Much about ancient Celts still remains a mystery and this is why Celtic heritage stirs our imagination. The wonder of the Celts has left many of us wanting to learn and experience their traditions. Many of the rich legacies left by Ancient Celts can be witnessed at the Australian Celtic Festival, recreated for all to see.

On the first weekend in May in 1983 the first Australian Celtic Festival was held at the Australian Standing Stones. .  From humble beginnings the ACF is considered today to be Australia’s Hallmark celebration of Celtic history and culture. Combining an eclectic background of music, dance, workshops, re-enactments, Clan gatherings and ceremonies no other Celtic event is staged in such an iconic setting.

The Australian Celtic Festival is held on the first weekend in May each year based on several factors. Firstly, this time of year sees the Glen Innes Highlands spectacularly swathed in autumn colours. Secondly, in consideration of the definitive four seasons of the region, May is usually devoid of wet weather as experienced over the past 30 years. In fact in the 26 year history of the Festival, only three occasions can be recalled as significant enough to disrupt the four days of the Festival. Finally, our location being only 2 – 4 hours from South East Queensland along with the Labour May Day holiday allowed for an opportunity to attract a larger proportion of the target source market giving reason to visit and to extend their time in the district.

The Australian Celtic Festival has grown from a few hundred attendees in the first year to attracting over 8000 attendees from across all regions of Australia as well as international visitors during 2018 when the Festival celebrated its 26th anniversary.

Celtic History

Scholars can’t agree on many of the facts of Celtic history. According to some, what we now call Celtic culture dates back to 1200 BC. Interestingly, this culture developed outside of the areas we now regard as the Celtic nations, in a broad band that stretches from modern eastern France to Hungary and Slovakia.

Over the next few centuries Celtic culture spread east to Romania (with an enclave in central Turkey), west to the Atlantic coast, down to the Iberian peninsula and up into Britain and Ireland.

With the expansion of the Roman empire, Celtic culture largely disappeared from its central European birthplace. The Celts were now restricted to Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Cornwall, the Isle of Man and Brittany. The culture lives on in these areas, most notably in the languages – Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Breton, Manx and Cornish.

All of this is confused further by the fact that the word Celt is only a fairly recent invention, dating from the 18th century.

Map of Celtic Nations

Glen Innes

We are often asked why Glen Innes Highlands is ‘Celtic Country’. The area’s first settler was Archibald Boyd, a barrister from Selkirkshire in Scotland. He established what is now called Stonehenge Station in 1838.

He was soon joined by other settlers from Scotland. People such as William Vivers from Dumfriesshire who settled on the massive Kings Plains Station estate that covered close to 30,000ha.

His grandson, Dr George Vivers, wished to create a little piece of Scotland in the Australian bush and so built a castle on the property – which is still there today.

Glen Innes got its name from another Scot, Archibald Clunes Innes, who arrived in Australia in 1822. The town of Glen Innes was gazetted at the height of the gold rush in 1852.

Today, Glen Innes citizens cherish the area’s Celtic heritage. A group of locals established the Australian Standing Stones, based on the megalithic structures found in the ancient Celtic world. They are unique in the southern hemisphere and have been officially recognised as the national monument to Australia’s Celtic pioneers. It’s only natural that the Stones are the venue for the annual Australian Celtic Festival.

2019 Year of Scotland
Flags of the Celtic Nations