If you’re after a good dose of charm and atmosphere, a night out and a sleep in at the Burrawang Village Hotel is just the ticket.
Part of my childhood was spent in sheep country in the central west of NSW. We lived in a one road village where Friday night at the pub was the highlight of the social calendar. Only problem was, with my dad being the local school’s headmaster, the pub was strictly off limits for our family. So come Monday morning, as my classmates gleefully recounted Friday night’s shenanigans, I was left to imagine what it was like at this mysterious place.
Which is probably why, more than a quarter of a century later, I feel an instant affection for the Burrawang Village Pub as I check in for a night. Located in the historic town of Burrawang, it’s one of the few surviving pubs in the Highlands that hasn’t been totally gentrified. Its first incarnation, the Prince Alfred, was built in 1866 just down Hoddle Street, and this newer version, an imposing two storey brick building, was built in the 1920s.
Its big wooden front door is heavy with history and as I go inside, the smell that greets me is warm and beery. For 25 years, the Burrawang Village Pub was owned by locals Ed and Julie Woolfrey, but since last year it has been run by Peter and Kate Dean, also lessees of the Royal Hotel in Bowral.
It’s early evening and there are a few locals in the public bar enjoying a drink. Along the hall, Peter and Kate have put in a new kitchen and renovated the restaurant, which seats up to 40. Like the pub, it is open seven days for lunch and dinner, but for now I am shown to my room up the central wooden staircase.
‘We haven’t got to the accommodation renovations as yet,’ Peter tells me. ‘So the rooms are pretty much as they have always been.’
Perfect. For me that’s all part of the charm. Upstairs there are eight rooms, all with a queen bed and one a queen and a single. I’m in Room 2. It is small and spartan with whitewashed walls, and sits above the bar. There is no television, WiFi or pictures on the wall, although a window does look out onto some of Burrawang’s high end property (the median property price in June was $1.3 million).
There is fresh white linen on the bed, a small leather couch and two matching bed side tables with small lamps. It reminds me of a priest’s cell, and I like it instantly. I take a wander around the floor and poke my nose into the unoccupied rooms. All are similarly spartan with beautifully made beds and white bath towels. Just how I imagined a country pub built nearly 100 years ago should be.
Two separate shared bathrooms with showers, basins and loos are a dash down the hall. I turn on my electric blanket and small radiator and go downstairs to mingle with the locals. The newly added open fireplace with armchairs are taken by fellow guests who look like they are bunking down for the night. I take a table near the wood burning stove with my gin and tonic. Local potato and cattle farmers catch up at the bar. There is a television at the far end of the bar but no pokie machines.
I chat to Mick, a Burrawang farmer, who comes here several times a week to chew the fat. We talk about the lack of recent rainfall and the menu. I am pleased to see local butchers Maugers gourmet pork and fennel sausages on the offing but I order a rump steak with chips and salad, and share the fireplace with a couple of South American backpackers passing through.
By 8.30pm I am ready for bed. I return upstairs and make a dash along the corridor to the shared bathrooms, which are clean, with good water pressure and securely locking doors.
Slipping into my bed, toasty warm thanks to the electric blanket, I am vaguely aware of distant pub mumbling and the gentle clinking of glasses. I sleep deeply.
A continental breakfast at the nearby Burrawang General Store & Cafe is included in the cost of staying at the hotel, but I go for an egg and bacon roll and a coffee, which is excellent. It goes down a treat in the historic store, which celebrated its 150th birthday in November (see our story on General Stores on page 54). With the pub still waking up from the night before, it is a clever collaboration between two equally loved Burrawang businesses. I return to the hotel to collect my bag. I have enjoyed my stay here, and plan on coming back for a relaxed Sunday lunch in spring and summer, out in the lawn covered beer garden with its shady trees and views over the Highlands hills. Perfect spot for a garden party wedding or function.
I would definitely recommend this accommodation to groups of friends visiting for a wedding, or as a base for an affordable and comfortable few days in the Highlands. Or just to experience what a country pub used to be like, because nostalgia, even the imagined sort, is a powerful driver.
Burrawang Village Hotel
14-16 Hoddle Street, Burrawang
Suit: Prospective treechangers wanting to sample village life; big groups attending a wedding; nostalgia lovers who don’t mind a night time dash to the bathroom