'When you return from dinner at the Inn, do please come and sit by the fire,' our host at The Robertson Hotel, Con Kotis, reminded us. It was surely a welcome invitation on a chilly winter's evening in the Southern Highlands.
We were in town for the launch of the Robertson Food and Wine Cluster, which was held at the Hotel, where we were staying overnight as guests. We had visited the property once before, when we called in for a High Tea with Peter's elderly mam, Joan, who lives in the Illawarra region. Robertson is just beyond the halfway point on the trip from Canberra to the coast, so it's a great place to stop for a break.
If you have ever passed through the Robertson township, you will have seen the grand white manor set in sprawling grounds, high on the escarpment and looking out across the valleys below and to the sea.
Built in 1924 as a 'healing' misty highlands getaway for city folks wishing to escape Sydney's bustle, heat and smog, The Hotel Robertson boasted 100 rooms and offered a country club and golf course, horse riding, hunting and fishing - as well as the more genteel sports such as polo, cricket, tennis, croquet and lawn bowls. Deer, peacocks and other animals roamed the grounds.
In 1925, the property was awarded the prestigious honour of being the 'most luxurious hotel in the Commonwealth' and was sold in 1930, after which it was renamed as the Ranelagh Country Club. The Great Depression brought about changes to the lavish lifestyles enjoyed by those who had once frequented.
It is written that in the build up to the Second World War, the hotel became a WRAAF base, signals base and training area for pilots. And, immediately after the War, it was used as a hospice for returned pilots. A short time later, in 1947, the hotel became a Franciscan friary, seminary accommodation house and school run by Saint Anthony's College. The beautiful stained glass windows, grottos, and (now majestic) trees were put in place during that time.
In 1972, the property was sold once again, renamed Ranelagh House and returned to its status as a grand hotel and country club. A further change of ownership took place in 2007, when the hotel was renamed Fountaindale Grand Manor and Ranelagh Gardens. It flourished until it was purchased more recently in 2014 by Con Kotis and Lisa Grant-Kotis of AEA Hotel Group.
Con and Lisa have spent the last 18 months meticulously restoring the manor in an endeavour to reflect its previous grandeur, with a hint of fresh, modern glamour. They have renamed it The Robertson Hotel, with a nod to its original heritage. An open door, family friendly policy has also been introduced.
'We offer an event and conference venue, and chic Southern Highlands accommodation with a combination of family rooms, as well as romantic ones. Our guests love to explore the magical gardens and then come in and gather around one of the huge open fires,' Con Kotis explained.
'The property is ideal for weddings, as well as for companies wishing to hire the property for exclusive get togethers or corporate conferences,' he said.
'Renovations continue and we have a variety of room and suite layouts, which are quite flexible. There are King suites, Family suites, Family wings, a Grand Manor suite, and Heritage rooms. The latter have common bathrooms, which work well for groups such as wedding parties.'
'The dining room is open most Saturday nights and some Friday nights, when we have guests in the house. We also pre-book dinners from visitors wishing to dine at the Hotel. We use our White dining room, as well as the Salon or Ballroom.'
Book ahead via email or telephone 02 4885 1111 if you would like to visit The Robertson Hotel for a traditional High Tea, Robertson High Tea or Devonshire Tea. I can recommend the scones with jam and cream!
Fresh flowers and warm fires greeted us on the afternoon of our arrival. It was a bone-chilling cold day, so we were grateful to be told that the heating had been switched on ahead of time in our room. Having checked in, one of the staff kindly escorted us upstairs to our King suite on the first floor.
The room itself was compact, but cosy and most comfortable. There was a good sized, wall-mounted TV, huge timber-framed bed (with deliciously crisp linen), bedside tables, and one of those open concept clothing racks. An armchair and throw rug occupied the space in an alcove by the window, which looked out to the gardens at the rear of the Hotel.
The old fashioned bathroom was our only bug bear. With the shower in one corner of the bathroom, and no curtain or glass surrounds, most of the bathroom floor was wet after bathing - despite us taking care not to splash.
That said, we slept soundly in the big, warm bed and enjoyed the historical aspect and quiet surroundings offered by this grand old property.
The Robertson Hotel - postcards and morsels from a grand country retreat...
The Robertson Hotel is located at 1 Fountaindale Road Robertson, (on the corner). If you are driving from the Sydney CBD, allow just under two hours, and about the same from Canberra. For bookings and further information, visit the web site.
The Good Things team enjoyed an overnight stay as guests of The Robertson Hotel. We made our own way to Robertson and home by private vehicle. This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are mine.
A note of thanks also to Con and the team for so kindly retrieving the pearl earring that I had accidentally dropped into the basin in the bathroom. Of course it fell straight down the drain hole and was caught in the S-bend. The earrings were a gift, so it meant a lot to me to have the piece returned. Thank you again!
Tell me dear readers, do you enjoy sitting by the fire on a chilly afternoon or evening? Have you ever visited Robertson in the NSW Southern Highlands of Australia?
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.