Coach House, Bowral review: Weekend Away

Read our writer's views on this property below

The Coach House at BOWRAL is elegantly rustic, writes Kerry van der Jagt.

THE SETTING

The Coach House at Bowral, in the Southern Highlands of NSW, is a luxury six-bedroom guesthouse set on the sprawling estate of the 1890s manor house The Rift. Originally used as stables and workshop, the two-storey coach house was extensively renovated by new owners Peter Barge and Kinchem Hegedus, before opening its stable doors to guests in 2013.

Set on 2.7 hectares of heritage gardens and fringed by Mt Gibraltar Park, the property is a short drive or 20-minute walk from the main street of Bowral.

THE SPACE

A pair of sliding stable doors roll back to reveal an open-plan lounge, dining and modern kitchen, which in turn opens onto a wide verandah complete with white wicker and wrought-iron chairs. There are six bedrooms of varying sizes (three upstairs, three downstairs) and four bathrooms. Outside, there are playing fields (with remnants of three old cricket pitches), herb and vegetable gardens, and walking trails through the adjacent reserve.

THE KIT

Each room is individually named and decorated, displaying mainly traditional furnishings with an oriental touch, most of which have been collected by the owners on their travels. There are three working fireplaces, Nobo electric heaters and underfloor heating (in bathrooms). The kitchen has a coffee machine, dishwasher (essential for groups), large oven and fridge, and ample storage.

The owners can organise exclusive weekends for groups, including gardening lessons and demonstrations, cooking classes, meditation, yoga, even "makeover" weekends, with facials and hairstyling.

COMFORT FACTOR

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Eight friends, six rooms, one weekend - scoring the best room comes down to a coin toss. I fared well with the Gibraltar Studio, with its en suite, original stable floors, king bed, clawfoot bath and french doors leading onto the timber verandah.

Furnished in moss-green and ivory, with sunlight streaming in through the white sash windows, it is a restful place to while away the hours.

The less said about the toilet and shower being open to the bedroom, the better.

THE FOOD

Apart from raiding the edible garden (which guests are encouraged to do), there are no food outlets on site - it's fend-for-yourself or the owners can arrange on-site catering by request. If you do decide to step out, there's Biota Dining in Bowral, named SMH Good Food Guide regional restaurant of the year for 2014.

The main street of Bowral is a veritable pantry of pubs, trattorias, delicatessens, cafes and restaurants. Local favourites include Elephant Boy Cafe, Palate Pleasure and the Cafe des Artists.

Or try one of the food and wine trails, culinary tours, truffle hunts or mushroom tunnel tours.

WORTH STEPPING OUT FOR

As tempting as it is to stay in, either curled up with a book or strolling through the gardens, this is Bowral, home to cricket legend Sir Donald Bradman. My group of cricket tragics is keen to visit the Bradman Oval and International Cricket Hall of Fame, but if your tastes run to wine rather than wickets, the Southern Highlands is home to 15 cellar doors and 60 vineyards.

The newly crafted Mary Poppins statue (yes, author P.L.Travers also lived in Bowral) is an unexpected surprise.

THE VERDICT

Well-priced and well-positioned for a group wanting to spend time together amid rustic elegance.

HOW TO GET THERE

Bowral is 110 kilometres, or about 90 minutes' drive, from Sydney. Take the Hume Highway to Bowral (via Mittagong), turn left at Merrigang Street, travel for 2.2 kilometres, then left into Carlisle Street.

ESSENTIALS

The Coach House, 8-10 Carlisle Street, Bowral, is suitable for groups of up to 12. The price is $750 a night for three bedrooms; $900 a night for four bedrooms; $1050 a night for five bedrooms; and $1150 a night for six bedrooms, with a minimum two-night stay. Phone 0488 417 773, see therift.com.au.

The writer was a guest of The Coach House.