If I had known of the scale of the tragedy and deception associated with Hanging Rock before my visit, this pleasant and tranquil setting may have been interpreted as somber or even macabre in nature. For back in 1900 on Valentines Day a teacher and three students went missing never to be found again – at least if the novel, by Joan Lindsay is to be believed…

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But as we climbed the steady incline to the summit of this rocky hill such stories slipped my mind as I continued to be impressed by the diversity of the rocks and the almost impossible balancing acts they displayed as stacked on one another almost like collapsing dominoes. The glimpses of a majestic view, that I hoped would reveal itself more fully, drew me up the rocks, always promising a better view around the next corner.

The climb increases with intensity as you ascend. The path transforms into steps to climb and later rocks to clamber over – but only very modest fitness levels are required if you decide to make the assent to the summit. Of course, I can’t not mention the passing of the Hanging Rock itself which can’t be missed thanks to the signpost along side it. So why hanging rock? Was it a rock used to hang perpetrators of sinister crimes in times gone by? No, it’s simply one large rock like it’s smaller surrounding siblings that hangs in midair suspended perilously on two neighbouring uprights.

Scott visited the rock in 1866.

Even as a relatively ‘new’ Australian I had heard of the story of the Picnic at Hanging Rock, but not too many of the details. Not unlike others before me, I was unsure of the boundaries between fact and fiction. Did a teacher and students really go missing and if so what became of them?

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As we wandered between the monoliths it was easy to see how you could become lost and with few handrails or barriers a fall, along with a fatal consequence, was too easy to imagine. Such thoughts however soon melt away as the panoramic view of a Victorian country side finally presents itself in its full glory. Even on a dull winters day I was impressed and I figure on a bright sunny day the experience would be literally breath taking. In addition to the view I unusually noticed the sounds around me. The almost total tranquility was only broken by the periodic chirp of bird calls which only added to the magical experience.

After taking in the vista the decent commenced the same way that we came (there is an alternative route for those preferring a slope to steps). The view diminishes and my thoughts go back to Joan and her 1967 novel and whether the events that are within the realms of imagination actually transpired. It appears that whilst the author herself never denied or confirmed the story (presumably to increase interest in her novel) no documentary evidence such as newspaper reports confirm its existence. Furthermore, the final chapter to Hanging Rock was not published until three years after the authors death in accordance with her wishes.

So unlike Hanging Rock formation itself, no stone remains unturned in solving the mystery of the picnic at Hanging Rock. A place that remains a magical place even on a grey Victorian winters day.

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Things to know

Said to be the best example of a volcanic plug or mamelon in the world. It consists mainly of soda trachyte rock (solvsbergite), found only outside this district in Norway and Sweden.

If your in the area you may like to try and make it to the annual Picnic at Hanging Rock, a display of vintage, veteran, classic cars, held in February each year. www.picnicathangingrock.com.au for details.

It’s free to enter by car but to leave the car park you’ll require a ticket. This cost $10 from a machine near the gift shop/restaurant.

The Peter Weir Film “Picnic at Hanging Rock” was filmed on location in 1975 with a budget of A$440,000.

Hanging Rock Website