The town’s most distinctive and gracious building is Ranelagh House, a guest house and conference centre to the east of the town. Built in 1924 as the Hotel Robertson it was conceived as an imitation English Manor House and is set in 13.5 acres of landscaped gardens, complete with statues, swimming pool, fountains and a weir. There are deer and peacocks on the grounds. There is also a craft cottage on the grounds.
The original owners must have hoped that they could draw some of the Sydneysiders who retreated to the cool Southern Highlands to escape the heat of a Sydney summer and enjoy the beauty of the countryside. However, it was not really a success and the enterprise folded. In 1930 it was purchased, marketed as an exclusive country club and renamed Ranelagh House. However, it again failed to make headway. During World War II it was used as a WRAAF depot before becoming, in 1947, St Anthony’s College, a Franciscan friary and seminary. It was during this period that the stained-glass windows were incorporated. The house once again became a private hotel in 1972 and is at last fulfilling its intended purpose as a retreat from Sydney.
Ranelagh House has its own platform on the Moss Vale to Unanderra line and hence is easily accessed by means of the Cockatoo Run which offers an opportunity to see the surrounding countryside by means of a leisurely train trip in olden-style carriages (pulled by steam train except in exceptional circumstances) to Robertson or down to the lllawarra. It operates from Saturday to Tuesdays and on public holidays, contact 1800 643 801.
The surrounding countryside is ideal for bushwalking. There is an exceptional 5-hectare remnant of temperate rainforest south-east of town at Robertson Nature Reserve which provides a good idea of how the whole plateau once looked. To get there from Wallaby Hill Farm, return to Belmore Falls Road and head back upto Robertson. Turn right into South St and proceed about 100 m to the car park on the right. There is a 600-m circular walking track around the reserve with interpretive signage and disabled access.
At the end of Wallaby Hill Road, turn left onto Belmore Falls Road. Follow it for a prrox 2kms and take the left (signposted for Hindmarsh Lookout) which will take you to the small parking area. It is a short walk to Hindmarsh Lookout from where there are truly breathtaking views over Morton National Park and Kangaroo Valley. From Hindmarsh Lookout there is another trail which follows the cliffline for about 300 metres to an equally impressive lookout over Belmore Falls. They were named after the then-governor of NSW, the Earl of Belmore. This isolated and undeveloped site has been a drawcard since a road was established in 1887, although there are rarely many people about at any one time. The Fitzroy Falls Visitors’ Centre has a pamphlet on the history of the area and the lookouts. The water that drops dramatically for over 100 metres from two of the falls into the Barrengarry Creek Valley joins the Kangaroo Creek and becomes part of the upper reaches of the Shoalhaven River catchment area. This is an ideal place for a bush picnic. The facilities are basic but the peacefulness of the picnic spots beside the river make this a cool and quiet respite from the bustle of the city. From the parking area just follow the road which loops back to rejoin Belmore Falls Road. Turn right to return to Robertson or left if you wish to continue on to Fitzroy Falls.
From the Belmore Falls parking area just follow the road which loops back to rejoin Belmore Falls Road. Continue heading away from Wallaby Hill Farm on Belmore Falles Road, past the right hand turn to Robertson, and on past the right hand turn to Wildes Meadow. The road you are on in now called Myra Vale Rd and after a further 7.5 km there is a T-intersection. A left will take you to Kangaroo Valley township and on to Nowra. Turn right,driving past the Fitzroy Falls Reservoir and picnic area, where there is a children’s playground. A short distance further along is the turnoff to the Fitzroy Falls Visitors’ Centre.
Macquarie Pass National Park
Alternatively, if you head east of Robertson along the Illawarra Highway to Macquarie Pass, which leads precipitously down a section of the Illawarra escarpment to Albion Park, you will pass through the beautiful rainforest scenery of Macquarie Pass National Park. There are three walks. The Glenview Track, which departs from Glenview Rd (a left-turn off the middle section of the pass when you are descending), the Clover Hill Rd Walk (an old logging trail halfway down and to the right if you’re descending) which leads to several falls (6 km return and only for the experienced walker armed with a compass) and, the easiest of all, the Cascades Rainforest Walk (2 km return) which begins from the car park on the northern side of the highway at the foot of the pass. The park contains lyrebirds, satin bowerbirds, crimson rosellas, wallabies, wombats and bandicoots. There are several picnic spots.
If you turn off the Illawarra Highway, just east of Robertson where the highway bends to the left, and turn right into the Jamberoo Rd, then, after 10 km, you will come to a signposted turnoff to the right which takes you to Nellies Glen Picnic Area and Carrington Falls. After 2 km this branch road forks. The road on the right leads to Nellies Glen and that on the left to Thomas’ Place Picnic Area. A track (2 km return with disabled access) departs the latter and leads to three lookouts over the beautiful falls which tumble 50 metres over the Kangaroo Valley escarpment.
Barren Grounds Nature Reserve
Barren Grounds Nature Reserve, Gerringong Falls, Jamberoo Lookout and Minnamurra Rainforest all lie further along the Jamberoo Rd and are all outstanding spots for walking and enjoying the beautiful scenery.
Another alternative is the Kangaloon Rd to Bowral which involves a turnoff to the right in the middle of Robertson (if you are headed from east to west along the highway). About halfway along the 24-km stretch of road is the Wingecaribee Reservoir where there is a picnic area. En route is some beautiful scenery and the villages of East Kangaloon and Kangaloon, established around the same time as Robertson by the same batch of settlers.