Just south of Launceston, the Liffey Valley is home to two world heritage convict sites - Woolmers Estate and Bickendon Farm. Brickendon is still a working farm and closed on Mondays, so we didn't get to look around. Woolmers welcomes visitors to explore the whole property - its gardens, outbuildings, and the great house, which was lived in by 6 generations of the Archer family until the last batchelor heir died in the mid 1990s. Stories of what life was like for convict labourers at Woolmers are largely absent from the tour (strange, we thought, for an internationally recognised, UNSECO listed convict site), but it's a marvellous place for anyone interested in history, flowers, farming, or Devonshire Teas. The estate is also home to a national heritage rose garden which looks to be spectacular in summer, although this early in the season the buds haven't shown themselves.
Having narrowly escaped a chilly squall at the end of our tour of Woolmers, we pulled into Longford and the cosy comfort of afternoon tea at old JJ's Bakery. It's the largest of the pretty, sleepy towns that dot the Liffey Valley and a lovely place to stroll around if country charm in the form of wisteria dripping from chocolate box cottages is your kind of thing.
Update: We stopped back in Longford on our way to Launceston Airport for breakfast at Home of the Artisan - a sweet cafe and crafter's haven in one of the old Georgian shop fronts that line the main street. There's no set menu, they'll just tell you what's fresh in the kitchen that day and you take it from there. It was one of my favourite stops of the trip and I can't recommend its warm country hospitality enough!
As the weather turned bleaker still, we winded our way through the valley and up into the hills (on what seemed like the longest, never-ending-est unsealed 'road' we've ever diven) to the trailhead of the Liffey Falls. The walk down to its three impressive cascades only took us 30 minutes, but the incredible fern-filled, old growth rain forest was unlike anything I'd ever seen. By the time we left the forest a thick cloud had completely engulfed the hills, making for an incredibly atmospheric (white-knuckle) drive back down to the valley below and on to Launceston for the night.