Print this page
Monday, 05 May 2008

Celtic Splendor in Australia: Kings Plains Castle

Written by Kellea Croft
Rate this item
(0 votes)

 

Celtic Splendor in Australia, Kings Plains Castle, Glen Innes, New South Wales, Kings Plains Station, travel australia, Celtic FestivalGrowing up I loved to play on the castle ruins in Germany. Every chance to get away was a train hop to Nuremburg to climb the walls, draw, write and ponder life. With the expense of moving to Australia and a wedding in Brisbane, we didn’t have a honeymoon. As our first anniversary neared something special was in order. Glen Innes, New South Wales and Kings Plains Castle were a vision from our dreams.

Kings Plains Station was settled by John and William Vivers, brothers who emigrated from Dumfries, Scotland. It’s comprised of over 60 thousand acres that by 1850 had 1,300 cattle, 12,500 sheep and 57 horses. John went back to Queensland while William ran the farm. He died in a wool press accident in 1857.

Dr. George Vivers, grandson of John Vivers built the castle in 1910 for his wife to feel more at home. Architect Herbert Ross used baronial architecture finishing with 28 rooms on three levels, complete with tower and battlements. The granite for the foundation and basement were quarried from a hill nearby and the bricks were made on the property.

Kings Plains Castle has hosted three governors of New South Wales and even the Prince of Wales during the early 1920s. There is nothing that can make an anniversary more special than to walk in the footsteps of the royal family.

The property stayed in the family until 2003 when Don and Colleen Hollingworth purchased it, now only 14,000 acres. They transformed the castle into a weekend bed and breakfast while farming the land during the week.

Celtic Splendor in Australia, Kings Plains Castle, Glen Innes, New South Wales, Kings Plains Station, travel australia, Celtic FestivalOur excitement to get there prompted an early start - 3:30 in the morning. The drive through the countryside along the New England Highway was filled with large boulder outcrops and dotted with cattle and sheep. Mist suspended silently over tree tops gave me an entrancing fantasy of medieval days of old.


The beauty of the land as we drove down the dirt road to the property was enchanting. It lays 38 kms from town surrounded by pasture and bushland. There is complete seclusion for that perfect time together without the sounds of cars and trains passing in the night. Thistle lined the road giving the illusion that we were traversing the Scottish landscape and not Australia at all.

The approaching castle was partially covered in Virginia creeper. Colleen, the hostess, met us on the veranda and showed us to our room. She was very gracious and gave us the grand tour and explained the castle’s history. She has refurbished it with historical themes. Each bedroom is named after a character in the story of Kings Plains Station and is filled with old photographs of the station and castle from over the years.

Our room’s balcony overlooked the tennis court and gardens. Its night air was perfect. Couples can find solace while sipping tea and cuddling. We played pool in the billiard room, walked the gardens and simply relaxed.

There are many things to do around the castle; bicycling, tennis, and historical walks of the station store. There’s also a sheering shed and antique farm machinery dating back to 1863. Kings Plains National Park, 15 kilometers, away is a 20 minute walk. You will find falls, fishing, swimming and barbecue area. Day trips to nearby wineries in Glencoe, Delungra and Boliva, or the olive groves in Inverell are romantic touches for your retreat.

We chose a day trip to Glen Innes. It is a quant town with friendly people. It has a colonial charm that is vastly disappearing in this country. The heritage building walk takes you to sites such as the Royal Hotel built in 1860 and the stone courthouse built in 1873. The ironwork is amazing. The information center’s map will give you everything you need to know about the architecture and surrounding area’s offerings. There are so many sites to see and things to do.

The national monument for Celtic heritage in the area is the Australian Standing Stones. Inspired by the Ring of Brodgar in Scotland’s Orkneys, they officially opened in 1992 and are the home of the Celtic Festival held the first weekend in May each year.


Celtic Splendor in Australia, Kings Plains Castle, Glen Innes, New South Wales, Kings Plains Station, travel australia, Celtic FestivalThe Standing Stones are comprised of 40 granite monoliths. A circle of 24 of them represent the 24 hours in a day. Four cardinal stones mark true north, east, south and west and seven stones mark the summer and winter solstices. Three central stones are symbolic of the Australis (for all Australians), Gaelic (for Scotland, Ireland and Isle of Man), and Brythonic (for Wales, Cornwall and Brittany). An inscription on the Irish stone in the Ogham language translates in Gaelic as: Gleann Maqi Aongusa “the Glen of the Sons of Angus”, or more simply, Glen Innes.

At the edge of the stones, is a replica of a Taigh Dubh, the small stone “black house” of the early Celtic peoples. It was inspired by a cottage that survived the 1746 Battle of Culloden. Crofter’s Cottage sells refreshments and Celtic souvenirs. The coffee is delightful and atmosphere charming.

 

Walking among the stones holding hands was an intensely spiritual experience for me. I have a high regard for my Irish/Welsh ancestry and the years of reading about druids and Stonehenge came flooding across my senses. Sharing this emotional spot with my husband brought a deeper connection. I can’t wait to return both to Kings Plains Castle and for the Celtic Festival to hear the bagpipes play from the courthouse balcony.

©Kellea Croft

Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

Related items