Bells Line of Road: Back to Bilpin
For an easy and enjoyable day away from Sydney with walks through botanical gardens in a World Heritage designated area, lunch at a charming roadside diner and some fossicking in local stores, put Bilpin in your satnav and head for the Blue Mountains.
Following the devastating bushfires of last summer, where firefighting volunteers battled heroically to defend the area, many independent businesses have struggled to get back on their feet, and visitors spending money at local cafes and shops are a warmly welcomed boost to recovery.
It is a quick hour and a half drive to the mountains with a first stop at Blue Mountains Botanical Gardens along the charmingly named Bells Line of Road. There are several trails and paths to take following well marked maps from the visitors centre. After a quick hot chocolate and a stretch of our legs at the kiosk, we followed the sound of water and bell birds, stopping to be captivated every few steps by blooms and greenery and looming trees. Azeleas and rhodendrons in various hues, perfect blooms of protea, banksia, grevillea and bottlebrush jostled for attention.
A cheery, warm and welcoming vibe prevails with a chalkboard menu reflecting the homey atmosphere: chipolatas with rosti, cauliflower mac and cheese, thick slices of mushroom on toast, pea and ham soup. A highlight is Sean's popular linguine with rocket, chilli and parmesan.
We washed down our meals with delicious, mildly spritzy Hillbilly cider, but declined the home made apple pie for desert, saving ourselves for a bakery visit over the road.
The roadhouse is open everyday, from breakfast to 4 pm.
Just across the road is another favourite Sydney outpost, The Grumpy Baker. Attached to a low collection of buildings the main part of which sells agricultural needs and cattle feed, the Grumpy Baker has its polished front window boasting baked treats like muffins and brownies, scrolls, buns, croissants, slices, cakes and .......bread.
Inside we dithered over loaf varieties: rye or wholemeal? Meanwhile the coffee machine swung into action, producing a perfect latte for me. Others in the group sampled the creamy country soft serve.
A few steps along from the Grumpy Baker is Pigeon Hole Bric A Brac. A charming, stand alone building with a small front verandah, and now only open on the weekends, browse in here for small batch beauty products, cotton tea towels, rustic baskets, and some specially curated vintage finds.
Following our foray at this cluster of shops, we started to wend our way home,
down the Bells Line of Road , stopping a last time after a mere two and a bit kilometres at the Hillbilly Cider Shed.
We had to pick up some six-packs of the delicious cider we'd been drinking at lunch. Here, you'll find despite the name, a sophisticated operation. The rustic shed hosts a beautiful interior of gleaming distilling kettles, a long wood bench top with seats set up for tastings.
Bilpin is in the heart of apple country and the distillery crushes many varieties of the fruit to produce a range of apple ciders both alcoholic and not.
With lungs filled with fresh mountain air, a rustic lunch in our tummies and some Hillbilly cider in the back of the car, not forgetting a jar of gorgeous creamy bush honey, the mood was mellow.
This is a gentle, half a day, break. If Covid zooming is making you feel stale and stodgy, take a day off mid week, and re-charge the batteries.
High Hopes Roadhouse
Address: 2488 Bells Line of Rd, Bilpin NSW 2758 Hours: Monday to Sunday, 8 am to 4 pm Phone: + 61 466158814
The Grumpy Baker
Address: 2481 Bells Line of Rd, Bilpin NSW 2758
Hours: 7 days a week, 6.30 am to 4 pm Phone: 045670002
Hillbilly Cider Shed
Address: 2230 Bells Line of Rd, Bilpin NSW 2758
Hours: 7 days a week Phone: 02 4567 0965
Blue Mountains Botanical Gardens, Mt. Tomah
Address: Bells Line of Rd, Mount Tomah NSW 2758 Hours: 7 days a week, 9 am to 5 pm
Ph: 02 45673000