Gayle Beveridge is a past winner of the Boroondara Literary Awards and her work has appeared in Award Winning Australian Writing. Gayle is passionate about family, writing, photography, and with Victoria’s beautiful Bass Coast which she now calls home.
Published August 2nd 2015
A Gothic Wonder with an Intriguing History, in Outback NSW
Lightning Ridge is nothing if not unusual and Amigo's Castle is fine example of that. We had not expected a gothic style castle in the dusty outback of New South Wales. This magnificent, although incomplete castle, based on Italian ruins is built on a mining lease. The 15 metre tall structure is the work of Vittorio Stefanato, known locally as Amigo. Disenchanted with opal mining Amigo commenced building his castle from ironstone boulders he collected in the area.
The turret of Amigo's Castle as seen from the road.
The castle became the subject of a legal battle as Amigo was building it illegally on his mining claim. Amigo threatened to bulldoze the castle and it was hastily heritage listed to secure it as the tourist attraction it is today.
Visitors are welcome for a small entrance fee and should not be deterred by the roughly painted signage beside the property. Signs like, 'Beware of two dogs. They are off the chains' and 'Snipers on the loose.'
We enter the castle through an art gallery and look at the paintings and sculptures as the artist tells us Amigo's story. It is a personal story reinforced with photos pinned on notice boards - Amigo's parents, his trip to Australia, his past and the building of the castle. Look for the photo with Amigo's version of scaffolding.
In the centre of the gallery a waist high round wall frames a steep staircase leading to private underground cellars. Amigo has tunnelled six metres below the castle, not a surprising endeavour for an ex opal miner.
Beyond the gallery the castle has no roof. A wishing well sits within the walls. The signs on the well make us laugh. We walk up stairs to a floor above the gallery and are treated to a view of Amigo's yard through one of the arched window openings. Amigo has his home behind the castle, not within it. His yard is a series of collections, drums, metal, tyres and wheels, under makeshift iron covers. There is a small dam and a numerous cats.
An upstairs balcony accords an encompassing view of the castle walls, a small keep and a corner turret. The lack of a roof lays it out before us as a plan on a draftsman's table, this structure which was built without any plan at all.
In the grounds beside the castle is all manner of oddity. A bicycle with a barrow wheel is labelled 'Winner of Tour The France 1896.' A 'boat' destined for the Sydney to Hobart if only sail could be found. A pile of old boots and signs everywhere. Do yourself a favour, don't leave without reading the signs.
Amigo's Castle is on Sunflash Street via Black Prince Drive, Lightning Ridge. If you are following the car door tours, it is Red Car Door 4. It is open most days from 9am to 5pm. Admission is $5 per person. Further information can be obtained from the Lightning Ridge Visitor Information Centre on 02 6829 1670.