Pulling out of the Bentley showroom in Claremont onto Stirling Highway, I’m very much aware many houses cost less than the Bentley Continental GTC V8 S we’re test driving. However, given the craftsmanship on this elegant beast, it almost seems gauche to mention to money.
Our automatic seat belt presenter embraces us as we head up into the Perth Hills for a night of indulgence. It doesn’t take long to relax into the ventilated massaging leather seats with contrast cross stitching completed over a 37 hour timeframe with a blunt saddle needle so as to not mark the leather. It’s not until we hit the open road that we give the 4 litre twin turbo V8 engine the opportunity to really purr; and yes, it can get to 100km/h in 4.7 secs.
Bentleys were once synonymous with racing in the 1920’s and returned to the track several decades later with the GT3 debuting in 2014; the GT V8 S represents its racing tradition. And even though the 100-page tome, aka the brochure, states a Bentley is “A car with racing in its blood,” I’m no Michael Schumacher so I didn’t test its top speed of 308km/h.
With the top down and the spring sun kissing our wintery tinge, I pretend it’s my 50’s shades and scarf billowing in the wind that’s earning the admiring glances. Who am I kidding? The paint job alone is a stunner; Kingfisher Blue over Linen Hide with Piano Black Veneer. Every inch was sanded before polishing to the signature Bentley mirror-shine and then examined in a special light booth before being deemed perfect.
Meandering through the Perth hills is a treat anytime of the year, especially during wildflower season September to November, which can be witnessed at any number of the national parks like John Forrest or Beelu National Park. Contact the Shire of Kalamunda for self-drive itineraries such as Kalamunda to Mundaring, which takes in the Mundaring Weir where you can cross the damn wall on foot and the Mundaring Hotel is also a great pit-stop for lunch.
Another popular self-drive option ideal for a sojourn, especially in a Bentley, is through Kalamunda, Bickley and Pickering Brook ambling past picnic areas, look-outs, orchards, jarrah and marri native forests, as well as the vineyards of the Bickley Carmel Wine Trail. At 300-350m above sea level, the valley walls result in a shorter number of sunlight hours than the nearby Swan Valley. The northern slopes produce dry red varieties whereas southern facing is ideal for whites and light reds, and fortifieds are cultivated on the western facing sites.
Collecting goodies along the Bickley Carmel Wine Trail, we start at the family-owned Fairbrossen Estate for sweeping views to the State Forest and gourmet vineyard platters. A private tour of the barrel room and regular events are a real treat at Myattsfield Vineyards, as are their Tete-a-tete Trois Chardonnay, fortifieds and 2013 Joseph Myatt Reserve. Cosham Wines is also family-run and known for their sparkling created in the traditional Method Champenoise, as is Brookside Vineyard’s Method Champenoise 2013, which was awarded silver at the 2014 Perth Hills Wine show; it’s wise to book ahead for a linger over lunch at the Vineyard Kitchen. Aldersyde Estate, formerly Piesse Brook Wines, established in 1974 is third-generation and the oldest commercial winery in the Perth hills and specialises in reds. Other wineries on the trail include Lawnbrook Wines, Ashley Estate and Carldenn Homestead Wines.
Our show-stopping vehicle commands compliments where-ever we go as we hone in on our destination at Hidden Valley Eco Lodges and Day Spa Retreat in Pickering Brook. It’s no trouble to secure the beautiful beast in an overnight garage on the property. With great privilege comes responsibility and I did notice some red-tail cockatoos and lorikeets eyeing up the paint work.
Hidden Valley is reminiscent of a Margaret River escape, except its much closer at just 45 minutes from the city. We’re shown to our rammed earth private and spacious villa snuggled into the forest complete with a king-sized bed adorned with rose petals, velvety carpet, wood-fired pot belly stoves, kitchenette and a private deck with a hammock, Jacuzzi and the obligatory bottle of bubbles to add to our collection.
The only valid reason I can justifying leaving this haven is to visit the day spa for a Chocolate Indulgence Body Scrub or the Ayurveda inspired Shirodhara Warmed Oil Treatment concluding with warm oil poured onto my forehead. The day spa is open to the public and also attracts couples looking for a day escape as well as gaggles of girls seeking some pampering. In a dreamlike state I do remember a gourmet platter arriving at some point in the evening laden with antipasto, cheese, nuts, fruit, desert and all the trimmings.
Longer stays warrant a venture out into the wilderness like a picnic in the woods, winery tours, horse-riding, mountain biking, creative workshops as well as yoga and Pilates on the deck.
We ease our return to reality the following day with a windy glide along the Zig Zag Scenic Drive perched on the Darling Scarp with vistas all the way to the Indian Ocean.
Carmen Jenner was a guest of Bentley Motors and and Hidden Valley Eco Lodges and Day Spa