Jo McKinnon Column

Kitchwin open their doors to the public with picturesque homestay The Barn

Kitchwin Hills Stud is set in one of the most unique parts of the Hunter Valley.

Sprawling paddocks cocooned by the hills of Gundy are home to some of Australia’s best bloodstock. The Limestone-rich soils have grown winners of the Golden Slipper, The Everest, and the Melbourne Cup.

It has a spiritual feel and now its owners have decided to open the front gates and share this special place with the general public by offering a unique farm stay experience.

The Barn, Scone, as the property is known, is a magnificent residence designed by Sydney architect Ben Shaw of the Brompton Group. 

“Ben has an amazing vision and execution capabilities and we just let him do his thing, this is the result”, said Kitchwin Hills co-founder and director Steve Brown.

Brad Wall of Wallbuilt Residential was the builder, alongside local legend Steve Tilse of Tilse Building. Brown played a big hand in the design of the garden areas that are dotted with black boy trees.

Step inside The Barn and it’s simply breathtaking. You are immediately drawn to the front of the home and a timber deck that leads to a stunning swimming pool that sits elevated high above broodmares and their foals as they graze peacefully.

The tree-lined hills in the distance change colour with the seasons and light of day. It’s mesmerising and humbling to stare out over this country and if you are not a thoroughbred breeder it certainly makes you dream of being one.  

And that, says Brown, is the modus operandi of The Barn.

“We were looking for angles and opportunities to make the industry less exclusive and get more people into it. We thought if we let more people experience stud life and the love for the animal and the effort that goes into raising racehorses it becomes quite addictive. 

“It’s all about getting them exposed and we thought if we build something nice and allow people to come and stay then more people will be more across the opportunity to be a breeder,” he said.

Stud farms are busy places most of the year and the staff at Kitchwin Hills gladly offer guests the chance to see different aspects first hand, whether it be mare coverings or foalings. In this welfare-focused age, it’s a prime opportunity to improve public perception about the genuine care for thoroughbred breeding stock that prevails on such high-quality farms.

“Quite a few people that have stayed there and been there at 12 at night have seen what the guys do to deliver the foals and the care for them,” Brown says. “Seeing the true love for the animal gets it out there and that’s part of the idea. It depends on the time of year and what’s going on but they can learn about different elements and it really captures them.”

Importantly, says Brown, The Barn epitomises the inclusive style of Kitchwin Hills.

“There are lots of farm stays out there and in terms of studs opening doors to outsiders, well, that doesn’t happen. Some farms seem to have a closed mind to outsiders but we are very open. It’s the same principles as the racing league and trying to open up ownership to more people,” he said.

You don’t have to be a horseracing nut or a breeding buff to enjoy The Barn. It’s just as appealing to the unconverted who want to relax and sample luxury life in the Australian bush.

The Barn is exclusive in terms of the experience and, justifiably, is by no means a cheap experience. The full rate for a night there costs $1,500. It sleeps three couples and has a bunkhouse with eight beds so a group can comfortably spread the cost. 

Plenty of people in the Hunter are talking about The Barn and embracing this great new concept. Perhaps it will be a catalyst for more stud owners to open their gates. 

There is no better marketing tool for the Australian breeding and racing industry than the sheer raw beauty of places like Kitchwin Hills and the many happy horses that live there.