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Talking Location With author Sherryl Clark (a pub crawl with a difference) VICTORIA

28th June 2020

Sherryl Clark#TalkingLocationWith…Sherryl Clark, author of Dead And Gone – set in Melbourne, Victoria.


While Melbourne has plenty for any tourist’s interest, Victoria is a small enough state that you can go for all kinds of day trips, or venture out on a long weekend and get to just about anywhere. The goldrush history of the state ensures plenty of historic pubs that still survive and can be wonderful places to stay (not expensive either!). You can create your very own historic pub crawl.

First on my list, only 45 minutes from Melbourne, is the Coach and Horses Hotel at Clarkefield. It’s listed in tour guides as the most haunted hotel in the state. Constructed of bluestone in 1857, it’s two storeys with a central staircase behind the main bar that has a history of its own. At least two pub owners claim to have been pushed down these stairs by ghosts who didn’t like them. The place is also supposedly haunted by a Chinese man who was hung in the stables after a fight. (Coach and Horses closed for a little while for renovations.)

Yet another ghost is a ten-year-old girl who was drowned in the well nearby, although she is reputed to be quite friendly. Regardless of the hauntings (which I have never experienced), I’ve had plenty of lovely meals here and enjoyed all the historic memorabilia on the walls.

Further north, after passing through Romsey and Lancefield, you arrive at Tooberac. You may also find yourself in convoy as you drive along with a variety of vintage and classic cars. These roads are a favourite on weekends for vintage car rallies and outings. The Tooberac Hotel and Brewery also has great food (I think it’s my job to test it all, surely), and a wealth of historic items to look at. The original small rooms have mostly been kept as is for the restaurant guests, along with toasty wood open fires when it’s cold.

Shamrock Hotel

The main bar has a personality of its own, and welcomes locals as well as tourists. You can go on a tour of the brewery and sample a range of beers brewed there including Shearers Lager and Woodcutters Ale. The pub is also famous for its pies, one aptly named Rabbit Ramble. You can also stay here overnight if you wish.

From here, you have a wealth of choices. There is the large city of Bendigo to the north-west, where you can eat and stay at the historic Shamrock Hotel and visit a goldmine underground, or you can follow your (wine drinking) nose and head north-east. This route takes you through several wine-growing areas such as Heathcote and Nagambie, and allows you to stop off at Glenrowan where Ned Kelly, the bushranger was captured in his home-made armour after a shoot-out with police. Yes, there is a museum.

Keep driving and you will end up near the state border in the Rutherglen wine-growing area, where you have a choice of 19 wineries within a few minutes of the town. Everything from the historic Gehrigs, All Saints and Mount Prior to the boutique wineries such as Jones Winery and Vineyard. Many have restaurants and will take you on tours.

For accommodation, we stayed at the Victoria Hotel in the main street; this pub was built in 1868 and is on the National Trust register. After a day visiting wineries, we ate at the pub, indulging in one of their chicken parmas (an Aussie pub classic dish), played pool and then watched the town go past from the iron lace verandah. It doesn’t pay to stay too far away from the wineries (even better if you have a non-imbibing driver!). The one thing we didn’t do was venture out the back to have a look at the original town mortuary, a remnant of the times when inquests were held at the pub and the bodies kept there. These days the mortuary is used to store spirits. Of course.

Dead and Gone

For my novel, Dead and Gone, I’ve combined several of the country pubs I’ve mentioned, including the stained glass windows from the Victoria Hotel. A bit like a recipe – a smidgin of this, a cup of that, and a stir of murder and mystery.

Sherryl Clark is the author of Trust Me, I’m Dead and Dead and Gone published by Verve Books. Dead and Gone is available from 25th June 2020. 

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