Millamolong Station, Mandurama review: Pony tales and tall stories

Read our writer's views on this property below

Louise Hall saddles up for a weekend at Millamolong Station, an estate with a fine polo and wine pedigree.

Nine bedrooms, seven fireplaces, six coffee plungers, five bathrooms, four kettles, three bathtubs, two televisions and one Aga slow-combustion stove: exploring Millamolong Station's grand old homestead can fill a weekend. Built in the 1930s, the rooms at the homestead hold trophies, horse memorabilia, family heirlooms, portraits and old books paying tribute to the Ashton family's three generations of successful polo playing and equine breeding.

However, the homestead and its treasures are just one element of Millamolong Estate, a 4050-hectare property first settled in 1836 and which remains one of Australia's oldest working stations.

It's a four-hour drive west from Sydney, beyond Blayney and into the hills of Mandurama, in the Central Tablelands. Millamolong is a hive of activity, from polo pony breeding to sheep and cattle grazing, farm-stay accommodation, school holiday camps and more recently, a 28-hectare vineyard that produces award-winning cool-climate wines, specifically chardonnay, shiraz, riesling, cabernet sauvignon and a merlot.

James William Ashton raised his family in the homestead after inheriting the station from his father, James Hay Ashton, one of four brothers who took the British polo establishment by storm in the 1930s. Ashton snr now lives with his wife in a new home built elsewhere on the property and hires out the homestead.

Our party of two found the homestead a little overwhelming: in which of the nine bedrooms shall we sleep? The one used by the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the vice-regal couple of the '30s, during a stay here? It's self-catering – shall we dine in the kitchen by the Aga stove or the dining room? A leading architect of the day, Leslie Wilkinson, designed the homestead, while Edna Walling designed the gardens, which are known to attract green thumbs from across Australia.

The homestead's interiors are straight out of a "country-style" sort of magazine – floral bedspreads, thick curtains, painted wooden side tables and comfy armchairs. Modern and minimalist it ain't but the solid old style just adds to the charm of the place.

The homestead would be perfect for several couples, families or a large group. Smaller groups can choose to stay in one of the two cute cottages on the property.

Millamolong has a lot going on but you can just laze about eating and drinking its excellent wines. Hospitality aside, polo ponies still form a crucial part of the station's personality and guests are invited to spend time exploring the property on horseback.

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We were taken on a two-hour trail ride by Emma, a French student spending six months at Millamolong as part of her agricultural degree studies.

For the most part, our horses were happy to walk one behind the other as we climbed up to the highest point on the property and negotiated steep hills down to the lush green paddocks below. But towards the end of the ride, a pack of energetic brumbies thundered towards us and my horse, Bundy, got spooked. Emma reckoned Bundy just wanted to cast off his saddle and reins and run freely with the other horses. Thankfully he calmed down once she expertly moved the brumbies off and we continued on our way, visiting the polo field, shearing shed, vineyards and sheep paddocks.

Our last stop was the post office, which was built by hand in the 19th century from stones carried up from the Belubula River. For many decades it was the smallest post office in Australia and today it's a bunk-house for children attending week-long school holiday pony camps.

At night we enjoyed a complimentary bottle of Millamolong 4 Horsemen cabernet sauvignon and sat by the fire, enjoying the solitude and keeping our eye out for Isabelle.

Legend has it she came to a violent end at the hands of a jealous lover in the old Cobb & Co coach house and some guests claim to have been visited by her lonely apparition. Isabelle didn't visit us this time. But, then again, she may have been wandering around at the other end of the homestead.

The writer was a guest of Millamolong Station and Tourism NSW.

TRIP NOTES

WHERE Millamolong Station, Millamolong Road, Mandurama, NSW.

Phone (02) 6367 5241, see millamolong.com.

HOW MUCH Homestead (sleeps 18) $1200 a night; farmhouse (sleeps 26) $800 a night; cottages $220 to $280 a night.

BEST THING The complimentary wine from Millamolong's own vineyards.

WORST THING The homestead is hard to heat. We stoked the fires in the kitchen and lounge, and the bedroom was warm thanks to an oil heater, but we found ourselves running through freezing corridors from one room to another, slamming the doors to keep the heat in.

LOCAL SECRET Tonic Restaurant, Millthorpe, was awarded one hat in the Good Food Guide 2010 and is worth the 45-minute drive from Millamolong.