About Glen Innes
Last updated October 18, 2023
Glen Innes Severn Local Government area (LGA) spans 5,487 sq kilometres of spectacular, World Heritage-listed National Park wilderness, picturesque, productive farmlands, and starkly beautiful, dramatic, and diverse landscapes.
Situated near the crest of the Great Dividing Range, in the New England region of NSW, the area is also known as the Glen Innes Highlands and Celtic Country, thanks to its resemblance to the iconic Scottish Highlands and in acknowledgement of the first European settlers to the district.
The LGA has an estimated 8,931 residents (2021 census) with a median age of 50 years – approximately 81 per cent were born in Australia and the majority claim Australian, English, Scottish, Irish or German ancestry. The key driver of the local economy is agriculture (primarily beef cattle, sheep, and lambs, as well as wool production and beekeeping), followed by forestry, fishing and the tourism/service sector, with emerging opportunities for renewable energy projects, light manufacturing, and a growing horticulture industry.
Within the LGA, there are daycare centres, preschools, seven public primary schools and one Catholic, plus one public high school, in addition to a campus of the New England Institute of TAFE and has a well-staffed and well-resourced access centre for students at The University of New England.
Glen Innes is the main service centre of the area, sitting at the crossroads of two major highways – the New England and the Gwydir. A beautifully maintained and historic town, it’s easy to see the pride taken by locals in their welcoming, picture-postcard home. The surrounding the villages of Emmaville, Deepwater, Red Range and Glencoe, and the hamlets of Glen Elgin, Wellingrove, Wytaliba, and Dundee all have their unique history, attractions and charm.
At 1,062m above sea level, Glen Innes is the highest large town (population over 2,500) in Australia, with nearby hills rising to 1,512m at Ben Lomond, which make for a high altitude, cool temperate climate at a subtropical latitude. The glorious landscapes and colours of Celtic Country are everchanging, with four distinct seasons – clear, warm Summer (min.13°C to 25 °C max.), crisp, golden Autumn (min. 11°C to 23 °C max.), frosty, fireside Winter (2°C min. to 14°C max.) and fresh, invigorating Spring (10°C min. to 22°C max.). With low humidity, reliable rainfall and the chance of atmospheric flurries of snow, Glen Innes and surrounds offer storybook views and weather perfect for every highland adventure, no matter the season.
Glen Innes is experiencing the emergence of a thriving food and wine industry, with many venues enthusiastic about showcasing locally sourced produce and products - you can savour their fresh and delicious offerings at the various outstanding cafes and restaurants located in town. In addition to cosmopolitan footpath caffeine hits, you can enjoy a variety of dining experiences, including Thai, Chinese, Asian and Italian cuisine, superior pub food and Modern Australian fare.
Glen Innes offers the best of country living - affordable housing, welcoming and resilient communities, a dynamic social and cultural scene and innovative business opportunities… a relaxed, yet vibrant lifestyle awaits you!
The Ngoorabul/Ngarabal people are the traditional custodians of the Glen Innes area, calling their home Gindaaydjin, meaning ‘plenty of big round stones on clear plains’; mammoth granite boulders are a common feature of the local landscape. Many of their descendants still practice and share aspects of their culture and traditional way of life, celebrating their ancient connection to this stunning region. Today, the Glen Innes Local Aboriginal Land Council manages around 10,500 hectares of land near Emmaville, including The Willows and the adjoining property, Boorabee, which are part of the National Reserve System – Australia’s most secure way of protecting native habitat for the future.
In 1818, Surveyor-General of NSW, John Oxley was the first white explorer to venture into what later became known as 'New England’ and two decades later, Scotsman Archibald Boyd made history by officially registering the first pastoral run, which he named Boyd's Plains, later renamed Stonehenge Station. According to local legend, prior to his departure from Sydney, Boyd received advice to contact the 'Beardies,' two former convicts (with long, flowing beards) named John Duval and William Chandler, who had gained a reputation as skilled bushmen while working on stations north of Armidale. They were known for their expertise in guiding newcomers (referred to as 'new chums') in locating available land for establishing pastoral stations. When the 'Beardies' guided Boyd's expedition into this region, they were so impressed by the landscape that they christened it Beardies Plains… the area is known as ‘the Land of the Beardies’. Boyd went broke in the 1840 Depression, returned home to Scotland where he inherited the family estate and wrote historical romances.
Following Boyd's pioneering venture, other squatters swiftly followed suit, and by the year 1840, most of the land in this district had been claimed, setting off a wave of land-seekers moving northward. Among the founders of the region was William Vivers, (originally hailing from Dumfriesshire, Scotland) who established the 30,000-hectare Kings Plains Station. His great-nephew Dr. George Vivers undertook the ambitious project of building a stately castle on the property in 1909, serving as a testament to his vision of bringing a touch of Scotland to the heart of the Australian bush. The 28 room, three-level grand home, complete with tower and battlements, is now a popular guesthouse!
Glen Innes was gazetted as a town in 1852 and named after another Scottish early-settler, Archibald Clunes Innes, who was the owner of several properties in the area. Tin was first discovered at nearby Emmaville in 1872, and gold at Bear Hill and Kookabookra in 1889, which lead to a mining boom for the area, creating a spike in the population and great growth for Glen Innes. The Great Northern Railway came through in 1884 (terminated in 1988), further boosting the town’s prosperity, which is reflected in the many grand, heritage buildings remaining from this era.
As well as tin, other metals were mined locally, including bismuth, molybdenite, tungsten, silver, wolfram and arsenic. Commercial mining of gemstones such as emeralds and sapphires kicked off in the region and during the 1920s, the renowned deep blue Glen Innes sapphire had gained international recognition, drawing the interest of gem buyers from various corners of the globe. A significant portion of these locally sourced gemstones found their way into the hands of dealers and buyers in Europe.
After another boom in the 1970’s (with more than a hundred mining plants operating around the region), many of the alluvial sites had been exhausted by the 1980’s and today there are only a small number of commercial miners still operating. In addition to emeralds and sapphires, the Glen Innes area has also produced topaz, garnet, zircon, aquamarine, citrine and quartz, and fossicking remains a popular activity for locals and visitors alike.