We took the shortest route to Bothwell, which just happened to be the steepest. The road zigzagged through the highlands and past the Great Lakes and as we got higher, the temperature gauge simultaneously dropped. This was cold country; icy, gothic and foreboding.
In winter, there are parts of Tasmania that feel very dark. The clouds are low, the air is still and its history of invasion, murder and convict labour is evident around every corner. In the depths of winter there’s an eeriness, an uneasiness, an energetic sadness that is both jolting and humbling.
The history and grief is palpable and it proves, once again, that Tasmania gets under your skin. It’s an island of such profound contrast; of people and place, mountains and sea.
We drove into Bothwell at dusk; a highland town of tartan, rabbits and, well, rabbit pie. This is fishing and hunting territory with the Land Rovers, flannel and mullets to prove it. It’s one of Tasmania’s quirkiest towns and in the back street is the Butcher’s House. Yes, the butcher used to live there and his shop is in a dilapidated state out the front, just waiting to be returned to its original glory with guidance from Tasmanian Heritage.
The house was built in the 1840s and has recently been restored with integrity and care. It’s small and dark and feels like an indie filmset with it’s shutters, vintage leather lounge and tartan blankets. We lit the fire as soon as we arrived and if there’s one thing I’ve come to appreciate while in Tasmania its decent hardwood that burns well. These are the things that make life much more comfortable and there was a big stack at the Butcher’s.
The beauty of this little cottage is in the details; thoughtful curated vintage artwork and artefacts that make you feel like you’ve stepped into yesteryear; a tin of fly fishing hooks, an iron rabbit, a wee willy winky candle holder. There are the portraits from the late 1800s, a drinks cart with whisky to warm you and an armchair that begs you to sit with a good book while night falls and the fire roars.
The kitchen is small yet functional, brimming with beautiful styling choices from the tea cups to the cutlery. The bathroom is no different and if there’s anything better than a book by the fire in the middle of winter, it’s the promise of a hot bath and herbal salts.
There are two bedrooms, one with a queen bed and the other with two singles. Yes, it’s small and probably most suited to couples rather than families but it has a certain kind of charm. It’s a hideaway in the hills, a brooding home with a deep history that has been mindfully celebrated in its recent restoration.
Bothwell is cold and the house, with its slate floors and old walls can be chilly. Bring your wool socks and your favourite jumpers, light the fire as soon as you arrive and plan a warming winter meal to fill your belly. Porridge and tea in the morning is a must as is a few good books to while away the hours (it’s a screen-free house).
There’s a small convenience store in Bothwell which is a short walk from The Butcher’s but I’d highly recommend bringing your supplies with you. The kitchen is lovely to cook in; sharp knives (never underestimate how important they are), a beautiful gas stove and oven, plenty of pots and pans and a pantry with all the basics; tea, coffee, olive oil, s+p and a jar of cookies.
The Butcher’s House is a labour of love and just the spot to explore the Great Lake and the Western Tiers. Or just escape for a night or two, into the quiet and stillness where rabbits hop on the frosty lawn and starlings fly overhead.