Hilda Quiroga discovers quirky and luxe touches in an eco-friendly house.
Is it a horse? Is it a pony? A clumsy jumble of legs, flapping ears and drooling jowls comes galloping towards me. I brace for the impact and in the tangled mess of arms, legs, tail and drool, I almost tread on Buster, or is it Poppy? It's a good thing Ian from Bald Hills B&B has already checked in an email beforehand that we are comfortable with dogs, in this case a great dane and two chihuahuas.
The house was a labour of love for Ian, a stonemason, and his partner, Leanne. It has been operating as a bed and breakfast since last November and its close proximity to the historic town of Beechworth and the popular Stanley Pub means it well booked.
The care and thoughtfulness of the design is evident throughout; it feels like a grown-up's tree house, with nooks and crannies, a loft for kids, eclectic furnishings, Aboriginal art and a cool 1950s cocktail cabinet that belonged to Ian's dad. The bench-top bar once lived at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. There is even an old, huge surgery lamp that swivels and is attached to a wooden beam.
The house is a homage to the native trees that surround the property: exposed beams of red gum, blue gum, yellow box - the wood sourced from fallen trees or recycled. Corrugated, galvanised iron makes up the walls and ceiling, not a scrap of plaster to be found. The house has a five-star energy rating and is self-sufficient for water. LED floor lighting adds to the cosy ambience, as do the wood-fired stove, leather couches and the many books that are tucked away in a loft.
And then we ate The kitchen is fully stocked with a walk-in pantry, an industrial-size stove-top and all the modern cooking implements you will need. If the idea of cooking is too much to bear, then wander along to the nearby Stanley, a local pub that is winning many hearts.
The deal maker We stay in the East Wing; bi-fold doors open out to the pool and outdoor decking. The bathroom has a deep, free-standing stone bath and a marble shower with a generous shower head.
From our red wood-framed queen-size bed, my partner spots a potoroo and, as dusk descends, a mob of kangaroos gracefully hops by. In the stillness of the night, we hear the rush of the nearby Stanley Gorge, not the easiest to access, we're told. The West Wing is suitable for families and can accommodate up to four adults and four children, who get a secret loft and plenty of board games.
Stepping out It feels like staying at a friend's; the morning is spent chatting over coffee with Ian and then walking through the wet, glistening forest with rays of sunlight playing with the curls of smoke from the chimney.
We're sad to leave but we have a lovely drive through chestnut orchards to enjoy and we take a piece of Bald Hills with us - a car boot stuffed with donated wood for my partner, a wood-carver.
Weekends Away are reviewed anonymously and paid for by Traveller.
Bald Hills Bed and Breakfast
Address 570 Myrtleford-Stanley Road, Stanley.
The Verdict A luxurious "tree house" in beautiful surrounds.
Cost $600 weekend rate for the East Wing (suitable for a couple) or $640 weekend rate for the West Wing (four adults and up to four children). Less for week-night stays. Pets welcome. Fully self-contained.
Bookings Phone 0427 271 356; see baldhillsbnb.com.au.
Getting there The B&B is about a three-hour drive from Melbourne. Take the Hume Highway, exit Beechworth/Bright.
Perfect for Nearby access to Mount Buffalo for fun in the snow.
Wheelchair access No.
While you're there Indulge in the culinary delights at the Stanley Pub; wander through the orchards.