A Week at Varuna – The Writers’ House

Currently Reading: Aldous Huxley – Mortal Coils

I am currently staying at ‘Varuna’ in Katoomba on a one week writing residency as I near the finish line with thesis. This was the home of Eleanor and Eric Dark, who bought the land in 1923 and built the house pictured below. Eric was a medical doctor and Eleanor was the prolific author of the following books:

– Slow Dawning (1932)
– Prelude to Christopher (1934)
– Return to Coolami (1936)
– Sun Across the Sky (1937)
– Waterway (1938)
– The Little Company (1945)
– The Timeless Land (1941)
– Storm of Time (1948)
– No Barrier (1953)
– Lantana Lane (1959)

After their death, Mick Dark (their son), established the house as a Writers’ Centre in order to protect the land from potential subdivision and to allow the literary spirit of the space to continue. Writing residencies commenced in 1989, making next year (2019) the Centre’s 30th anniversary.

Varuna – The Writers’ House – I first stayed here in 2015, on a one week residency funded by the Writing and Society Research Centre at Western Sydney University (where I am completing my PhD). On my first visit, I was in the main bedroom, which is the room at the top left of shot. On this occasion I am in the Ladder Room, which is at the centre top.

Varuna houses five residents at a time. The house is a silent space during the day, with writers gathering to debrief each evening by the fire.


Find me the person who doesn’t love a long, tree-lined, curving driveway…


The gardens are stunning and beautifully maintained


The house is about a 5-10 minute walk from these cliff top views of the Jamison Valley – this was my first glimpse of Mt Solitary since the hazard reduction burns


It has been a mainly misty and cloudy week, but there have been moments of blue sky peeping through


Western end of Solitary, including the knife edge, under a pale blue sky


The ladder room literally has a ladder… (!) Unfortunately, there is no longer any access through the trapdoor to the little balcony that sits above this space


As well as each room being individually themed, they each have their own themed library – my room has UK fiction on this shelf, and another shelf with UK non-fiction


Carpet detail


This winding staircase is the first thing you see upon entering the (almost) 100 year old art deco home


Solitary above the clouds


View towards Leura


View back towards Solitary from a point further eastward along the Prince Henry Clifftop Walk


Someone’s liquid paper graffiti – what really struck me here was the co-existence of four different colours, kinds and textures of metal


Bound for the Leura Cascades


Harking back to my summer of stairs


I am so grateful for the opportunity to write in such a beautiful space


Eleanor Dark’s writing studio – whoever is in the Maid’s room gets to make use of this space


The lounge includes a library of previous residents’ books and donations


The fire by which we gather each evening


This is where we dine – the wonderful Sheila has been preparing the evening meals for residents for the past 20 years


This morning’s sunrise glow – up with the birds

Books Completed: Ian McEwan – On Chesil Beach


3 thoughts on “A Week at Varuna – The Writers’ House

  1. It’s little a fairytale, who would imagine such a place would continue to exist in these times, and how very pleased I am to just know they do! Lovely 😊


    • Hi Sammy, yes, it really is a fairytale. I was reading about the family yesterday morning and discovered that they had 62 wonderful years of marriage. Durin the two years that Eric was alive after Eleanor died, their children would come across him weeping.


  2. Sorry, I accidentally hit send before I was finished. I was just going to say, the description of his love for her was so poignant it made me cry. It really brought home the fact that there are many different ways of being haunted. I hope you’re doing well in your sweet home xoxo


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