Yass Valley, to the north west of Canberra, is a region on the rise populated with cool climate vineyards, culinary delights, and a growing number of creatively motivated residents. A stone’s throw from our fair capital, many locals (myself included) can be guilty of underappreciating the rich abundance to be found in our extended backyard, so I was grateful for the chance to team up with Yass Valley Tourism for a countryside adventure.
Burnelee Horseback Riding
An early morning horse ride through the bush - what a truly magical way to see and experience this beautiful country we call home.
Having no more than a few days riding experience between the two of us, we are greeted by owner Rachel Butt who in turn introduces us to our trusty steeds and instantly puts us at ease. With helmets and saddles secured, our group sets off at a walk, making our way into the 1000 acres of natural bushland and beginning our winding ascent to the highest point of the property, and views stretching all the way back to the city. The gentle pace of the ride allows us to take in a setting of pure Australiana: flowering gum overhead, telltale wombat diggings below and all around us the sounds of native birdlife and the odd curious kangaroo.
Four Winds Vineyard
Late summer in the valley. Fields and roadsides of gold, looking for all the world like spun sugar waving in the wind, surround us on our little road trip west. As we venture closer to the village of Murrumbateman, those golden fields give way to green rows of fruit laden grapevines and we find ourselves at the Four Winds Vineyard cellar door in time for lunch. The wood-fired oven pizzas are just the thing for hungry horse riders, and to soak up a few glasses of excellent wine. Riesling, Rosé or Shiraz - you quite simply cannot go wrong. Bellies full and glasses empty, we lazily stroll down a few rows of the vineyard in the sunshine and get a peek at what our glasses will be filled with this time next year.
Tootsie Fine Art & Design
“Not a gallery” but a unique and historic space showcasing artwork from the local region and beyond with a strong emphasis on community. Owner Michaela Pothan is a whirlwind of a woman, and her vast and varied interests are reflected in the quirky yet homely Tootsie. A former service station originally built in the 1930’s, after many iterations it has been brought back to its former Art Deco glory now as an artspace come cafe.
As a confessed lover of art within the quietness of white walled galleries, I am a little unsure stepping into Tootsie but Michaela’s exuberance is infectious as she leads us around her realised vision while telling us the story behind each element. A favourite feature is the mosaic patchwork in the outdoor area, ever growing with new additions donated by artists near and far.
After a long day all I want to do is crawl into bed for a catnap however those plans are quickly (and happily) scuppered as soon as we pull into the driveway at Kerrowgair, our lodgings for the night. The sprawling 1854 home and beautiful gardens simply beg to be explored (hello rose cutting garden!). Once every verdant nook is inspected I sit myself down under the canopy of creaking trees, oak and elm, osage orange and plane, closing my eyes and letting their whispering leaves lull me to rest for a moment or two.
Not being fully versed in B&B, we are pleasantly surprised by an invitation from our hosts, John and Judy, to join them for a glass of wine and good conversation, which is the perfect way to learn about the history of their impressive National Trust home and their obvious affection for the town of Yass.
As the late summer sun sets across the hills we pass through the white picket gate and under fairy lights to find ourselves at Clementine. Making our way up the garden path to the 1950’s weatherboard cottage, we could almost be heading to dinner at a friends house and as we are greeted by the friendly team we feel as though perhaps we are.
The relaxed atmosphere belies a sophisticated menu with each meal the perfect balance of farmhouse and fine dining, including the bowlful of pippies, kingfish and prawns humming with chilli and garlic which I happily devour in a wholly unladylike fashion. Bonus points for a thoroughly regional (and thoroughly delicious) wine list.
Come the morning, we wake, admittedly a little sore from the previous days’ equine excursion, to the peaceful cooing of the doves who have made their home within the grounds. We linger in bed, we linger at the breakfast table, and I take one last turn around the garden before dolefully packing the car and waving goodbye to our lovely hosts (and the doves).
We pass back over the Yass River, lined with its weeping willows and glinting in the morning light, and our thoughts turn to the number of times we must have driven to or through this little town without really seeing it. Having barely scratched the surface, we will surely be back for more.
Warmest thanks to Yass Valley Tourism for inviting me to explore and enjoy their beautiful region.