Jules Lund found himself somewhere with green, rolling hills, world class whiskey and street signs in various tartans and wondered if his short flight from Oz had somehow landed him in Scotland. In fact, he couldn't have been further away if he tried.
His Scottish adventure actually took place in Bothwell, a small historic town with strong Scottish connections, located close to Tasmania's Central Highland Lakes. It's on the Clyde River and has a population of around 400. Many of Bothwell's stone buildings date to the early 1800s and 52 of them are registered by the National Trust.
Sheep grazing and beef cattle properties are predominant throughout the area. Wool and hand-loomed shawls are beautifully created in Bothwell in fact it's home to the International Highland Spin-in, a competition marking the town's agricultural heritage.
Ratho golf links
Scottish pioneers were given free land grants and settled in the area in the 1820s and created Australia's first golf course on their sheep station. It's the oldest outside of Scotland. After all, the Scots did invent the game.
The property is still a working sheep station all 2,428 hectares of it. The Reid family laid out the course in 1822 and the roaming sheep were useful in keeping the fairway grass down.
The course has square fences around the holes, and a couple of local rules are: if you hit a sheep or a fence, you get to play your shot again.
Local character Ross Baker has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the history of golf. His title is an old one Keeper of the Green at Ratho. He maintains the course and repairs and makes clubs in the 1800s style, as well as modern day clubs. They are snapped up as soon as they are made. Ratho has an interesting museum recording the history of golf.
Red tag trout tours
Bothwell is a short drive from the Central Highland Lakes, a popular spot for fly fishing with over 3000 shallow, trout-filled lakes.
Roger Butler from Red Tag Trout Tours showed Jules how to cast it's all in the flick and provided the necessary waders. Roger has been fly fishing Tasmania's wild brown trout rivers, streams and lakes for over 40 years.
He specialises in traditional techniques such as stalking the waters, and introducing clients to feeding wild trout using a dry fly, nymphs and dual rigs.
Red Tag is Tasmania's only specialist river and stream fly fishing operation and teaches the skills required to succeed. He can also give useful hints to those who've fly fished before.
On the Clyde River, the historic Nant Estate was established in 1821. The convict-built Old Water Mill building dates to 1823.
Jules was given a crash course on whiskey appreciation by Christopher Condon, Nant's distiller.
Tours of the distillery go through the historic water mill and still house and shows just how malt whiskey is made. They finish in the atrium lounge at the whiskey bar for tastings, accompanied by a selection of local produce including the delicious goats' cheese from the neighbouring Thorpe Farm.
You can buy a bottle or a 100 litre barrel of single malt, which comes with a bottling and labelling service. The barrel will be stored while it matures and then put into 270 x 500 ml bottles. It costs around $5000.
Priory Country Lodge
This magnificent Tudor mansion was built in 1848 on Adelaide Hill overlooking Bothwell. Londoner Greg Peacock took two years to transform the then decrepit building into a very special retreat in the true style of the Scots. The 'country luxe' property was the only Australian hotel to make Travel & Leisure
's 'It List' in 2009.
Local cold conditions were taken into consideration; it has huge bathtubs, underfloor heating and several cosy living areas. There is a dining room, country kitchen, sun room and reading room. The Hunt Room has fly fishing and hunting equipment for guest use. After a long day you can retire to the library and enjoy the well-stocked bar and cigar selection.
Each accommodation room has its own distinctive look and personality and is appointed with antique furniture and fine artworks.
A stunning Huon pine staircase leads to the four king guest suites which have marble bathrooms. Another three guest rooms are being added.
Outside there are vegetable and herb gardens, two timber pavilions, one with a barbecue and dining area, the other with private sauna with lake views.
Resident chef Lisa Thorsen is fortunate to be in an area that produces a bounty of fresh produce to create wonderful cuisine. Local vegetables and fruit are served with trout or local lamb. Her winter menus will warm the cockles of your heart and a dram or two of local whiskey is the perfect end or beginning to a wonderful highlands experience without the long flight.
Bothwell, a one-hour drive from Hobart in Tasmania.
The Ratho Golf Links is a public golf course and is open year-round. The green fee is $15 for either 9 or 18 holes. Funds are used for maintenance and restoration.
Nant Distillery is open for tours from 10am to 4pm Monday to Saturday. They cost $19.50 per person.
The Priory Country Lodge rooms start at $400 a night, including meals.
Virgin Blue has flights to Hobart from:
- Melbourne $75
- Sydney $99
- Adeliade $139
- Canberra $159
- Brisbane $179
- perth $289
- Darwin $329
Tel: 13 6789
Ratho Golf Links
Highland Lakes Road
Tel: 0411 202 061
Red Tag Trout Tours
Tel: 03 6229 5896
The Nant Distillery
The Nant Estate
Tel: 03 6259 5790
Fax: 03 6259 5544
The Priory Country Lodge
2 Wentworth Street
Tel: 03 6259 4012
Fax: 03 6259 4013