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I need a jug of wine and a book of poetry, Half a loaf for a bite to eat, Then you and I, seated in a deserted spot, will have more wealth than a Sultans realm.'

Omar Khayyam

THE VIEW FROM THE VERANDAH of our timber cottage would have stirred the poet in the steeliest of souls.

Shafts of sunlight pierced the forest canopy where garrulous currawongs locked in earnest, shrieking dispute. A goanna high-stepped carefully over the forest floor, tongue flicking lazily in the afternoon heat. Butterflies flitted inquisitively from flower to flower.

Of course, the fact I was viewing this scene through the bottom of a wine glass certainly helped arouse the poetic muse. What better way to end a hard day's wine tasting than by putting your feet up on a sun-soaked verandah and washing down a late ploughman's lunch with one of that day's finer purchases?

Glen Ayr Cottages is a delightful bolthole in the heart of the Hunter Wine Country. Although the Pokolbin vineyards are on your doorstep, the cottages are tucked away in bushland, far from the tour parties and the lunchtime crowds. Amateur bird-watchers will enjoy the ebb and flow of blue wrens, hawks, magpies, butcher birds and parrots among the treetops. A pair of eagles that nest in the nearby Brokenback Range are also occasional visitors.

The verandah is the perfect spot for a crisp chardonnay in the late afternoon, and you will find your log fire invites a hearty cabernet sauvignon or a glass of Hunter port in the cool winter/early autumn evenings. At the other end of the year, the recent installation of air conditioning to three of the six cottages will make the intense summer heat easier to handle.

The cottages are priced to encourage family or group bookings (each sleeps up to eight people), but couples are welcome.

Lindemans Hunter River Winery is just about within walking distance; others within a couple of kilometres include Tulloch's, Hungerford Hill and Pokolbin Estate. Also nearby is the McGuigan Hunter Village, where they will uncork the wine of your choice and provide plastic glasses so you can enjoy it with a Hunter Valley Cheese Company ploughman's lunch on the lawn. Alternatively, pick up a picnic here and drive up to the lookout at the end of Pokolbin Mountain Road in the Brokenback Range for views over the valley.

Story by Steve Fraser, appeared in the July/August 1999 issue of The Open Road Magazine.

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