Ossian Hall
Accommodation in Colo Accommodation in Colo


Establishments featured in Weekends Away are visited anonymously by Herald writers who pay their own way.

Down by the river

Going bush ... the Colo River; below: Blue Wren cottage may not look much from the outside but it's spacious and well furnished. Photos: Steve Meacham

Steve Meacham takes to the oars in a picturesque but forgotten corner of NSW.

Jim and Diane Swaisland had a pretty original excuse when they phoned and apologised for not being able to greet us personally at their tranquil property, Ossian Hall, on the banks of the Colo River.

They were going to be at a wedding all day in Sydney, driving the bride and groom in their elegant horse-drawn carriage. So would we mind getting ourselves settled in?

The key to Blue Wren cabin would be in the door, everything would be left ready for us. And if we were at a loss about how to spend the hot afternoon, well, just help ourselves to the swimming pool. Or we could take the metal rowing boat out on the river oars and lifejackets would be waiting for us on the banks.

And if we did have any problems before they returned in the evening in their custom-built horse trailer able to accommodate a Cinderella coach and two white carriage horses then their neighbour on the other side of the valley would be more than happy to help out.
Did we mind? Not a bit. If the truth be known, we didn't miss our hosts at all that afternoon. For a few brief hours we had the place to ourselves. Ideal.

We arrived at lunchtime, having stopped off for an hour at Windsor to stock up on supplies. Though the Swaislands had told us their neighbours at the Colo Riverside Park did pretty good food, the nearest restaurants are a drive away: we'd already decided that a barbecue and a quiet night with a decent video were the way to go.

For those who don't know, the Colo is one of the tributaries to the Hawkesbury and just as scenic as its better-known relative. Ossian Hall is about half an hour's drive north of Windsor, through Wilberforce on the pretty Putty Road to Singleton. Some of the oldest farming properties in NSW are up here but for many years it has been a backwater.

Jim and Diane's present home is the second they have built themselves in the Colo Valley. This one is a stilt home, on the side of a dramatic hillside, protected from the possibility of floods. Jim, a former civil engineer, designed it along with Blue Wren cabin, the first of three they have planning permission to build "once we get the money".

Blue Wren cottage doesn't look much from the outside, a bit like one of those temporary huts erected on building sites. It's much more attractive within spacious and well furnished, consisting of a large bedroom-cum-lounge with sofa, TV, video and CD player, a large ensuite with spa bath and a small but perfectly adequate kitchen.

Patio doors open to a private barbecue area with pleasant views through the gum trees across a valley to the horses grazing in the Swaislands' paddocks.

After a sandwich lunch and an hour spent reading the papers we headed to the river to try out the dinghy. Oars and lifejackets were quickly located and off we set, arguing constantly about who was more adept with the oars. It took us half an hour to row to the Colo Riverside Park, where we stopped for an ice-cream before a tougher row against the current back to where we started.
It's difficult not to notice the fire damage, though there is already much evidence of regrowth. The Swaislands were lucky not to lose their home the blackened aftermath of the backburning comes within a few metres of both the main house and Blue Wren cabin. Mind you, luck is only part of the story.

When we finally met Jim the next morning it soon became apparent that for many years he had been a leading light in the local rural fire service: several old firemen's helmets and an axe awarded to him on his retirement decorate his home.

After a quiet evening around the barbecue grill, and a sound night's sleep, we took an early morning jog before breakfast. We soon bumped into Jim, playing around with his diggers and tractors like a real-life Bob the Builder, and he pointed us in the direction of a lovely track. This really is terrific country, ideal for bushwalkers or birdwatchers.

Our appetites tuned, we returned for a leisurely breakfast the fridge had been stocked with eggs, bacon, mushrooms, orange juice and milk then spent a comfortable hour by the solar-heated swimming pool. The Swaislands had told us there was no rush to check out but we had decided to visit nearby Tizzana Winery before driving the scenic route along the Hawkesbury to Wisemans Ferry for a late lunch.

There are plenty of other alternatives should you wish to use Ossian Hall as a base for touring the area. There's Windsor, of course, with its museum, heritage walks and the Macquarie Arms, reputedly the oldest pub in NSW. And there are hikes through the Wollemi National Park, with accessible tracks a few kilometres further north.

But most people won't want to stray too far from Ossian Hall. It's just too relaxing gazing down on the river. And if the Swaislands are away doing another wedding, you can pretend you own the place for an afternoon.

Visitors' Book

The place: Ossian Hall B&B, Colo River, near Wilberforce, NSW

Bookings: Phone or fax 4575 5250

Prices: As per tariff page on www.ossianhall.com.au

How to get there: From Sydney, drive to Windsor, then cross the Hawkesbury River and follow the Putty Road north through Wilberforce towards Singleton. The sign for Ossian Hall is off to the east after crossing the Colo River.

Rooms available next weekend: Yes

Children: Adults only

Wheelchair access: No

Smoking: No

Pluses: The serenity, the landscape, the chance to explore a beautiful river.

Minuses: Lack of nightlife and restaurants, if you're looking for that kind of thing.

Rating: 15/20



Ossian Hall B&B

Take it to the river: in this forgotten corner of NSW, a weekend of serenity, exploration and rowing awaits.


"How embarrassing!" These were the words we spluttered into the mobile phone to our hosts when we realised we'd locked ourselves out of our cottage at the Ossian Hall Bed and Breakfast on the Colo River.

The keys were on a bedside table inside the sumptuously warm and lyrically named Lyre Bird Lodge.

Ossian Hall's owners Jim and Diane Swaisland were out for the night, visiting family. But a short phone call to the Swaislands, who opened Ossian Hall a little more than four years ago in a secluded, bush-fringed valley on the banks of the Colo River, and a "rescue" mission was put into action.

The Swaislands built their retreat on the steep valley wall, on a property originally owned by Andrew McDougall, a First Fleet free settler.
It has two cabins, the Lyre Bird Lodge and Blue Wren Cottage, nestled among a stand of eucalypts, looking west across a flat, green valley. The Colo River slides along one side of the property.

Visitors have the choice of the cottages, with their queen-size beds and spa-baths built for two, or you can stay in the Kookaburra Suite in the main house. The cabins have kitchen facilities if you want to prepare your own meals. Many visitors bring their own ingredients for lunch and dinner. Those who want nightlife and restaurants must make the 25-kilometre drive into Windsor.

When we arrived on Saturday night, our hosts had arranged a cook-your-own barbecue basket complete with steak, chops and sausages, with a freshly tossed salad, potato salad and fresh bread rolls.

The gas barbecue was just metres from the door. We cooked our dinner dwarfed by a boulder-filled hillside looming above us.
After our meal, we filled up the hot tub in the bathroom and settled in for a 30-minute soak before relaxing in front of the wood-burning stove.

Breakfast the next morning on the patio, perched on stilts about eight metres above the side of the valley, was a bit nippy, but the shafts of sunlight piercing through the trees kept us out there through the cereal, bacon, eggs and toast.

For those with a bit of excess energy to burn, the Swaislands have a small dinghy, two oars and some lifejackets down by the river, and you can row your way downstream to the roadhouse at Colo.

We preferred a quiet stroll through the grounds, up the tree-lined drive onto the Putty Road and an easy 15-minute walk to the Colo River bridge, exploring the quiet riverbank alongside the caravan park.

Ossian Hall is a perfect base for exploring the Hawkesbury Valley. Serenity is the key word for this easy-to-reach getaway.

The beds: Sublimely comfortable queen-sized bed.

The breakfast: Prepare-your-own breakfast basket complete with fruit, yoghurt, eggs, bacon, sausages, tomatoes and mushrooms. Freshly baked bread, delivered steaming hot.

The best thing: The calming patio views across the valley.

The worst thing: There was a hot tub - but no bubble bath.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Accommodation Info

As per tariff page on www.ossianhall.com.au

From Sydney, drive to Windsor, then cross the Hawkesbury River and follow the Putty Road north through Wilberforce towards Singleton. The sign for Ossian Hall is off to the east after you cross the Colo River.

Free parking onsite.


Excerpt from an article by Jim O'Rourke, The Sun-Herald


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