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Glen Innes - Celtic Stronghold
celtic glen innesThe Northern Tablelands in New South Wales are characterised by lush rolling hills and are speckled with some of the country's most fabulous National Parks. This is a place where nature lovers and bushwalkers will feel right at home, because it is brimming with Australia's widest array of wildlife and birdlife, which call these thick forests and tumbling landscapes home. Although the Tablelands as a whole are intriguing enough by themself, one of their most interesting features would have to be the small country town of Glen Innes. Scottish heritage is deeply embedded in this community, making it one of the most multicultural towns in country. Situated just 237 kilometres inland from Coffs Harbour and about a six hour drive north east from Sydney, this is a place that you simply must visit.

It should come as no surprise that Glen Innes is known as the Celtic Capital of Australia. This town was the first place that the Scots called home upon arrival in Australia during colonial times. Since then the 6000 residents of Glen Innes and the surrounding Severn Shire have maintained this sense of Celtic heritage, giving the are a unique atmosphere that cannot be found anywhere else in the country. The most noticeable tribute to Celtic heritage can be seen through the Australian Standing Stones, 40 large granite pillars that are positioned in a circle, modelled on the Ring of Brogbar in the Orkneys. These are the only stones of their kind to have been erected in the last 3500 years, making them truly unique!

These mystical stones accompany the atmosphere in the air when the festival-goers come out to play in tune with the traditional bagpipes. Every year over the May Day Public Holiday this is exactly what happens in Glen Innes. The colourful and vibrant Australian Celtic Festival takes place over this weekend, and features non stop entertainment including traditional music and dancing by artists from around the world. Browse the market stalls that sell everything celtic, along with other arts and crafts and a wide array of foods and drinks. Games and challenges are also an important element of the festival so why not take part? This festival is becoming increasingly more popular with each passing year, so get in quick before it becomes too much of a commodity!

Driving through the Tablelands is an adventure in itself. The cool temperatures and high rainfalls make producing wine in this region a breeze, which is evident through the large number of wineries spread throughout the region. Spend an entire today visiting these wonderful cellar doors and be sure to pick up a few bottles to take home with you. The Wright Robertson Winery, is a must-see as it relies solelyand on organic farming techniques, and is a truly inspiring place to visit especially in this time of climate change.

The Kings Plains Station is also worth a visit as it has been owned by the same family since 1832. The station is home to the building that has come to be known as the Kings Plain Castle, which was built in 1910 to emulate a Scottish castle. Its towering and vine covered turrets are unique to anything else you will see in Australia, and the large country garden is another great place for a stroll and enjoyment of nature. Tours of the property are available, on which you will see the whole of the castle and other features such as the family cemetery.

The National Parks of the Tablelands are also stunning. 78 kilometres east of Glen Innes lies Washpool National Park, which is the last remaining wilderness rainforest in the state. It's a beautiful and serene spot to appreciate the natural world. Another nearby park is the Gibralter Range National Park, a favourite amongst bushwalkers. Situated in high granite country, there are some interesting rock features, and the vegetation is dominated by tall eucalypt forests through which plenty of wildlife roams. Colourful wildflowers come out in full bloom in the warmer months, giving the park a distinct character.

Glen Innes is the kind of town that will capture your hearts from your very first experience in it. Curl up next to a log fire in winter and if you're lucky get snowed on, enjoy the fantastic colours of autumn or the crisp sunshine of summer. Whenever you visit, the unique Celtic heritage and the fantastic sights and sounds of Glen Innes and its surrounds will always be there.

Christine Barton

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