dangars, it is now owned by a family who have several vineyards. 

As we arrived on dusk on the first night, the fireplaces in the main hall were already lit. Fireplaces? Yes, as one fireplace is not enough, the squatter had two in his main hall and one in all the other rooms. We enjoyed a few drinks to slough off the dust of the road trip in front of the fire. 

Then we repaired to the dining room for a two course dinner. Of course there was another blazing fire in the dining room. 

Mr S had an antipasto platter for entree. The mix of pâtés were especially divine. We seem to have a rule that we don’t order the same thing so we can try a greater variety of food. I had a tomato, basil and creamy feta salad. It was light and the cheese was beautiful. Mr S was happy with his choice. So was I as I ate quite a bit of it too. 

For mains I had pork and mash and Mr S had salmon steak. One of the good things about eating out with Mr S is there is never any wastage. I had to give most of the pork to him to finish off as the servings were very plentiful. Despite the deserts sounding divine, we simply couldn’t fit any in. So we returned to the main hall to talk and relax in front of the fire. 

Being on the outskirts of Armidale there’s very little light pollution. The night sky is rich with stars. But we didn’t actually sleep well. The room was too hot for us, or the blanket too heavy for a heated room. So in the morning we turned off the underfloor heating in the bathroom (though it is a lovely invention – to step onto warm tiles, what a luxury!) and turned off the room heating. 

We started our day with a full cooked breakfast, hearty fare for our planned day of adventuring. 

We were going to follow a tourist route. I’ve never done one before. I’ve often seen the signs in our travels and wondered about them and if anyone actually does them. 

We didn’t stop at the war memorial as we have stopped here before. The symbolism and the story behind the memorial is very interesting. Glad we stopped last time. 

First stop for us on Tourist route 19 was Dangars Gorge and Dangars Falls which is along Dangars Falls Road which runs off Dangarsleigh Road. All in the area called Dangarsleigh. Yes, the Dangars gave name to a lot here. 

We’ve been to the falls before; it is worth a return visit. The drive in is exciting. You drive through private property and the unsealed road is unfenced as you pass through sheep and cattle farms. We spotted a large brown bird of prey, a brown falcon, sitting on a fence post. 

The highlands are deceptive. You don’t notice you have gorges and steep cliffs around you. Much of the farmland looks like rolling hills. Dangars Gorge is awe-inspiring. Photos do not do justice to the depth and majesty of the gorge. 

The quiet water before the falls

We went on a two hour walk around the gorge, to McDirty’s Lookout which looks out over the eastern side of the highlands, not as impressive as the gorge itself, but then nothing can match it. The heavy recent rains meant that the waterfall was pounding. The fence is to keep out wild dogs to protect the cattle and sheep. Mr S is just haming it up. There’s no lock. 

We meandered through more farmland to our next stop, a massive shearing shed. That may not sound interesting to many but this is sheep country. The wealth was made “on the back of the sheep” with wool being shipped “home” to England. The wealth and the centrality of wool is evident in the amazing octagonal shearing shed. It’s massive and of an interesting design. Imagine the interest when it was first built in 1872. Most shearing sheds are utilitarian rectangles of slab construction. 

Just over the 1938 bridge, the Dangers has built a little piece of England. An avenue of oaks leads to another homestead which is hidden from view by trees. I imagine it is comparable to the guesthouse which was built by the same family. The little church is actually sad. Dangar built it as a memorial to his grandson who died in WWI. 

Last stop was Uralla. We visited the museum in the old mill. 

This has a varied collection. A series of paintings tells the tale of Captain Thunderbolt, the famous local bushranger. He’s not Ned Kelly but his tale is very interesting. The collection has items related to the loss of locals from the world wars, Chinese migrants from the gold rush, agricultural settlement and the life of the battlers. In one section, the information blurb has been done by by a wit who’s evidently had great fun writing up the explanations. It’s an excellent regional museum. 

The main street of Uralla is worth a stroll to look at the facades. Mr S had visit the lolly shop to buy Edinburgh Rock. He loves it! But I ended up eating most of it!!!

We returned to our guesthouse in the afternoon to meander around the lawn and admire the trees; enjoy a drink on the verandah; and watch the changing light. 

That night we went into town for an Indian dinner. It was okay. Nothing to write home about but not horrendous. Of course, we had to spend a hour in front of the fire back in the hall at the guest house before bed.  

A deep sleep, another hearty breakfast and we were off for the next part of our road trip. 

Yes Armidale is a perfect place to break a road trip between Sydney and south-east Queensland.  


6 thoughts on “New England stopover

  1. Who needs to travel when I have my very own Bill Bryson right here? Or more a Henry David Theroux?
    Your road tripping is very mindful – you certainly get so much out of it and seem to take in so much more detail of your surroundings than I would. You have sold me on the New England stopover.

  2. What a stunning place to stay in! I love all the country town images; so interesting to see unique local families like the Dangars who are part of the broad strokes of themes like living off the sheep’s back, but yet have their own local stories and built history. I love that Gorge and would love to visit it. There is such vast space and flatness (and stars) in northern NSW. Such an iconic part of the world to visit.

  3. I seem to be reading your posts out of order as I find the time. So, yes, it was Gostwyck. It is so lovely out there. I love that tree-line road to the homestead. Once when we were out there our car battery went flat. I was deterred by the “no entry” signs to the homestead, so trekked to another house nearby. It turns out it was a another house on the same farm. They were very helpful and we got back on our way.

    I’ve never even heard of Peterson’s, even though I lived for a few years less than 5km from there. Those were childhood years when we were at the opposite end of the socio-economic scale to the Dangar family. 🙂 It looks beautiful, though. Just the kind of building I love. Have you been to Booloominbah? Or Saumarez Homestead?

    Uralla has gentrified so much in the last 20 years. It is wonderful to see how it has changed.

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