I first came across Bendooley Estate when I was on the website for Berkelouw Books; a small, family-owned collection of bookstores dotted around Sydney, with branches in Rose Bay, Mona Vale and Paddington, and a literary history dating back to Holland in the early nineteenth century. The shop in Rose Bay is one of the first places I fell in love with in Sydney; I was staying in a friend’s waterfront apartment when holidaying in Australia a little over three years ago that was just a short walk from this quaint little bookstore, and barely a day went by during my three weeks down under when I didn’t spend an idle half an hour perusing the shelves in search for a new tome to add to my already towering pile of books. Now that I live in Sydney – albeit sadly not in said waterfront apartment – I still make regular visits to the shop in Rose Bay. I’ve also spent many an afternoon in the Paddington shop, working on my blog over a sticky pastry and chai latte from the shop’s second floor cafe, and hunted out the Mona Vale branch when spending a wintery weekend on Sydney’s northern beaches last year. Thus it was with some delight that I learnt of the Berkelouw Book Barn. Home to the Berkelouw Book business and located on the beautiful Bendooley Estate, this recently renovated barn complete with exposed beams, towering ceilings and rustic decor is a dream destination for anyone with a penchant for the written word.
It was a grey and gloomy day in Sydney when we left for our bookish retreat at Bendooley Estate. A storm had rolled in the previous night, and the sunny coastal skies I usually wake up to had been replaced with looming grey clouds and the sort of pelting raindrops smattering against the window panes that makes a cosy bed, a page-turning book and tea on tap more inviting than ever.
Thankfully, escaping the city for Australian’s stunning Southern Highlands where we had nothing planned for the next three days other than curling up with a pile of books to read, and exploring the nearby area meant that the dank and dismal day didn’t dampen our spirits too much, and soon we were driving down the wide and open roads, leaving the smog of Sydney in our wake as we approached the rolling highlands.
The approach to Bendooley Estate is like something out of a book; deserted roads; endless green hills, menacing clouds and a herd of cattle eyeing us over the fence of the farm opposite as we turned onto the tree-lined path that would take us to our home for the next two nights.
With a quintet of cottages on offer on this 200-acre site, that includes the former Bendooley Estate gatekeeper’s cottage, the accommodation offers guests the perfect combination of country charm and contemporary living. From the outside, our cottage was clad in sustainable Australian hardwood and featured a private verandah as well as unrivalled views of the lakes, paddocks and highland hillsides. Inside we discovered a chilled bottle of prosecco from the on-site Cellar Door, a sumptuous bed complete with the sort of crisp white bedding I can never recreate in my own home – however hard I try – a writing desk, lounge area and a stylish bathroom boasting stunning hand-made tiles and a deep and freestanding bath perfectly positioned under French-shuttered windows. Said to be inspired by the rustic beauty and unique vibe of the Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire, the cottages offer guests some serious interiors inspiration, as well as acting as a serene and secluded retreat away from the chaos of city life.
Each of Bendooley Estate’s cottages are named after an Australian author – ours was Patrick White, while the others take their names from Henry Lawson, Banjo Patterson, Norman Lindsay and May Gibbs. With bespoke wallpaper and elegant soft furnishings, a delicious breakfast that consisted of fresh sourdough wrapped and tied with twine, ripe peaches, fresh orange juice, yoghurt and granola delivered to your door, and the sort of surroundings that make staying put for the entirety of your stay a very inviting option, Bendooley Estate is the perfect place for a reading and remedial retreat.
The beautiful Berkelouw Book Barn is just a short stroll away from the cottages, and has endless shelves of new, used and antiquarian books, a selection of stylish stationary and gifts, and a coffee shop selling a selection of loose-leafed tea, creamy chais and tasty treats. With everything from bargain books, to newly-released fiction and second hand and well worn tomes, the space is one guests can easily lose themselves in for hours on end. A feature fireplace at the centre of the room is the quintessential spot for would-be readers to curl up next to with a newly-purchased book, and the pendant lights bathe the barn in a warm glow, perfect for an afternoon spent reading.
Torn between not wanting to leave the Bendooley Estate, nor the comfort of the cottages, and wanting to explore the nearby area, we spent our three days enjoying early mornings overlooking the dew-drenched grass, basking in the tranquility of the estate, breakfasting in bed and mooching around the Book Barn before venturing out for the day, to jam shops and colonial coffee stops and couture stationary spots. And then home we would return to laze in the afternoon sun and read. The clouds made way for glorious sunshine for most of our stay, but I have a feeling our time at the Book Barn would have been just as magical had the rain been pouring and the clouds looming throughout.
The perfect place to embrace the serenity and the stillness of the Southern Highlands, to surround yourself with nature and sunsets and breakfasts on the verandah overlooking the evergreen hills; to drive the nearby winding roads and explore the hidden gems of nearby Bowral and historic Berrima, Benndooley Estate is a real hidden gem and a must-visit for anyone bookishly inclined or with a love for the great outdoors and country charm.
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