Ghost Hill Road, Blue Mountains review: Strike a pose

Read our writer's views on this property below

Jacqueline Maley sheds the stress of city living at a secluded yoga retreat.

Brenda McCartney takes one look at my cobra pose and shakes her head - but not unkindly. "We're going to have to work on your Bhujangasana," she says.

I have come to McCartney's retreat, an eight-hectare property in the Blue Mountains called Ghost Hill Road, to work on many things: my yoga, my stress level and the pile of books that have accumulated on my bedside table during the past few months.

I can add my cobra pose to the list.

McCartney and her family live on the property but she also rents out the three self-contained cottages dotted throughout the acreage, a 90-minute drive from Sydney, off the Bell's Line of Road.

Each of the cottages has a hot tub and a wood-fired combustion heater. Organic meals are supplied three times a day.

Morning yoga sessions are optional and McCartney, a former personal trainer and marathon runner, will also give one-on-one training if you are so inspired. The quietness and flexibility of the set-up appeals to me - I want solitude and tranquillity, a little exercise and to be looked after but not bothered.

I'm greeted on arrival by Portia, McCartney's overactive kelpie, who becomes a fixture during my stay and an energetic companion on the runs I take through the property's eucalypt-clad hills.

McCartney settles me into my cottage, which is far too big for one person, or even two.


Downstairs there is one large room with two double beds, a kitchen and a living area, while upstairs there is a loft bedroom with another double bed and a large bathroom.

While not exactly "luxury", as advertised, the cottage is comfortable. In the large downstairs room there is a country-style dining table, television and DVD player and a couple of couches arranged around the wood oven, which McCartney teaches me to use.

My fire-lighting and bushcraft skills improve considerably during my stay.

The days fall into a loose rhythm, beginning with a breakfast of home-made muesli, berries and yoghurt, followed by an hour-long yoga session at 8am. The yoga is gentle and basic, with a focus on stretching and strength.

When the weather is fine, we take the mats outside to the verandah, where the morning light combines with the crisp air to produce maximum feelings of zen. Portia the kelpie is always close by, only occasionally interrupting my balance to snuffle my leg or lick my cheek.

After yoga, there is time for a languorous bath and some reading before lunch is brought by McCartney, Portia and, on occasion, the cat, too.

The meals, billed as "detox cuisine", are made by McCartney and they are delicious: Mexican-style chickpea, avocado and salad tortilla; roast pumpkin with goat cheese and salad with rocket pesto on quinoa bread; rice-paper rolls with smoked salmon and tamari dipping sauce; pumpkin, eggplant and date tagine with wholegrain quinoa; ricotta hot cake with roasted vegetable stack; and tandoori kingfish with rice, pappadums and cucumber raita.

I had thought I might drop a kilo or so during my stay, particularly as I would not be imbibing extra calories through alcohol (it was supposed to be a detox, after all), but I had asked for my menu to be recast as "detox with treats", which means I have plenty of calories in the desserts. There is a chocolate ganache with poached pear and cinnamon yoghurt; and a baked apple stuffed with lovely sugary dates. There is also a dark-chocolate rocky road McCartney secretes in my fridge. None of which I regret even slightly.

One day, following lunch, I take a run up a very steep hill, across the Bell's Line of Road, and down a meandering country road, silent except for birdsong, the sound of my feet and Portia.

The afternoons are spent with more reading and a little leisurely computer work before settling on the couch in front of a toasty fire. One afternoon I get a one-hour full-body massage from McCartney, which sends me into a blissful near-sleep.

The absence of outside-world interference (there is no Wi-Fi, although McCartney kindly lets me check my emails on her home computer each morning) is blissful.

When I'm after some company and a little bustle, there are the cafes of nearby Bilpin, all trying to outdo each other to create the best apple pie.

My evenings are spent working my way through the cottage's eclectic DVD collection and gently resisting the impulse to snooze by the fire. But, truth to be told, I don't put up too much of a fight.


Ghost Hill Road

Address 73 Ghost Hill Road, Bilpin, NSW, 2758, (off Bells Line of Road).

The verdict Relaxing yet corrective, if your yoga needs correcting (as mine does).

Price The detox package costs $750 for two days, $1400 for four days. Other packages are available.

Bookings Phone 0410 484 120, see

Getting there It's about a 90-minute drive from Sydney to Bilpin.

Wheelchair access One of the cottages is wheelchair friendly.

Perfect for Singles or couples seeking absolute quiet.

While you're there Visit the cafes and shops of Bilpin, go bushwalking or conduct a mission to find the best apple pie in the mountains.

Weekends Away are reviewed anonymously and paid for by Traveller.