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Wine, Warmth And Good Cheer In The Clare Valley
clare valleyCountry Australia is known across the world for being a country of wide open spaces, rolling green hills and laid back, friendly locals. All of these attributes are apparent in South Australia's Clare Valley, making it an ideal place to visit to explore the best of the nation's countryside. This rural community has fast become one of the state's most popular getaway destinations and this is no doubt because it offers an escape from the tiring hustle and bustle of the city. The Clare Valley is comprised of seven smaller valleys which combine to provide fertile ground, making this one of the country's best wine producing regions. Deeply embedded with a unique culture and rich traditions of farming and wine making, the Clare Valley is the perfect hideaway for those wishing to escape the real world and breathe in some fresh country air.

The most famous and popular wine to come out of the Clare Valley region would have to be the Australian Riesling, which has essentially created the benchmark in the Australian wine industry. Although the quality of the wine is one of the area's most notable attributes, the region also strives to uphold its strong traditions of intimate hospitality, offering good times for all and a knowledge of wine making that is imparted and shared freely. The wineries are a must-see while in this beautiful region because not only will you be able to sample some of the finest wine in the country, but you will enjoy a warm and friendly atmosphere that it unique to any other place in the world.

To begin your tour of the Clare Valley wineries, the perfect place to start would have to be the Sevenhill Cellars. This winery is locally and nationally renowned, not only for its magnificent wines but also because of its unique and intriguing history. The winery was founded by Jesuit Priests, who were seeking to produce sacramental wine, in 1851, making it the oldest winery in the Valley and the only one in the county that is completely run by a religious order. Offering a wide range of white, red and fortified wines, the vineyard has received international acclaim, as has the good cheer of the Jesuit Brothers in residence. Many of the other wineries in the valley have been family run for many years, with the secrets of their blends passed down and refined over the generations, contributing to the intimate atmosphere of the Clare Valley.

Although it may appear that the history of the Clare Valley is completely immersed in its wine industry, visitors should not be so easily mistaken. The valley also enjoys a rich history of copper mining, and this is clearly demonstrated through the beautifully quaint and charming towns here. The small town of Burra was initially a colonial mining community, and many of its beautifully architectured buildings have retained their historical charm through careful preservation. Several years ago the town was declared a State Heritage Area, mainly owing to its famous Mine Complex, which is concerned with preserving and demonstrating the history of the area. While in town, take some time to visit the historic market square, which has an open market every Saturday morning. These markets will give you the opportunity to discover some of the finest arts and crafts the locals have to offer.

Kapunda is also popular with the tourists as it is where the copper industry first began. Steeped in rich heritage the town itself is as uniquely preserved as Burra, and it pleasantly nestled amongst large green cattle pastures. As you start exploring this magnificent region you may begin to recognise it from the popular TV series 'Mcleods Daughters', which was actually filmed here. Kapunda is often referred to as the state's best kept secret, so be sure to keep quiet about this one!

Take a journey back through time when you visit Martindale Hall, which clearly demonstrates how the extremely wealthy lived in colonial times. Capturing your hearts and imaginations, this authentic nineteenth century Georgian mansion has been beautifully preserved with all its original furniture and fittings intact. The hall open to overnight guests or day trippers making it a must-see while in the area. Nestled in the midst of a forty five acre conservation park, a visit here will transport you to another time and place and make you never want to leave.

The Clare Valley is a true inspiration to the many artists that have lived and passed through the region, allowing for an abundance of arts and crafts to blossom in the area. The valley hosts many creative festivals to showcase local artwork, while the multiple galleries and studios throughout the valley display these works all year round. Driving from gallery to gallery you will absorb some amazing pieces of work that will excite, delight and inspire you. If you are really keen to discover some truly great works of art, be sure to check out Marek Herburt's gallery of abstract paintings, which is located in Snowtown, or Murray Edwards' mud brick Watervale studio which overlooks stunning vineyards, gullies and hills.

The Clare Valley is also an ideal place to visit if you wish to embark on a driving holiday. Immerse yourself in the local lifestyles and traditions as you drive the beautiful countryside and stroll along the pleasant walking tracks. The most famous of these tracks would have to be the Riesling Trail, a twenty-five kilometre track that runs along an old abandoned railway line. Although the length may appear daunting at first, don't despair, because it is actually split into shorter loops that are sure to cater for all fitness levels. The trail also connects to most of the small townships in the area, meaning you are never far from cafes or restaurants. But its the parts in between the towns that are the special bits, passing through lush vineyards and looking out over the undulating valley floor. This track is a must for avid bushwalkers or those just keen for an afternoon stroll in nature.

The Clare Valley's prime positions just two hours from Adelaide, means that it is perfect for a family holiday, or a romantic weekend away for couples. Driving here and around the area will allow you to explore everything that this stunning valley has to offer, including the special warm atmosphere that is unique to any other place in Australia. With numerous accommodation options on offer, including beautiful 'bed and breakfasts', historic miners cottages and working sheep stations, there is sure to be something perfect here for you, allowing you to enjoy your stay just that little bit more.

Christine Barton

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