Catriona Rowntree crossed the Hawkesbury River
, 90 minutes from Sydney
, to visit the charming convict-built village of St Albans
. It is in the Macdonald Valley on the banks of the river of the same name. St Albans has important links with the early colonial days of NSW, but remains relatively unknown.
Settlers Arms Inn is one of Australia's oldest hotels. Established in 1836, the beautiful hotel was built from convict-hewn sandstone and is classified by the National Trust. It's popular with daytrippers and those heading to the
Hunter Valley wine district.
The Georgian-style inn was a major stop for Cobb & Co coaches on their journeys between Sydney and Newcastle. Some of the original rules included no more than five to sleep in one bed; no boots to be worn in the bed; no organ grinders to sleep in the washhouse and no dogs allowed upstairs.
Those rules are no longer a condition of a stay, although it's highly unlikely guests these days would be guilty of any of them! Possibly the most really important change at the inn is that the beer is now served icy cold.
There are four ensuite accommodation rooms, each overlooking a courtyard. Rooms feature double brass beds, refrigerators and fresh fruit.
Australian country-style cuisine is available every day for guests. Menus vary depending upon available fresh produce, and pies, tarts, cakes and scones are made on the premises each day. There is an extensive wine list.
Daytrippers are welcome to enjoy lunch every day and dinner on Fridays and Saturdays. Sunday is homemade pizza night. In cooler months guests are entertained by a jazz band, and an open fireplace provides warmth and atmosphere.
There's a 12m saltwater pool, bicycles, tennis courts across the way and a golf course at Wiseman's Ferry.
Most of the village's 30 residents turn up at the inn on Thursdays for their local darts competition. You might fancy pitting your skills or hearing about the inevitable ghost stories.