Peppers Hidden Vale in Queensland's Grandchester has all the sophistication of a James Bond film and the action to go with it. Not surprising, really, as it is the childhood home of the man who is said to have inspired Ian Fleming to create the charming and debonair James Bond Sidney Cotton.
A colourful and eccentric character, Cotton was a fighter pilot and invented the Sidcot flying suit in World War II. He was an undercover agent, flying in Germany for Britain, intelligence expert, pioneer businessman and inventor. He blazed a trail of adventure, including espionage, fortune seeking and pioneering, from Beirut to Newfoundland and places in between.
Sidney Cotton was born and lived at Peppers Hidden Vale (then known as Old Hidden Vale) until he went to Britain as a young man, where he became a close friend of Ian Fleming. They met while working for M16. Cotton took reconnaissance pictures of military installations and airfields while in the company of high-ranking Nazis, including Hermann Göering. Little did the enemy know there was a camera concealed in the belly of the plane.
He even earned himself the title of 'the father of aerial espionage' for his inventions and contributions to the war effort, which included designing a cockpit with side bubbles to enable better photo-taking and painting Spitfire planes sky-blue to help them fly undetected into enemy territory.
Sidney Cotton made several fortunes in his lifetime, but died penniless. His grave is at Tallegalla cemetery, about 20 minutes from Peppers Hidden Vale.
Grandchester in the Lockyer Valley was established as a pioneering rail town. It is home to the world's first narrow gauge mainline railway. The original railway station, formerly known as Bigge's Camp, still exists. It's also a place where visitors can experience authentic outback Australia in luxury.
Peppers Hidden Vale is on a 3345-hectare working cattle station in the heart of a beautiful mountain range. Its scenery and abundance of natural wildlife is so special some of the property has been dedicated to the Queensland Government Nature Refuge program, which aims to protect valuable conservation areas.
Its boutique accommodation centres around the historic homestead. Guests know they have arrived somewhere wonderful as they make their way along the sprawling driveway past gardens and clusters of elegantly restored 1800s cottages.
The main homestead has an enormous verandah and is testimony to Australia's colonial past. Built in the 1920s and tastefully revived, guests are invited to enjoy a glass of wine in front of a cosy log fire.
Accommodation ranges from a quaint 1800s one-bedroom Chinese cottage to a six-bedroom cottage which was the home of the original station manager.
Six Cottage Rooms in the Simmental Cottage have double or queen beds. Slightly larger Valley Rooms all have private verandahs. Individual Heritage Suites each have a sitting room, fireplace, verandah and spa bath. Spacious Luxury Suites are individual cottage-style accommodation with double-basin bathroom, separate toilet, shower and spa.
The property has horses, working dogs and wildlife. Activities include trail rides, 4WD tours, clay target shooting, archery, petanque, mountain biking and overnight treks and staying in a rustic bush cabin 12km from the retreat.
More relaxing activities include croquet, golf driving, tennis, unwinding in a spa, doing laps in one of two pools, enjoying a massage or curling up by the fire with a good book.
The area hosts a number of special events each year, including the RAAF Base Open Day and Air Show, the Gatton Pro Rodeo, Laidley Rural Chelsea Flower Show, Gourmet Wine and Wagyu Weekend and Grandchester Winemakers Dinner.
Grandchester, a 90-minute drive west of Brisbane.
Peppers Hidden Valley Cottage Rooms are $239 a night. Valley Rooms $299, Heritage Suites $459 and Luxury Suites $499. Full country breakfast is included. They are open between January 1 and December 23.
Horseriding is $50 an hour and $110 for half-day rides. Archery is $20 for half an hour. Clay target shooting is $30 for 12 shots.
Virgin Blue has flights to Brisbane.
One-way fares from:
- Sydney $105
- Adelaide $145
- Melbourne $159
- Darwin $209
- Perth $309
There are limited seats which may not be available at peak times or on all flights. Fares are one-way on the Internet. An extra $15 will be charged for phone bookings. A credit card surcharge of an additional $2 per person per one-way flight is applicable. Fares are correct at September 11, 2008, and are subject to change.
For further information
Peppers Hidden Vale
617 Mount Mort Road
Ph: (07) 5465 5900
Fax: (07) 5465 5999
Ph: 136 789
Peppers Hidden Valley is offering a special September-October 2008 school holiday special. Prices start at $350 a night for a three-bedroom cottage, family 4WD tour with billy tea and damper stop. Other activities include the animal nursery, golf driving range, mountain biking, table and lawn tennis and use of the heated pool. Full country breakfast is included.
Check out our celebrity Getaway blog or our photo gallery for more Getaway adventure pics.