Links House, a boutique hotel in Bowral, has a quiet grace and sits very happily in its charming skin. Alex Speed checks in and checks out for a night.
Want to know what I think is the most underestimated and unattainable facet of modern life? Solitude.
Trumpeted through the centuries by scholars and poets as an essential means of achieving mental balance and serenity, solitude is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as ‘the state of being alone’ from the Latin root word solus. But by God if you work, have a partner, children, aged parents, responsibilities, worries or live in the 21st century, it’s hard to achieve these days. Shakespeare got it. Writing in Twelfth Night he says: “I myself am best. When least in company.” But then he didn’t have to keep up the mortgage repayments or spend hours every week trying to separate truculent teenagers from their devices.
I think about solitude now, and the luxury it affords as I am shown to my Queen Superior room at Links House. This small boutique hotel sits in a scenic position opposite the fairways of Bowral Golf Club. I am here for a night. Alone. Tonight there will be no sparring siblings to separate, no animals to feed and no reluctantly agreeing to watch reruns of QI. Oh the joy.
Links House is run by clever locals Vanessa Legge and Joey Pfahl, who are also founders of Rustic Table Catering. Built in 1928 as a country guesthouse, Links was the first hotel in Australia to have ensuites. Have no fear, I won’t be picking up any soggy bath towels left by others on my ensuite floor tonight.
My room is perfect. It has a Queen bed with fine linen in a sunken room that adjoins a living area with a sofa, fridge bar, desk, TV and an ensuite shower bathroom. Designed by local PieceByPieceHome designer Liz Pilkington, it is a cosy ode to English country house chintz with original art on the walls, kilims on the floor and a well-stocked mini bar to be investigated.
In his essay The End of Solitude, writer William Deresiewicz says technology, and society’s increasing desire to be connected and visible, threatens our capacity for solitude. “The quality that validates us is being seen by others, so we live exclusively in relation to others, and what disappears from our lives is solitude. Technology is taking away our privacy and our concentration, but it is also taking away our ability to be alone.”
Not this duck. It’s immediately apparent Links Hotel would also be a fabulous place for a romantic staycation, or to recommend visiting friends to stay but I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. I have a dinner reservation for 7pm. At 6.30pm I happily wander through Links’ pretty gardens, enjoying its outside paved terrace with water fountain, boules pitch and front lawn – perfect for wedding canapes and champagne.
There’s also a sumptuous private dining room with private catering available for occasions. Guests can also take over the entire hotel for a weekend or a week.
I make my way back inside for a G&T. The lounge area has a charming late 1920s bar at one end, loads of armchairs and settees to fall into and a huge open fire at one end. Even unlit, it gives off a wonderful aroma of woodsmoke. Links House sleeps up to 27 guests in its 17 rooms and it is pet friendly. Got to love an establishment that welcomes every family member.
It’s dinner time, and I have no worries eating alone. There are about seven other tables full of diners in tonight. The newly re-launched restaurant ETHOS, intimate with original cornices, arches and windows is a gourmet find, and is open for dinner Monday to Saturday. The food by chef Jason Hughes, formerly of Bendooley Estate and Harry’s on Green Lane, is fabulous. From a seasonal menu, I start with Jason’s chicken liver parfait with piccalilli, sourdough and cornichon, followed by the Atlantic salmon with cauliflower puree, broccolini, radish and beurre blanc. There is a good wine list with lots of local choice. I go for a glass of Exeter winery Dawning Day’s Merlot Noir.
The meal is a feast and the joy of not cooking or having to clean up afterwards is bliss. I am already looking forward to the complimentary breakfast included with my stay. A choice of continental (fruit, cereals, pastries and toasts) or a cooked breakfast. I’ll be opting for the eggs benedict.
I retreat happily to my room with another glass of merlot. Away from the circus of life at home, for a few hours I get to listen to my inner voice, switch off physically and mentally and hone the skills needed were I ever to become a solitudinarian (it’s a thing). Wouldn’t be a hardship at Links House Hotel.
Links House Hotel
17 Links Road, Bowral