Want to walk in the footsteps of bushrangers? Looking for a Granite belt nature experience to which you can take a dog? Or want to just check out some really big rocks. Then the Donnelly’s Castle walk is definitely worth checking out.
Don’t let the name fool you, there is no castle in the traditional sense, unless you count the Castle Glen winery which you pass on the way to the walk. Castle Glen is a real castle, a winery and distillery, well worth a visit, especially for the specialty liqueurs they produce. Our personal favourite is the blueberry liqueur, a little on the sweet side but it mixes nicely with a sparkling wine, a champagne, or Robert Channon’s excellent verdello bubbles, making our favourite Christmas cocktail, blue sky; champagne, blueberry liqueur and fresh blueberries.
Donnelly’s Castle is a large granite rock formation with all the grandeur and defensive qualities of a castle, hence its use by bushrangers as a hideout, reputed to be one of the hideouts of the infamous Captain Thunderbolt, (Fred Ward), gentleman bushranger and horse thief of renown. Ward made good use of the bush and geological features like Donnelly’s castle in his career as the longest roaming bushranger in Australian history, (Captain Thunderbolt). It is easy to see why a man on the run would utilise the granite geological formations as a natural defensive position. The elevation and the height of the rocks provides a natural lookout making any approach by police easy to spot and the surrounding bushland would have been easy to fade into.
The boulders lean together forming natural cave like structures and walking amongst them is a cool retreat from the warmer bushland. The area has a cool magical quality, fun to explore all the nooks and crannies, rocks to climb over, under and around, kids would love this space, just watch out for the yowies or the ghosts of bushrangers past.
There are two main short paths one to the lookout and one to the cave section but several paths branch out into the bushland if you want to explore further. With the warmer weather it is probably wise to keep an eye out for snakes, these days my big concern with a dog. Keep one eye on the trees for koalas but one on the ground for eastern browns.
To get to Donnelly’s castle you turn off the highway at the big apple at Thulimbah and just follow the signs, it is an unsealed road for the last part but easy access and well worth the trip, a great place to wear out kids before exploring the wineries.
The granite belt is at its blooming best at this time of year with swathes of wild yellow coreopsis flowers blanketing the fields and sides of the road. Although technically a weed the bright yellow coreopsis is a gorgeous sight. A bike tour around the Stanthorpe region would be the perfect way to experience the beauty of the area in spring. Grape vines and wild flowers you could almost believe you were in Provence not southern Queensland.