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Donnelly's Castle

Home > Brisbane > Walks | Pets | Outdoor | Nature | National Parks
by Flynn Steele (subscribe)
Freelance writer living, working and mostly playing in Brisbane and wherever the action is. Check out my blog at
Published February 1st 2023
Boulders, bushrangers and bigfoot of the Granite Belt
Close your eyes and imagine a turreted, moat-bounded European castle. A medieval masterpiece fortified by battlements torn straight from the pages of Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones.

Got it? Now, forget all the regal constructions of your mind's eye. Donnelly's Castle is simply not that kind of castle. Something else entirely, it's a place of impossible boulders, notorious bushrangers and maybe even Australia's own Bigfoot.

Yowie Donnellys Castle Donnelly's Castle Stanthorpe attractions Stanthorpe walks Granite Belt attractions Granite Belt walks dog-friendly Granite Belt child friendly Granite Belt Girraween National Park
Author created using Nightlife AI

While calling it the Camelot of the Granite Belt may be a bit of a stretch, Donnelly's Castle is a sometimes forgotten drawcard of the region. It offers a child and dog-friendly sampler of the renowned rock formations of nearby Girraween National Park only twenty-five minutes north of Stanthorpe.

No castle gate announces your arrival nor does a giant drawbridge grant access. Instead, you're welcomed to the car park by understated picnic tables, a humble sign and a best-avoided long drop toilet. The place initially appears more roadside rest stop than a tourist attraction. Where's the bloody castle?

Things start to make sense as you ascend the signed path and a sense of the scale of Donnelly's sinks in. The mottled grey colouration of the dinosaur-sized rocks matches the trunks of the towering Eucalyptus sentries that surround them. It's a castle all right - just not a Disney one.

Rather than being painstakingly hewn by the hands of our ancestors (or sketched by animators), Donnelly's Castle has been carefully chiselled by Mother Nature over millions of years. Geologists will tell you the granite boulders were randomly formed by magma being forced upwards from the depth of the earth, slowly cooling and then being weathered by time. It looks a bit more planned than that though - as though a brutalist architect designed a prehistoric castle of their own.

The meandering path leads through and around boulders and descends into various natural nooks and crannies. It's easy to believe the local legends of Captain Thunderbolt - a notorious nineteenth-century bushranger - who allegedly used Donnelly's Castle as one of his hideouts. There's certainly plenty of scope for a game of hide and seek or for stashing misbegotten possessions.

A deep dive into another narrow cavity and another local legend announces itself. More graffiti art than ancient cave painting, a crudely drawn Yowie - Australia's version of Bigfoot - pops out of the stone and into the imagination.

Indigenous culture recounts stories of 'The Hairy Man' and more modern sightings of the cryptid creature exist in the Stanthorpe area from at least the 1930s. It's definitely in the 'allegedly' category, but the notion of Bigfoot and a bushranger being flatmates in a castle is not easily ignored.

Another path ascends further upward to the castle lookout - a flattened plateau offering impressive views of the Girraween National Park region. From here, the granite grey and eucalyptus green landscape somehow conveys both a sense of peace and an understated menace.

For those aged enough to understand, it all looks a bit Picnic at Hanging Rock. Losing yourself literally and figuratively but not caring seems like a distinct possibility. Popping through some portal into a different space and time also seems vaguely reasonable. The Yowie's ticket in perhaps?

Donnellys Castle Donnelly's Castle Stanthorpe attractions Stanthorpe walks Granite Belt attractions Granite Belt walks dog friendly Granite Belt child friendly Granite Belt Girraween National Park Yowie
Outsider Yowie art

Steps carefully retraced back down to the carpark, the whole Donnelly's Castle experience takes no more than forty minutes at a leisurely pace. It's perfect for kids, dogs and those looking for a less strenuous taste of the terrain the Granite Belt is famous for. All with a few tall tales thrown in.

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Why? Dog and child friendly walk to enjoy rock formations and forest of the Granite Belt
When: At your leisure
Where: Granite Belt region just outside Stanthorpe
Cost: Free
Your Comment

Very interesting article. Thanks
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