Hydro Majestic Hotel
In keeping with the medicinal qualities of the mountains, this remarkable 'Edwardian folly' was created as a 'hydropathic establishment' in the early twentieth century by the Sydney businessman, Mark Foy.
The land on which the hotel stands was purchased by Edward Hargraves who was regarded (wrongly) as the discoverer of the first payable gold in Australia. For his efforts he received a 10,000-pound reward. Having noticed the quality of the views, Hargraves spent some of it on a property and a house at Medlow Bath. In 1891, with more and more people regarding the Mountains as a healthy summer holiday resort, the Belgravia Hotel was opened adjacent Hargraves' home.
At the outset of the 20th century, Foy bought both buildings, and a third called Tucker's House. From this foundation he established the Hydro Majestic in 1903 as a therapeutic centre, employing a Dr Bauer of Germany to implement the latest hydropathic methods of Europe, and a very strict health regime. Foy purchased farmland in the Megalong Valley, below the hotel, and had fresh produce relayed by a specially built flying fox.
The hydropathic aspect of Foy's vision did not prove very profitable and it was later dropped with the establishment continuing as an ordinary hotel for holidaymakers. During World War II, the American army used the building as a base hospital for soldiers injured in the Pacific theatre.
Today, like so many of the old hotels in the mountains, the Hydro Majestic has a gentility produced by a combination of grand Edwardian grace and the slow decay of ornate fittings which, in their time, must have cost a king's ransom. However, some Art Deco elements lend a colourful modernist air to the establishment.
From the rear of the building there are excellent views of the Megalong Valley and Shipley Plateau.
It is one of the thirteen historic inns listed on the excellent History Highway Inns website. Check it out at History Highway Inns which offers detailed information about the historic inns in the Blue Mountains.
Station St, which runs off the highway at the western end of Medlow Bath, was once part of the main road. It runs parallel to the railway line. About 400 metres from the highway is the No.11 Gatekeepers Cottage, built in 1867. This was originally the residence of the man who controlled a nearby level crossing.
If you want to escape the tourism of Katoomba and you don't want the long drive to Kanangra Walls, then turn right at the traffic lights after the Hydro Majestic, drive east beside the railway line and head to Point Pilcher on Rutland and Grand Canyon Road. The original track to Point Pilcher was built by Mark Foy's gardner. It is not easy. There is 5.2km of dirt road which can be traversed by conventional car if you drive slowly. The reward, however, is a superb view down to Govetts Creek and across dense bushland, known as the Grose Wilderness, which has remained totally untouched. This is one of the most isolated areas in the Blue Mountains.