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Tried & Tested: Reviews

to fork and the care taken to source good quality local produce is especially evident on the evening menu. On both nights of the stay I

plumped for the chef’s tasting menu – oysters, quail, salmon and a whole host of other dishes.

New phase At the end of last year, Emirates appointed One&Only to manage the resort, bringing it into a collection of nine other properties and giving the group its second hotel in Australia. The resort’s general manager

Michael Payne tells me there are plans afoot to grow the share of international business by packaging a trip together with One&Only’s Hayman Island resort in the Whitsunday Islands. There are also plans to grow the children’s offering through expanded programmes in archery and horse riding. Even at this early stage on its new

Into the blue On the surface, the next stop of my Australia visit couldn’t be more different. Set in 7,000 acres of former farmland in the north-west corner of the Blue Mountains, Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa is a wilderness retreat with a luxury heart. The journey from Sydney takes a

reasonable – in Australian terms – two-and-a-half hours, but despite its relative proximity to Sydney it would be a mistake to think of it as anything other than remote. For the last quarter of the journey, I placed my faith in the satnav, hoping it would take me the right way. As I headed towards my destination, I passed fewer and fewer cars until suddenly, I spotted a sign by the side of the road, telling me to turn off for the resort. I went through a gate to be

greeted by a smiling man in a cowboy hat, still not completely sure I was in right place but was told to park the car and wait for another driver to take me the final few miles; to preserve the back-to- nature feel of Wolgan Valley, only the resort’s vehicles are allowed. The four-by-four took me through

rocky creeks before the residence loomed large; perched on the edge of the valley sides, the building does a good job of blending in with the rocks and trees.

journey, Wolgan Valley is able to succeed by doing the simple things right. Yes, the food is incredible and the staff are attentive, but the location is the real star. As part of their package, guests

are given a mountain bike with the freedom to explore the entire estate. On my last day, I headed out before breakfast for a leisurely ride and the further I got away from the heart of the hotel, the more aware I became of the resort’s complete and utter isolation. After a few miles, it’s just kangaroos, the wide-open space and you.

Once the driver dropped me off,

I was greeted by Shane the head butler, who immediately offered me a glass of champagne and provided the perfect taster of what to expect. Dotted downhill are individual

guesthouses, most one-bedroom, with a couple suitable for larger families as well. Each has a private pool and other nice touches include the rear veranda that makes for a perfect wildlife watching spot – if the weather turns cold, there’s a gas fire and a comfy sofa to curl up on. However, unsurprisingly for a resort situated between two national parks, the outdoors plays a central part in any stay. Guests can choose from a variety

of guided tours designed to showcase the wonders of the Australian bush and on most of these you’re guaranteed to bump


into a critter or two. The resort is home to hundreds of kangaroos, wallabies, wallaroos as well as wombats and scores of bird species, many of which don’t seem that afraid of humans. The guides themselves are

incredibly knowledgeable and a constant source of information on the flora and fauna. Eucalyptus trees for example actually encourage bush fires by shedding their bark, to help put nutrients back into the soil, one tells me. After an afternoon exploring, a massage is a welcome reprieve and fortunately my therapist eliminates most of the knots in my back. Despite the obvious difference

on first glance, there are similarities between Wolgan Valley and Double Bay. The most obvious is the importance both place on food. The short journey from farm

How to book it Elegant Resorts offers an itinerary combining the two One&Only Resorts ( from £5,325pp, including three nights at the Park Hyatt Sydney (with breakfast), three nights at Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley (full board) and five nights at One&Only Hayman Island (with breakfast) and includes economy flights, private transfers and UK airport lounge passes. Tel: 01244 897518, Nights at the Intercontinental Sydney Double Bay start from £200. Tel: 0871 423 4876,

Pictured 1. Intercontinental Sydney Double Bay 2. Bay-view king room at the Double Bay 3. Double Bay’s Club courtyard 4. Pool at Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley 5. Kangaroos roam the valley

Rural retreat

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