In last week’s post I referred to the Hydro Majestic as one of the many landmarks along the Great Western Highway through the Blue Mountains. While poking about on their website, I came across a link to history tours. The tours are held daily and bookings can be made for tour groups or smaller gatherings. I’ve been intrigued by the Hydro for a while, so I thought I’d go along.

The tour commenced in the Casino Lobby, a place that was familiar from old photos of the Hydro. A few of the guests of the hotel were on the tour as well, and we were given an overview of the history and the driving personality behind the hotel. Inspired by sanatoriums and health spas in Europe, entrepreneur Mark Foy travelled up and down the highway looking for a site that would meet three specific needs: a railway station, highway access and a spectacular view. Medlow Bath (or Medlow, as it was then known) offered all three.

From the imported casino dome to the breathtaking views in the Wintergarden restaurant, the old-world warmth of the old billiards room (originally a male-only domain) to the most unusual incline of Cat’s Alley, the hotel is a fascinating mix of styles, designs and architecture. Foy’s preference for arches has been acknowledged in the newly built areas of the complex, and original artwork commissioned for the hotel is on display. This includes a number of hunting murals painted by Arnold Zimmerman which form the backdrop to the stylish Cat’s Alley. The views of the Megalong Valley are spectacular, and from the top of Cat’s Alley it is possible to look down to where the farm that provided much of the produce for the hotel in the early years was located. The food was whisked up and down via flying fox.

There are several novels which refer directly or otherwise to the Hydro Majestic. These include the recent Palace of Tears by Julian Leatherdale, Evergreen Falls by Kimberly Freeman and Miles Off Course by Sulari Gentill in the clever Rowland Sinclair series which includes a cameo appearance by Mark Foy.

For me, the amazing scenery within and without the hotel only added to my interest in the Hydro. I was fortunate to have an excellent tour guide, Patrick, who wove a spellbinding story around the history of the Hydro and made it come alive.

What brings history to life for you?

*Taken from ‘Crush‘ by Jennifer Paige

[Photo of Cat’s Alley, Hydro Majestic]