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Grand Designs Breathe Life into Heritage Highway’s Past

Some see highways as an efficient way to get from A to B. Pull back a few gears on the Heritage Highway though, and country roads will reveal history dating back to some of Australia’s earliest inland settlements.
Story by Alice Hansen

There are folk dotted along this highway that are passionate about breathing life back into Tasmaniaís past and sharing with you grand restorations. You might just find yourself swinging a hickory golf club on Australia’s oldest course, running your fingers across cool bricks carved by convict hands or feeling inspired to develop your own ‘Grand Design’.

The Heritage Highway is a journey of learning, an uncrowded path sprinkled with Georgian buildings and those who enjoy a quieter pace. Along the way you can try your hand at new things ñ skills new to you but centuries in the making. The new Heritage School at Oatlands is a good place to begin.

Heritage School – Oatlands

Itís a fitting place for a Heritage School. Oatlands happens to be home to Australia’s largest intact colonial townscape – the ideal setting for a school committed to conservation, restoration and preservation of heritage.

The Heritage Education and Skills Centre is a new place of learning for anyone, whether a young student looking to develop an age-old trade or someone who owns a heritage property and would like to attend a workshop on, say, Interior Heritage Finishes. Dedicated staff tailor courses to those seeking practical skills and what’s more, they’ll be learnt in an authentic heritage environment.


Ratho Farm

Best known as home of Australia’s Oldest Golf Course, Ratho Farm’s colonial buildings have recently undergone a grand restoration. From November 2014, guests can stay in luxurious convict cottages and farm-barns and explore Bothwell’s beginnings – one of Australia’s first inland settlements.

Enjoy the challenge and charm of the 18-hole course, explore four kilometres of prime riverfront fishing, and enjoy hearty meals prepared by welcoming hosts. As with any farm, all work, rest and play revolves around the Homestead. It’s changed enormously since the early settlers were ransacked by bushrangers on the verandah in the early 1800s. Today it has been restored to its former glory. Cosy up by the big open fire with a Tasmanian whisky from neighbouring Nant and settle in for the night, just 15 minutes off the Heritage Highway.


Early settler Jane Williams recalls the bushranger attack on Ratho:

“The others took axes and began to break open the chests of drawers, boxes, etc., when my mother with her usual admirable composure told them it was a pity to destroy the furniture, and if they were determined to help themselves she would open the drawers, and getting her bunch of keys threw everything open, while they turned out the stores of clothing and other comforts my father had provided, thinking to give us all the necessaries of life which could not then be obtained in the bush”.

 Shene Estate

Shene Estate is grand. Located just 30 minutes from Hobart, this Pontville estate was forever locked away from the general public. Until now. Today, you can walk straight through the carriage way and into Shene’s richly colourful past, guided by a passionate custodian.

Find out the story of Galamiel Butler, and how in 1819 he came to develop this grand property in far flung Van Dieman’s Land. Not only will you hear whispers of the past, but you can explore the conservation works and see how Shene is an historic site with modern ideas. And we haven’t even mentioned that the convict-built barn offers a pretty special wedding venue. So come for a walking tour followed by Butler’s Bounty, afternoon tea, and see what you find.


For more great events along the Heritage Highway, visit our Events page.

We love it when you share your adventures with us! Share your snaps by tagging @midlandstasmania and using #MidlandsTasmania & #HeritageHighway on Instagram and Facebook – we’ll share our favourite pics on social media and in the blog.

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