My favourite Blue Mountains hike is the 12km-return from Katoomba to Ruined Castle, a rock formation in the Jamison Valley which – surprise, surprise – resembles a ruined castle from afar.
First you have to get off the escarpment and there’s a choice. Ride the world’s steepest incline railway (screamingly good fun) or Australia’s steepest cable car. You can also extend the walk to 13km return by descending Furber Steps to start (much more enjoyable than climbing them at day’s end) and riding the railway or cable car back up to the top later.
From the bottom you follow in the footsteps of men who mined the valley’s coal and kerosene shale from the 1870s to 1930s. Through rainforest littered with mining relics – look out for lyrebirds! Into open eucalypt forest of grey gums and broad-leafed peppermints. Across a massive landslide which drew crowds of spectators when it fell in the 1930s (wear footwear with good ankle support). The walk ends with a scramble up the boulder pile that gives the track its name.
Ruined Castle is one of the best lunch spots in Australia. It boasts head-turning views to splendid tablelands and stand-alone Mt Solitary, which looks like it was pushed through the valley floor from below. Be warned, though: the Castle’s resident currawongs are expert food thieves.