July 07, 2012
Guest appearance... Forgandenny House was built about 1900 as Mudgee's first surgery.
Geesche Jacobsen finds attentive service and modern comforts in a heritage surgery.
After a leisurely drive from Sydney, with a few stops on the way, we arrive in Mudgee with no accommodation booked. The route into town takes us past several motels, each looking much like any other.
But then, just past the town centre in what appears to be a quiet residential street, I notice a lovely, well-maintained, European-style country garden: roses, bushes, small deciduous trees in full autumn colour, hedges, flower beds and pots of succulents along a path leading to the wide verandah surrounding a charming Federation-style house.
And, much to my delight, there's a B&B sign out the front of the sprawling Forgandenny House, set back behind the garden on a large corner block with a tennis court next door.
We pop in to ask if there's a room for the night. We're in luck, as long as we don't mind that our host, Robbie Holdaway, won't be around to tend our every need. She has been called to work a night shift at the hospital and before we've even set foot inside we have been briefed on the family history.
That's because she is part of the history of this heritage-listed house. It was built about 1900 by her great-grandfather, Dr Charles Lester, who used it to house the town's first surgery. The family lost the property after a contract default in 1925, and Holdaway bought it back 12 years ago.
We enter a large sitting room; ahead is the kitchen and the section of the house occupied by Holdaway and her family. To the left is the guest's lounge and dining room, with a large coloured-glass window. Along a corridor towards the back of the house are three guest rooms.
We're given a choice between the red room and the blue room - two large, immaculate and tastefully decorated period rooms with modern bathrooms and airconditioning. The third room is larger and has a private sitting room.
The common sitting room has a fireplace, subdued lighting and a grandpa-style sofa and chairs. In here is a library and music collection, magazines and newspapers, as well as tea, coffee, port, chocolate and home-made biscuits for a relaxing evening in.
Great attention to detail is evident throughout the house and reminders of its history and inhabitants abound.
The top-quality soft mattress is the best I have slept on in a long time.
And then we ate The next morning, when Holdaway has returned from work, she's in the kitchen rustling up a large cooked breakfast at the pre-arranged time. Cereals, several types of home-made preserves, compote and juice are also available and a delicious berry and banana smoothie is already served. This is good country fare and offered with the hospitality with which she impressed us the night before.
If we had stayed another night, I would have loved tea or a glass of wine on the verandah overlooking the garden as the sun set.
Holdaway has several other passions, such as raising cattle and tending an olive grove at her parents' property.
Before starting the B&B, she worked for Ansett, which explains the charming old airline posters around the house and the hospitality and focus on service.
The deal maker While it was the garden that attracted us, it's definitely this personal service that would entice us to return. It's natural and unaffected, and extends to the staff helping around the house and garden. It just feels as though you're staying with a country relative, who gives you enough freedom to make yourself at home and relax with a drink away from city noises and television (though there is one in the bedrooms).
Stepping out Of course, it wouldn't be a trip to Mudgee without a spot of wine tasting (and buying) at one of about 40 cellar doors. Most of the wineries are within five kilometres of the town centre and on the way we meet a couple of travellers who have decided to explore by bicycle.
And it's not just about wine - there's also plenty of honey and other produce to sample. While many of the wineries have their own restaurants, Mudgee is not short of good eateries. I love the town's pubs, especially the ones that are meeting places on a Friday night. Wherever you eat, the town is worth exploring by foot.
Weekends Away are reviewed anonymously and paid for by Traveller.
Address 15-19 Short Street, Mudgee.
The verdict A well-run guesthouse with Federation charm, country hospitality and a modern touch.
Price From $195 a night for a two-night stay, or $185 a night midweek.
Bookings Phone 6372 2437, see forgandenny.com.au.
Getting there Mudgee is about three hours' drive from Sydney. Forgandenny House is close to the town centre, opposite the town's Olympic swimming pool in Lawson Park.
Wheelchair access Yes.
While you're there Taste wine and food; window-shop in Mudgee's centre; enjoy vistas of the Gardens of Stone National Park and the Blue Mountains on the way from Sydney.