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Published January 19th 2015
Exploring one of Adelaide's most scenic routes
Montacute Road from the edge of suburbia (Newton / Athelstone) up to Marble Hill is one of the most colourful and picturesque roads in Adelaide, and is a cyclist's dream. With few houses or destinations on the road, vehicles rarely use the road, thus allowing cyclists to travel up and down this road and enjoy the colour and serenity of the region. But Montacute Road also has a steep history, so last weekend I jumped on the bike and set off to explore.
Starting from the end of suburbia (corner of Maryvale and Montacute Road), I headed east along what is also known as Tourist Drive 51. Barely 500m had passed when the "Pizza and Platters" sign called out to me from the historic Marybank. The aroma of wood over pizzas wafted gently across the road with the assistance of the mild south-easterly. Many thoughts crossed my mind, but it was too early to abandon the bike ride in favour of some beautiful food.
Continuing along Montacute Road, I pass a sign indicating the Fifth Creek Trail, and long after that I pass the westerly entrance to Black Hill Conservation Park which also hosts the Yurrebilla Trail. The road continues to run alongside the Fifth Creek, and winds its way past the former Montacute Quarry on the southern side and gradually up to the township of Montacute.
Montacute is a small town that was formed following the finding of small fragments of copper and gold in the region in the early 1840's. The small finding proved to be commercial but with limited quantities it soon became very uneconomic, and when gold was found over the border in Victoria, many of the prospectors and their equipment soon moved to more lucrative grounds. Montacute today has a small postbox, a grand Institute building which was originally built in 1907, and the obligatory CFS Station.
Montacute CFS Station, and start of the Climb - Steve Hudson
Surrounding the centre of Montacute are a number of orchards, primarily producing stone fruits and in particular cherries. With several of the larger cherry orchards that are close to the city, the shed doors at these orchards are popular in December and January.
It is also at this point that the gradient of Montacute Road changes from a nice and easy 2-3% to a more extensive 6-7%, as the road winds up a ridge. After 1.5km of climbing along that ridge the road passes the turn off to Corkscrew Road, a popular and steep hill climb that is pursued by cyclists, motorcyclists and weekend car enthusiasts.
Soon after, the Montacute Cemetery appears on the southern side of the road. This small cemetery has seen around 120 burials with the oldest headstone being from 1875. One of the sadder stories from the cemetery appears to be the Thomas family, where the mother and father lost all 8 of their children at different times in the early part of the 20th century. The children were predominantly aged between 17 and 30 years.
Back on to the bike and the ride continues a steady uphill climb as it heads through the township of Montacute Heights which is the home of a number of houses with spectacular views in almost all four directions. A familiar sign appears alongside the road as I pass the Heysen Trail on its own individual path up and over this ridge. The Heysen Trail runs parallel to Montacute Road for around 2km before heading downhill through Morialta Conservation Park.
The road sign for Cherryville appears, and this indicates the former end of Montacute Road. Cherryville is a small town of around 250 people that sits on the eastern side of the mountain ridge (at the end of a very steep road !). Apparently there are some cherries which are grown there commercially, but there are no shed door sales.
End of the Road, but not quite the Peak - Steve Hudson
Technically this is the end of Montacute Road, but travelling to the highest peak is always a goal. The road name changes to Marble Hill Road, and continues in an undulating manner slightly uphill for a further 2.5km until it reaches the entrance to the ruins at Marble Hill, or "314" as it is referred to by local cyclists.
And there is only one thing left to do when you reach the top of a hill - turn around and head back down. With a total distance of 10.3km, and a descent of 442m, this makes for one outstandingly long free-wheeling trip down the hill. Note that although the road is rarely used by vehicles, it is a public road and speed signs are there for a reason, so it pays to take note, especially on the descent where there are a few tight corners and hairpins.