Read our writer's views on this property below
Angie Schiavone warms up in front of the log fire after braving the elements.
There are ways to ensure a winter weekend away with friends is enjoyable and memorable for all: choose a place to stay that's comfortable and warm, stock up on good food and wine, bring a boardgame that calls for impersonations of Shane Warne and Marilyn Monroe (among others) and don't invite anyone with an aversion to tracky dacks.
We're off to a good start, having booked Brantwood Cottage at Blackheath as our base (and without one hater of tracksuit pants in our group of eight). The beautifully restored Federation home is very comfortable, with central heating and a log fire, and is an easy two minutes' drive from Blackheath's main strip, so when we make those essential food-and-wine runs, we can retreat to the cottage before the cold sets in.
Blackheath has a few excellent restaurants, including Ashcrofts, Vulcans and Escarpment (a more recent addition), as well as a couple of great bakeries and cafes. But given the size of our group and the single-digit temperature outside, we decide we're better off staying in and cooking.
The cottage's kitchen strikes a perfect balance between modern practicality and country-chic. It's well stocked with kitchenware and our hosts have left us generous breakfast provisions (bread, milk, cereal, eggs, bacon), T2 tea, plunger coffee, cheese, crackers, chocolate and a bottle of wine. There's a big wooden dining table with bench seats and room enough for eight and, before we know it, we're gathered around it, feasting.
After a marathon of food, wine and board-games, it's time to turn in. There are three bedrooms; one with a double bed, one with two singles, the master with a queen bed, and in the lounge room is a double trundle lounge-bed. I've scored the comfortable master bedroom, which has pretty Provencal decor, including french doors that open to the front verandah (although it's too chilly at this time of the year to throw them open).
My room has its own entrance to the shared bathroom with separate bath and shower and there's a second toilet elsewhere in the house (linen and towels are provided).
The next day we brave the great outdoors. Two from the group head further west to Cox's River to try their hand at trout fishing (the season has since ended), while the rest of us go bushwalking. There's plenty of information online about walks in the area; we choose the Pope's Glen to Govetts Leap walk. The six-kilometre, medium-grade track takes us less than three hours and - despite a few muddy stretches - is wonderfully scenic and quite easy-going.
When we emerge at the Govetts Leap end of the walk, the usually spectacular view is almost completely hidden by thick mist. By this stage we're cold and keen to swap our muddy walking shoes for Ugg boots, so we head back to the warmth of Brantwood Cottage.
Our trout fishermen didn't have much luck (the one fish they caught was too small and thrown back), so we get cooking again and repeat last night's performance: lots of food, wine and boardgames.
We leave the following day, with reluctance. Perhaps we'll return at a warmer time of the year and take advantage of the outdoor barbecue, those french doors and verandah, and spend more time exploring around Blackheath.
Before hitting the highway, we visit the Victory Theatre Antique Centre (next door to the Blackheath branch of Sydney's popular Gleebooks bookshop). The Victory is a treasure trove of old and not-so-old ceramics, jewellery, books, clothes and more. There's a cafe attached, too, but we decide to drive five minutes to Browns Siding Store and Cafe at Medlow Bath for a coffee and meal. The Reuben sandwich (slow-cooked corned beef on rye, with grilled Swiss cheese and coleslaw) is terrific. Keeping everyone well fed is, after all, one of the golden rules of a good winter weekend away.
Weekends Away are reviewed anonymously and paid for by Traveller.
Address Chelmsford Avenue, Blackheath.
The verdict The home away from home you've always wanted.
Price Two nights for four people costs $800 on weekends or $700 midweek; minimum two-night stay. Prices for larger groups or longer stays are available on application.
Bookings Phone 0405 187 297 or 0404 479 411.
Getting there About two hours' drive west of Sydney via the M4 and Great Western Highway. Blackheath train station is about 20 minutes' walk from the cottage.
Wheelchair access No.
Perfect for A family, group of friends or golfers.
While you're there The area has lots of excellent bushwalks, lookouts, antique shops, bakeries, cafes and restaurants, and there's a golf course just a little more than a putt away.