A vast grey sky hung over farmland, meadows and the odd house as I wound past Glen Innes towards the New England town of Guyra in NSW. Just beyond the bend stood an old-looking pub, more or less on its own. I pulled in and walked past carmine benches, firewood and trees that looked cold and pretty. Inside, lanterns and stag heads hung beside a fireplace, long tables and Gothic-style archways that framed dark wooden doors.
Trevor, co-proprietor of the Red Lion Tavern in Glencoe – a small town about 20 minutes south of Glen Innes in the state’s northern tablelands – had saved Olin (my four-year-old) and I a room without a deposit. I’d popped in briefly on our way to the nearby annual Lamb & Potato festival in Guyra and told him I’d return. I thought it was pretty cool, him saving us a room like that. It seemed out here your word meant something.
After checking into our cosy ensuite room and discovering (to my delight) the tavern had Guinness on tap, I wandered out back to take in the country. It looked beautiful and forlorn – a little English, with rolling hills and unkempt fields lined with withered shrubs. After a brief play in the garden, we went back inside to sample the good old-fashioned pub grub. Olin had pork sausages and chips while I had battered flathead, chips and a pint of Guinness.
Trevor and his partner Ann, who bought the place in 2011 after it lay vacant for several years, are a friendly couple. However even though they enjoy the place, Ann tells me they’re selling it, as “the place gets a bit cold for Trevor”, who’s approaching retirement. Being roughly 1200 metres above sea level, Glencoe does get a little cold at night, particularly in the wintertime (at least for Australian standards).
Of course the place has a bit of history before Trevor and Ann, as it was established in 1885 as the Glencoe Hotel before it burnt down and reopened in 1969 as the Red Lion Tavern (after a $60,000 refurbishment). And according to one local report, it’s had some talented chefs pass through its doors. There’s also “architectural treasures” within that come from all over Australia, such as the rustic dining room containing stag heads, large wooden furniture and various historical memorabilia.
The adjacent bar also has a fireplace and a pool table, while upstairs there’s three ensuite rooms if you intend to stay the night, which you should, if you ever find yourself out this way. Stop by, taste the country home cooking – such as the pork belly slow roasted in sweet chilli and lime, and the crumbed lamb cutlets stuffed with basil and feta – and sample local wines from the nearby vineyards. It’s a small slice of the UK in Scottish Australia.
Rooms at the Red Lion Tavern start from $85 a night. Lunch is from Tuesday to Saturday, 12 – 2pm and on Sunday, 12 – 2:30pm. Dinner is from Tuesday to Thursday, 6 – 8pm and on Friday and Saturday, 6 – 8:30pm.
Disclosure: I received no freebies for writing this review. I just like the place and reckon you might too.