In February 2023 I had the honour of being the guest cook at the Glen Innes Gourmet Fiesta on the Northern Tablelands of NSW. The fiesta has been the food-lovers section of the Glen Innes Show, dubbed ‘the Royal of the North’, for over 20 years, with past guest presenters including Chris Manfield, Belinda Jeffery and Margaret Fulton, who grew up in Glen Innes. It’s organised and staffed by a team of passionate volunteers and a great opportunity to spend a few days in a friendly, lively country town. As the name indicates, Glen Innes was settled by Scots. The town is proud of its Celtic heritage and hosts the Australian Celtic Festival every May, so you have at least two reasons to visit each year. Here are five more.
Stay Waterloo Station
We stayed about 15 minutes out of town on Waterloo Station in the little schoolhouse next to the main homestead. A cosy two room building with a veranda overlooking the gardens, it’s a wonderfully peaceful spot to wake to bird song. The working cattle station offers several other accommodation options including the fully renovated shearers’ quarters and the off-grid-with-mod-cons ‘creek shack’.
Dining options are a bit sparse in many country towns. The Local, a casual spot on the main street, has good pizza and the likes of pulled pork tacos with mango salsa and chipotle aïoli; they take their cocktails seriously too. Just across the road is The Coffee Incident, the town’s favourite café, the ideal spot for morning coffee and berry muffin.
Drink Glen Gowrie Distillery
Most Australian gin makers start with purchased neutral grain spirit. Not so plant scientist David Scott and family, who ferment their base spirit from local Sebago potatoes, limes, blueberries and molasses for a smooth, round base to which they add a few carefully selected botanicals to create a delicious range of unique gins. Cellar door open Fri–Sun. Try their blueberry gin instead of Scotch in my cranachan.
See Australian Standing Stones
On a hillside overlooking the town, this monument to the region’s Celtic history has become a focal point for civic gatherings and the site of the annual Australian Celtic Festival. The stones are laid out to indicate summer and winter equinox and solstice and the taigh-dubh croft café, with an extensive range of books on all things Celtic, serves great coffee.
Drive Mountain Villages
If you’re driving between Sydney and Glen Innes, take the road less travelled and wind through the tiny village of Ben Lomond and, now abandoned, Maybole for some lovely high-country scenery. Ben Lomond once boasted Australia’s highest railway station at 4,473 feet above sea level. There’s about 12km of well packed unsealed road that’s worth the bumps. Stop for a fresh strawberry milkshake at The Super Strawberry just south of town.
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