There are many landmarks for the traveller along the Great Western Highway. Whilst the highway’s course has altered over time due to bypasses and road changes, there are many sections which have remained unchanged despite the perpetual roadworks over the decades.
One memory of a mountain trip was on a school excursion. We stopped at Bull’s Camp Reserve at Woodford. As we wandered about, one of the teachers explained the location’s significance as a convict stockade whilst the initial road was being carved through the mountains. A large, slightly stained flat rock was pointed out and it was identified as a flogging stone for errant convicts. I’m not sure of the truth of this tale but it lodged firmly in my mind.
As you travel towards the apex of the mountains, the familiar shape of the Carrington Hotel chimney crests the horizon. It fascinated me as a child, looming in the distance before slipping aside as the highway turned towards Medlow Bath and Blackheath. It was built in 1910 and originally provided power to the township of Katoomba as well as the hotel.
A little further along the highway is the sprawling splendour of the Hydro Majestic. It stretches for over a kilometre along the escarpment, commanding views over the Megalong Valley. Recently it was extensively refurbished, and it is once again an extremely popular tourist destination.
The old Toll Bar House is on the left hand side on the final stretch before Mt Victoria, and is another milestone along the highway. Nestled in the bend before the township, it was a collection point for tolls during the early life of the highway and continued through to 1868 when the railway station opened at Mt Victoria. It has the grace of an earlier era, a static witness to over 150 years of history.
There are many kinds of magic along the Great Western Highway. What are your favourites?
*From ‘A Kind of Magic’ by Queen
[Photo is of the Carrington Hotel, Katoomba on an autumn day]