Misty Mountain Cottage, Warburton review: Where the clouds touch the earth

Read our writer's views on this property below

Katherine Kizilos gets swept up in the magic of a quaint cottage in the Victorian hills.

Warburton's Misty Mountain Cottage looks gratifyingly like you hope a place called Misty Mountain Cottage will look. It is shaped like a wooden barn, with a veranda out the front and stands on the edge of the forest. The dirt road leading to the cottage is steep, winding past two goats in a grassy paddock and then up into the bush.

From the veranda you can see the town of Warburton through the trees and Mount Donna Buang on the opposite side of the valley.

Although the cottage is close to the town, the steep site and forest setting make it feel far away. The air here smells clean and fresh and, on the weekend we stay, the mountains all around are swathed in a cloudy mist at their peaks. It feels good to be in such a place.

The owners of the cottage are discreet and allow us to keep to ourselves during our stay.

They email us a map after money changes hands, insisting the cottage cannot be found without it. After making the journey myself, I agree. Inside, the place is set up for total country comfort: a tea-chest of split logs and a box of kindling for the woodfire heater; a bottle of chardonnay and some chocolates on the kitchen bench as well as fresh coffee, tea bags and biscuits and all the ingredients for a cooked breakfast - bacon, eggs, tomatoes, bread - in the fridge. In the bathroom, tea-lights and a pair of metal wine goblets are lined up on the spa bath and throughout the cottage are small vases of fresh flowers from the garden.

One surprise is the piano under the stairs, with a small, pebbly water fountain perched on top. Another is the dish of games and puzzles on the chest in front of the roomy sofa.

The cottage is split-level. A staircase leads to a carpeted loft bedroom with a second television and DVD player and more tea-lights and flowers. A reverse-cycle heater can provide instant heat, if you prefer not to use the the wood fire.

The cottage has many luxurious, thoughtful touches but is not overwhelming or cloying - it retains an atmosphere of refreshing simplicity.

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On the other hand, the interior is somewhat dark during the day. It is far more pleasant to be outside and we drift on to the veranda, watching the king parrots and rosellas take their fill from the bird feeders - a container of extra seed is provided - while admiring a friendly grey duck parading up and down. From their home in the neighbouring forest, a few kookaburras occasionally swoop in and check us out too.

Perhaps because the valley in Warburton is narrow and enclosed, the town has a lovely fairytale atmosphere, as though it is protected from the outside world. On the weekend of our stay, the paddocks are green, the flowers are out and the air is still. We know Victoria is in a drought and bushfires are a threat but on this particular weekend neither feels pressing.

Occasionally we see smoke rising from burn-offs in the forest: a distant reminder of the possible dangers.

In the late afternoon we drive down to the Yarra where it winds through the town to walk along the riverbank before an early dinner.

On our walk we see ducks and ducklings like mobile cotton balls pecking in the grass, before walking onto the golf course, past the water tower (where a small princess might have been enclosed) and then decide on dinner at a cafe overlooking the river and the forest on the opposite bank.

Back at the cottage that night, I walk out on the veranda and see the lights of the town twinkling through the dark lace of the trees. Up above, the sky is starry.

Returning inside I established - just in case a reader was in any doubt - that having a spa bath by candlelight while drinking a glass of wine is indeed a very relaxing experience.

The cottage has Buddha statues on the veranda and inside too, suiting my companion, who is a Buddhist, absolutely perfectly. (For no extra charge the owners had set up an extra bed in the loft for her). The next day she wants to visit a Thai monastery in East Warburton where the monks live in the forest and rely on daily food donations organised by roster. We do so, joining some Sri Lankan families from Glen Waverley and Springvale who have made a day-trip to the mountains to make their offering and receive a blessing. It seems like a fitting way to end a peaceful stay in a beautiful place.

VISITORS' BOOK

Misty Mountain Cottage

Address Wombat Hill, Warburton

Bookings Phone 5966 5529 or see mistymountaincottage.com.

Email: mmcottage@bigpond.com.

Getting there About 70 kilometres north-east of Melbourne, on the Warburton Highway.

How much $195 for an overnight stay, Sunday or midweek, $250 for Friday, Saturday or public holidays.

Summary A charming wooden cottage, three minutes out of Warburton on the edge of the forest.

Verdict 16.

The score: 19-20 excellent; 17-18 great; 15-16 good; 13-14 comfortable.

All weekends away are conducted anonymously and paid for by Traveller.