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Scone, NSW

Famous Hunter Valley town known as the Horse Capital of Australia

Scone is an important rural centre on the New England Highway. It is known as 'The Horse Capital of Australia' and claims to be the second-largest horse breeding area in the world, after Kentucky in the United States. The equine focus of the town is reflected in numerous ways: it is the home to the Australian Stockhorse Association; the Hunter thoroughbred breeding industry which is reputedly the second largest breeding area in the world; the district has some of the country’s longest established pony clubs; there is a thriving polo and polocrosse community; and the bronze sculpture, 'Scone Mare and Foal' by Gabriel Sterk, is prominently situated beside the highway in Elizabeth Park. The region is also home to cattle and sheep grazing, cereal cropping, dairies and boutique wineries. The town and the district have a large number of significant historic buildings and there is real pleasure in driving around the district and admiring the huge horse studs.


Scone is located on the New England Highway, 276 km north of Sydney via the M1 and Singleton.


Origin of Name

The name Scone comes from Scotland where it was the home of the Scottish kings and the site of their coronation. It replaced the name Invermein which was the name of the first settlement which was locally known as St Aubins. Scone was officially gazetted in 1837. It was suggested by Hugh Cameron and received a favourable hearing by fellow Scotsman Thomas Mitchell (surveyor-general). The new name of Scone was taken up by locals in 1838.


Things to See and Do

Go Back in Time - Heritage Walk
The Scone and Upper Hunter Historical Society have produced a two A4 page guide to the town titled Go Back in Time - Scone. It lists a total of 36 places of interest. Here are the ones that are definitely worth inspecting:

3. Elizabeth Park
Located across the road from the Visitor Information Centre (once the Scone Bowling Club) Elizabeth Park (named in 1953 after Queen Elizabeth) is noted for its impressive Mare and Foal sculpture created by Gabriel Sterk and formally unveiled in 1982. It subsequently became the logo for the Scone Shire Council.

7. Belmore Hotel
Located at 96 Kelly Street, the hotel was built before 1871 by Matthew Miller and called the Railway Hotel. It was named the Belmore in 1871 because the Earl of Belmore came to Scone to open the railway. In 1880 the second storey was added with bricks from Muswellbrook. The original building, as can be seen, was built as a combination of English, Flemish and Colonial bonded brickwork. It is an attractive symmetrical building with side wings, stone quoins and iron columns supporting a timber veranda.

9. The Royal Hotel
Located at 119 Kelly Street (on the corner of St Aubin's Street) is the Royal Hotel with a fine cast-iron lacework balcony. The oldest section of the present building dates from 1886 when the old Railway Inn was rebuilt as the Railway Hotel. It was partially rebuilt after a fire in 1924.

14. Scone Post Office
Located on the corner of Kelly Street and Liverpool Street, this elegant building was completed in 1879. There had been a post office in the town since 1838 and the Post Master, Francis Isaac, who moved to this new building, had been operating in Guernsey Street.

15. Campbell's Corner
Located on the same side of the street as the Post Office, is the building known as Campbell's Corner. It is the fourth building on this site and was completed in 1928. The first, built by Malcolm Campbell, was completed in 1885 and destroyed by fire in 1909.

21. The Original Willow Tree Hotel 
Located on the corner of Liverpool Street and Guernsey Streets, the old Willow Tree Hotel was built in the early 1840s, served as the town's Court House briefly and returned to being a hotel from 1849-1935. During that time it was regarded as one of the town's best hotels. In 1895 the American author, Mark Twain, stayed in the hotel while delivering a lecture at the School of Arts. Around that time it promoted itself as "the best accommodation, an excellent sampling room for commercials, good stabling and a convenient paddock."

25. Boorer's Mill
Part of the Scone RSL Club, on Guernsey Street, was once a mill built by John Boorer in 1861. It operated until 1914. The mill was donated to the RSL Club in 1950.

26. Baptist Church
Located in Guernsey Street, this modest church was built by the Methodists in 1892 and somehow changed hands and is now the local Baptist Church.

31. Scone Arts and Crafts
Located in Kingdon Street (this was the first street in Scone to be named - it was named after friends of Governor Macquarie), the Arts and Crafts Centre was the first Roman Catholic church in Scone and was consecrated in 1861. Out the back is a cemetery with graves that date from 1857-1920.

32. Convent of the Mercy Sisters
On the corner of Hill Street and Kingdon Street is the hipped roof and bull-nosed veranda of the old Convent of the Mercy Sisters (1889), now a private residence . The original St Mary's School was also located here. Next door is the town's first Roman Catholic Church (1861) with an historic graveyard. 

34. Scone Grammar School
The oldest building dates from 1846, that being erected as St Luke's denominational school, the town's first. A bellcote and additional rooms were added in subsequent years. It opened as a boys' grammar school in 1887 and closed in 1917, reopening in its current form in 1990.

35. Police Station and Lockup
Located in Kingdon Street, the Scone and Upper Hunter Historical Society Museum is situated in the old lock-up (the town's second) and constable's quarters, both being built in 1870. There are two cells to the rear of the gaol which was intended as a holding pen for those awaiting trial or transfer. Interestingly, when the wiring in the roof was checked it was found the building had two ceilings laid crosswise upon each other to prevent escape. It became a museum in 1966.
The main display presents cultural artefacts which are grouped in periods that relate to different aspects of local history, including pre-colonial settlement and the gold mining days. There is a grandmother's kitchen and a collection of dolls and toys. As well there were several noted photographers in Scone in the early days and hence a good early photographic record exists, including an impression of the lock-up taken in 1872 soon after its construction. The museum is open Wednesdays from 9.30 am - 2.30 pm. and Sundays from 2.30 pm - 4.30 pm or by appointment, tel: 0476 471 089. Check out https://sconehistorical.org.au for more details.

36. Scone Court House
Located in Kingdon Street (on the Aberdeen Street corner) is the old courthouse (1882), a rendered and painted brick building on a sandstone base with a gabled roof and rendered balusters on the veranda. It is now the Old Court Theatre, headquarters of the Scone Amateur Dramatic Society. The town's first courthouse (1849) is situated to the rear of the building. Designed by Mortimer Lewis it was constructed of hand-made bricks with a gabled roof and a small projecting wing to the rear. It is now used as the theatre's Green Room. 

Other Buildings of Interest
St Luke's Anglican Church
Located at 79 Hill Street (the corner of Hill and Liverpool Streets), St Luke's Anglican Church was built in 1883-84 to replace an older church erected in 1841. The current structure is red-brick with stone dressings. It is of an early English Gothic design and is set among well-established trees. The bell was provided by William Dangar for the first church. Thomas Cook and J.H. Doyle of Invermein made substantial contributions. Cook is buried in the churchyard cemetery which was the first in the shire, being used between 1838 and 1864. It includes the Dangar family vault, located near the chancel. The rectory was built in 1925.

Airlie House
The dining room and offices of Airlie House Motor Inn (on Kelly Street as you enter the town) were originally Airlie House, built in the 1890s by William Bakewell of St Aubins who owned a pottery works at Macdonaldtown in Sydney which supplied the bricks and tiles. It is a handsome and impressive dwelling which has, rather unattractively, been joined to the motel by a corrugated iron structure.

Australian Stock Horse Society Museum
Located in the society's offices at 48 Guernsey Street, the Australian Stock Horse Society Museum, as the website explains, "reflects on the many famous stockhorses and the history of their breeding." The society points out that "The forebears of the Australian Stock Horse arrived in Australia on the First Fleet in 1788. They are now considered possibly the world’s most versatile horse, they evolved over time through selective breeding in response to the demands of the environment. The Society was established in 1971 in Scone which promotes itself as "the Horse Capital of Australia" and is now the largest of more than 70 individual horse breed associations in Australia. They enjoy a loyal and growing membership of more than 9000 individuals and have in excess of 150,000 horses registered. The Society aims to preserve and promote the heritage and bloodline of the Australian Stock Horse, recognised for its versatility and superior performance amongst work and leisure breeds." For more information check out http://www.upperhuntercountry.com/index.php/attractions/equine-adventures/135-australian-stock-horse-society.


Other Attractions in the Area

Lake Glenbawn Recreation Area
Located 20 km east of Scone, Lake Glenbawn was named after the property submerged under the dam waters. It is a popular spot for water skiing, wake boarding, swimming, sailing, canoeing and sailboarding. Anglers will find catfish, bass and golden perch. The foreshores consist of open woodland with over 100 species of birds including galahs, eastern rosellas, pelicans, king parrots as well as kangaroos and wallaroos which can be seen in the early morning and at dusk. 
Brushy Hill has two separate lookouts with quite spectacular views across the lake to the far side where mountains loom overhead in close proximity. To the east are Mount Woolooma, the Mount Royal Ranges and Barrington Tops. To the north is the Liverpool Range and to the south and west the valleys of the Upper Hunter. 
Glenbawn Dam was built between 1954 and 1957 to regulate the flow of the Hunter River in order to meet stock, domestic and irrigation requirements. Today it also provides water for the vineyards in the Hunter Valley.
It covers 2,614 hectares, draws on a catchment area of 1,295 square km, has a storage capacity of 750,000 megalitres and a maximum depth of 85 m. The main wall is 100 m high and the length of the crest is 1,125 m. 
Major extensions in the 1980s facilitated the development of the recreation area. Here there is a caravan park with camping sites, a kiosk, tennis courts, a recreation hall, a cricket oval and three-hole golf course, as well as appropriate facilities. For more information check out http://www.stateparks.nsw.gov.au/lake_glenbawn and http://www.waternsw.com.au/supply/visit/glenbawn-dam.

Burning Mountain
Burning Mountain is a rare phenomenon - a coal seam, buried 30 metres underground, which has been burning for at least 5,500 years, some say over 15,000 years. The experience involves a pleasantly energetic walk of 4 km (return) through bushland which becomes increasingly bare and barren the closer the visitor gets to the smoking vent. It is a true rarity and an opportunity to experience the hills at the northern edge of the Hunter Valley district. Check out https://www.aussietowns.com.au/town/burning-mountain-nsw for more detailed information.

Understanding the Barrington Tops National Park
Scone is one of the major entry points into the Barrington Top National Park:
The drive from Scone to Gloucester via the Barrington Tops Forest Road involves a 148 km drive from Scone via the tiny settlements Gundy, Belltrees, Moonan Flat, Rawdon Vale, Copeland and Barrington. The drive - with a substantial stretch on dirt road - has a number of places of interest along the way. Here are the highlights as the road traverses the "tops" from Scone.

1. Dingo Gate and the Road Beyond
After driving across the undulating countryside, and up the long steep hill, this is the beginning of the "tops". It is reminder of how special the area is that you have to open a gate. This is the point where the cleared valleys of Moonan Flats and the valley of the Hunter River change to the sub-alpine forests of the "tops". The road up to the tops can be quite dangerous as the hills have a tendency to drop rocks onto the road. It needs to be driven with care.

2. Polblue Falls
Accessed from Horse Swamp (a campsite accessible by 4WD) the falls can be seen from a short, 500 m return walk from the Polblue Falls picnic area.

3. Barrington Trail
Running to the south from from the Barrington Tops Forest Road just beyond Polblue Swamp, the Barrington Trail is a 15 km, 4WD only (although it is popular with mountain bike enthusiasts) which is open in the summer months between October and May. It provides access to Little Murray Campground (5 km from the main road); Junction Pools campground (12.5 km) and Mount Barrington picnic area (15 km). It is also the access point to the Aeroplane Hill walking track and the Careys Peak walking track. For detailed information check out https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/4wd-touring-routes/barrington-trail.

4. Polblue Swamp Track
An important stopping point on the Barrington Tops Forest Road, the Polblue Swamp is about halfway from Scone and Gloucester and is edged by black sally trees, snow gums, mountain gums and scribbly gums. The swamp itself is covered by grasses, moss and sedges. If there has been rain it is possible to see wild orchids and in the morning and evening both wombats and kangaroos are common around the edges of the swamp. The easy, flat walk is a 3 km loop which can be done in 30 minutes. Check https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/walking-tracks/polblue-swamp-track for more details.

5. Gummi Falls
The 4WD - mountain bike track from the Barrington Tops Forest Road heads north from Devils Hole to Gummi Falls, a beautiful small falls, which lie on the northern border of the park. This is a remote sub-alpine camping spot which is known as an ideal place to commune with kangaroos, wombats, the long-nosed potaroo, the spotted-tailed quoll and greater gliders. Check out https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/camping-and-accommodation/campgrounds/gummi-falls-campground for more information.

6. Devils Hole Picnic area and Lookout 
Located west of Thunderbolt's Lookout on the Barrington Tops Forest Road (around 80 km from Scone) this campground and picnic area is located at 1,400 m above sea level in sub-alpine country noted for its snow gums, cold climate woodlands and wetlands. Only 300 metres from the picnic area is the lookout described by National Parks as having "The snow-grassed montane woodland of the gentle Barrington plateau stretches behind, while dense forests, wild gorges, and ridges of the Barrington wilderness lie below. On a clear day, the view extends to the coast, over 90 km to the east." Check out https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/walking-tracks/devils-hole-lookout-walk-and-picnic-area for more details.

7. Thunderbolt's Lookout
Thunderbolt's Lookout is clearly marked on the Barrington Tops Forest Road and is an easy 400 m flat walk to a lookout point which has a panoramic view across the wilderness of the "tops". It is claimed that it was once a popular lookout for bushrangers. National Parks describes the short walk and the lookout as "Passing through a majestic stand of Antarctic beech trees, where moss carpets the forest floor, look for delicate orchids high in the branches as you make your way to the lookout. Soak in the spectacular vista of the deep valley leading to Moppy River below and Mount Carson beyond. Wedge-tailed eagles often circle in the skies above, looking for prey." Check out https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/lookouts/thunderbolts-lookout-attraction for more details.

8. Dilgry Circle
Located about 90 km from Scone, and near the Honeysuckle Picnic Area, heading off to the north is a 4WD track known as the Dilgry Circle. It is known to most visitors because of the unusual rock formation which looks uncannily like a giant penis. Ask at Gloucester Visitor Information for specific directions.

9. Honeysuckle Picnic Area and Forest Track
This is an ideal opportunity to experience the unique rainforest of the plateau that is the Barrington Tops. The National Parks website describes the short, 1 km loop walk (which will take less than half an hour) as an opportunity to experience "magnificent Antarctic beech forest with thickets of soft tree ferns, have a look for the beech orchid that grows in its upper branches. The moss covered trunks are a spectacular sight in the misty rain. Rainforest gives way to open forests of brown barrel with an understory of tall mountain banksia, also known as honeysuckle." Check out https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/walking-tracks/honeysuckle-forest-track for more information.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the Wanaruah people called the district home. They had trade and ceremonial links with the Kamilaroi people who may also have occupied the area. 

* The first European in the area was surveyor Henry Dangar who, in 1824, passed by the area just west of the present townsite.

* Dangar's favourable report on the district led to an immediate land grab by wealthy settlers who had been issued warrants authorising them to take up land. One of the first to investigate the new area was Francis Little who was seeking land for himself and his uncle Dr William Bell Carlyle. 

* Francis Little established Invermein in 1825. 

* In 1825 Carlyle was issued the grant of Satur which is now a suburb on the western side of Scone.

* In 1826 Governor Darling gave Richard Kelly, a sea captain, a grant of 1,920 acres. The track through the land eventually became Scone's main street. 

* Allan Cunningham passed through the district in 1827 when he followed Dangar's route north.

* Traffic began to shift east when William Nowland discovered the pass at Murrurundi in 1827.

* The Crown reserved three square miles for a townsite on the eastern bank of Kingdon Ponds, a creek just west of present-day Scone. 

* The village of Redbank begun to emerge by 1828 to the west of Scone. 

* A hospital was established in Redbank in 1834, along with an inn and store. 

* The Great North Road, built by 3000 convicts between 1826 and 1834, was the first road into the Hunter Valley. 

* In 1836 the St Aubins Arms and a store were established adjacent to the Great North Road. This was the beginning of the present township. 

* The newer settlement, officially called Invermein but locally known as St Aubins, was gazetted in 1837 as Scone. 

* The new name of Scone was embraced by locals in 1838.

* In 1840 bushranger Edward 'The Jewboy' Davis and his gang held up the St Aubins Arms and Thomas Dangar's store. 

* In 1841, when the first Anglican church was completed, the population was only 63. At the time the area was noted for its large pastoral properties (Belltrees, Segenhoe, St Aubins and Invermein). 

* Bishop Broughton complained of 'a great insensitivity' to religious duties amongst the community, none of whom turned up to witness the consecration of St Luke's churchyard in 1843.

* The first school (Anglican) was established in 1845-46.

* A proper courthouse built in 1848. 

* In the early 1860s a flour mill was erected and gold was discovered in the mountains to the north-east. 

* A national school opened in 1863. 

* The town received a boost when the railway arrived in 1871. 

* English psychologist and writer Havelock Ellis stayed at Scone from about 1875 to 1879, teaching at Sparkes Creek School in 1878.

* By 1881 the population was still only 214. 

* A new courthouse was constructed in 1882. 

* Scone was declared a municipality in 1888. That year the Scone Advocate was established. 

* In 1953 the council named Elizabeth Park at the time of Queen Elizabeth's coronation.

* In 1982 the Mare and Foal sculpture was erected in Elizabeth Park.


Visitor Information

Scone Visitor Information Centre - Hunter Warbirds, 1 Walter Pye Ave, Scone, tel: (02) 6540 1300.


Useful Websites

There is a useful local website. Check out http://www.scone.com.au.

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