Jellore Cottage, Berrima review: Slab walls, settler style

Read our writer's views on this property below

Can an 1860s-built cottage in the southern highlands keep a couple of soft Sydneysiders warm? Anna Anderson finds out.

Travelling with a former hotelier can be a drag. All those years spent pandering to guests leaves them with Goldilocks syndrome - everything has to be just right.

The chance of a weekend escape in the southern highlands with Mr Pernickety carries with it the threat of exasperation so, as we motor down the M5 towards Berrima, my anxiety level rises while the temperature plummets.

It's 8pm and 6 degrees when we pull up outside Jellore Cottage and although there's an orange glow of lamplight through the paned windows, Mr P. is not convinced. Can a 150-year-old timber cottage keep a couple of soft Sydneysiders snug?

Oh, ye of little faith. It's toasty inside. Jellore's owner has calculated our arrival time and set the heating to just right. A stack of kindling in the fireplace has to wait because we are busy admiring each charming room. As first impressions go, Jellore Cottage nails it. A gardener's caddy of potted hyacinths is the perfect welcome gesture along with a posy of freshly picked herbs in the kitchen, a bottle of local red, Belgian chocolates and a decanter of port.

While Mr P. tests the comfort of the sofas - not too hard, not too soft - and the Victorian iron bedsteads - not too high, not too low, with mattresses that are just right - I go from room to room admiring the ingenuity of settler architecture.

Jellore Cottage was built by pioneers in the 1860s. Many original details remain and, following its restoration in 1992, the cottage was listed on the NSW Heritage Register.

That arbiter of grand designs, Kevin McCloud, would applaud the skills of those pioneers because the timber cottage is a cocoon of comfort. In its tiny dining room (Jellore Cottage has the dimensions of a doll's house) are beautifully preserved slab walls of split-timber flitches common in the 1860s.

It's not until the bright, frosty morning, after a night spent between impeccable linen and quilts and a shower over the claw-foot tub, that we venture outside to survey house and garden.

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Those settlers might have been short on pounds but land was cheap and they knew how to orient a house in the southern hemisphere. Jellore Cottage has its pretty weatherboard facade facing the Market Place park opposite and the sunroom is at the north-facing back of the house, overlooking an enormous country garden, which would have ended on the banks of the Wingecarribee River before an even older house, the Settlers Hut, was relocated there.

We're spoilt for choice at breakfast. The fridge is crammed with bacon, eggs, smoked salmon, pork sausages, fruit, maple syrup, the works. The larder is an old meat safe and it's stocked with muesli, pancake mix and three loaves of bread (being a pet-friendly cottage, Goldilocks and the bears could dine like royalty). The kitchen is a spotless collection of timber-topped cabinets with an enamel-lined sink. Old glass milk bottles sparkle above the fireplace and the china is Johnson Brothers Willow pattern.

We rug up and carry a tray of toast and coffee out to one of six white wrought-iron garden settings (with seating for 18, it's perfect for a garden party or small wedding under the trees). A maple in its autumnal glory showers leaves over our toast and a pair of king parrots swing on the bird-feeding tray.

It's a tug to leave but Berkelouw Book Barn is calling. Past vineyards heavy with fruit, the barn stands in a paddock off the Old Hume Highway. Temptation to plunder the piles of books makes us retreat to the cafe annexe. Later, we head to Bowral's newest restaurant, Biota, where chef James Viles prepares a lunch that's more than just right.

On Bong Bong Street, Dirty Janes Emporium and Antique Market grabs our attention and we recover, an hour later, with afternoon tea in the Elephant Boy Cafe. There's just time to get back to Berrima's Peppergreen Trading Co for more antique fossicking and a quick turn around the little Georgian township before nightfall.

We skip dinner in lieu of a walk in the highlands' champagne air and a nightcap at the historic Surveyor General around the corner from Jellore Cottage. Back home, we light the fire, unwrap our treasures and settle in for a night of DVDs.

The writer was a guest of Jellore Cottage and Tourism NSW.

Trip notes

Where Jellore Cottage, 16 Jellore Street, Berrima. 0404 951 884, jellorecottage.com.au.

Getting there From Sydney, take the M5 south. Continue along the Hume Highway and take the Berrima exit. Turn left at Medway Road, then left to the Old Hume Highway and left into Jellore Street.

How much It is $390 a weekend but at this price, take the long-weekend option at $585.

Style statement Early settlers' simplicity with a dash of Victorian charm and modern comforts.

Perfect for A romantic getaway or as a base to explore Berrima's history.

Don't forget Slippers and a dressing gown — a sneaky draught evaded our best efforts to stopper it.

A shame about The white, upright stove. A Victorian iron stove or Metters newfangled Early Kooka (1920s era) would fit the bill.

Take the kids? Yes, the second bedroom has twin Victorian iron bedsteads, a porta-cot and a teddy bear in a wicker chair.