The 1900’s federation home in which Sydney based couple Rachel and Michael raised their family was called Glenayr, and so it felt right for the Mudgee farm they bought once their children had grown to be given the same name. Glenayr Farm – the off-grid glamping site in the Mudgee hills – is Rachel and Michael’s newest baby. We asked them about the inspiration behind the space, and the process of building an entirely off-grid resort, complete with communal dining space, wood fired hot tub and luxury villa.
We had been dreaming of buying a farm for years as we all lead busy lives where we rarely give ourselves the time to stop and breathe. So, we wanted a place where we could all disconnect to reconnect – whether it be with just ourselves, with our kids or with extended family and friends.
We spent years dreaming, researching and looking at different country towns. Michael wanted that raw secluded quintessential Australian landscape and I wanted a breathtaking view where I could watch the sunset with a glass of wine and easy access to a town that offered some tourist attraction.
Something kept drawing us back to Mudgee for its outstanding natural beauty, rolling hills, world renowned wineries and food. Mudgee also offers outdoor adventure, rich history, gold rush heritage, a great Australian town with stunning heritage streetscapes and museums and a welcoming community along with an irresistible rustic appeal.
As soon as we saw Glenayr Farm, it was love at first sight for both of us. It has views that take your breath away, and it’s set on a 320 acre working sheep property that makes you feel like you’re the only people on earth, despite being a short drive from Mudgee.
Having a heritage quintessential country Aussie pub (The Gold and Fleece Hotel) five minutes down the road is an added bonus. Mudgee Observatory is also close by as the area is one of the premier stargazing sites in Australia. The night sky is truly spectacular!
Since it was 320 acres of vacant land which we wanted to start enjoying immediately and since I love the outdoors and camping, I suggested we put up some tents while we decided what we were going to do. I joked that we could rent the tents out …. I then discovered Glamping (derived from ‘glamorous camping’) was a growing industry.
We wanted to build up high on the block to capture the incredible views. This would also give us a desired 1km driveway to enhance the feeling of “getting away from it all”. However, getting services to that location wasn’t feasible and we didn’t want to build near the road. So, with climate change and constant education of reducing our urban footprint, we decided we would build Glenayr Farm 100% off the grid and provide accommodation with a point of difference.
We wanted to escape the stress of everyday life and soak up the wonderful Australian nature without sacrificing luxury or comfort. We took many steps to ensure your mind, heart and body will be refreshed while minimising our impact on the environment.
I had so much fun letting my creative juices run wild with finding the right tents, decorating them and creating a space that I knew my family and friends would love, so therefore hopefully future guests would feel the same.
We both come from large and close families and we love to go away with groups of friends. We always find it hard to find accommodation to suit our needs, so we wanted to build somewhere were a group can take over and enjoy the communal space but then have the opportunity to escape to the privacy of their tent when they want a bit of piece and quiet. I wanted our own private mini resort, which is why we placed a real focus on creating an amazing communal space: complete with a fourteen-person dining table and wood fired hot tub overlooking the rolling hills.
Also, like a ski lodge, individuals can book just one tent and enjoy the communal area with the other guests – make new friends and connect with new people – but also enjoy the seclusion and peace of a private tent.
We have learnt SO MUCH about building off grid … it really is an education. Being in a hilly location, we had to get earth moving equipment in to level the land, we wanted to space the tents apart for privacy whilst still having them close to the communal and amenities block. I was adamant that we had a flushing toilet, so that was a big expense putting in the septic system. The excavation required for a flushing toilet shocked me.
We put in a good solar system, but when you have a few days of overcast weather and a full house, the power runs out. So we upgraded our system.
Another thing I have learnt is that water doesn’t magically appear like it does in Sydney. Since we have tents, you can’t catch rain water off them when it rains, so we ensured we took 100% advantage of the communal area roof. Now that we have added the hot tubs which get refilled after every guest, we are chewing through the water, so we have to get it shipped in. It’s a big expense because you have to get a huge truck to drive all the way out to us and up our 1km driveway.
It’s interesting, the more off grid you become, the more respect you have for nature and realise what we can get from it when were resourceful. Now when I see people waste water, I get really upset.
So my advice to anyone building off grid is:
All our guests love everything Glenayr Farm offers, but some people wanted their own little slice of luxury and seclusion all to themselves for a romantic getaway.
Since we manufacture homes at Quick Built Homes, it was a perfect opportunity to design a luxury villa/ tiny home to add to our range and use Glenayr Farm for our first prototype.
Once we got the hang of living off grid and realised how achievable it is, it was an easy process. I had a lot of fun working with architects and designers to create the ultimate luxury villa.
Living off grid does not mean you have to sacrifice luxury. Our villa comes with a kingsize bed, stunning furnishings from One World, it’s own private hot tub / plunge pool, an indoor fire place, a private outdoor fire pit and an oversized deck with a massive day bed. My favourite part is the shower that has an enormous window so you can admire the view whilst showering.
The Villa is about a 10 minute walk from the Glamping site, which is far enough away to give guests complete privacy and seclusion, yet close enough if a group want to book the Glamping and Villas out together.
We visited Queenstown NZ last year and I feel in love with the timber homes with black trimmings that were scattered everywhere that blended into the environment. So, I was on a mission to replicate this look.
Co-incidentally, the product I found for the villa is manufactured from sustainably-grown NZ plantation pine and the hot tub was also from NZ built out of 100% Cedar wood cladding.
For the interior finishes, think marble, brass, whitewashed walls, rattan and lots of windows to let in the Mudgee sunshine and make the most of the view.
A few years back, we stayed at Zoofari lodge at Dubbo Zoo and I loved how they fed the animals right in front of your tents. So, we put in a dam in front of the tents and communal area with a big deck over the water with a dining table, so guests could watch the sunset while the kangaroos, sheep, cows and ducks drank out of the dam. This is my favourite place at the farm.
And of course the hot tub / plunge pool which adds an element of luxury.
Oh, I love this question! I am an early riser, so I always rise to watch the sunrise and the hundreds of kangaroos and sheep grazing to the first rays of the day. Then we have a big bacon and egg fry up. Then I make everyone go on our two hour farm hike which has incredible views and I always check out the historic ruins of the Gold Miners hut and say hello to the neighbours horses and goats. Then I come back and get all dressed up for a day wine tasting and eating out at one of the restaurants, and spend the day pottering around Mudgee shops for a bit of retail therapy. My favourite part of the day though is sitting around the fire pit or on the dam and watching the sun set. No matter how many sunsets I have seen at Glenayr Farm, they always blow me away. Then watching the sky come to life with all the stars is just magical.
You welcome so many visitors every year, is there one particular memory of running Glenayr that speaks to the magic of the space?
The first thing I do when I get up to Glenayr Farm is open the guest book and read what people have written. I get quite emotional about all of the lovely things that people say. A few stand out guests we’ve had was a group of 16 family who stayed during a cold front, who sent me a photo of 6 kids in the hot tub in the pouring rain and -1 degree temperatures laughing their heads off. They told me they were having the best time (they also sent me a video they made up of their trip which I loved). Another couple got engaged at Glenayr Farm…I’m a hopeless romantic, so I loved that.
All we have done at Glenayr Farm is design and built our dream holiday resort for our family and friends. If you design something that you love and are passionate about, it’s easy to have faith in the fact that other people will love it just as much.
To book your stay at Glenayr, visit their website glenayrfarm.com.au
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