GLEN INNES is about 100km north of Armidale, in a beautiful setting. Although agriculture is still important up here, you begin to see more and more evidence of the gemfields – sapphires are big business as, to a lesser extent, is tin mining. In the centre, on Grey Street especially, numerous century-old public buildings and parks have been renovated and spruced up, and there's some fine country architecture, including a couple of large corner pubs with iron-lace verandas.
The Land of the Beardies History House (Mon– Fri 10am– noon & 1–4pm, Sat & Sun 1–4pm; $6; Web:www.beardieshistoryhouse.info), in the town's first hospital on the corner of Ferguson Street and West Avenue, displays pioneer relics, period room settings and a reconstructed slab hut. The name alludes to the two hairy stockmen who settled the area in the nineteenth century, and the title is one of which the town is proud; the Land of the Beardies Festival is held in early November, with everything from a beard-growing contest to dances, parades and arts-and-crafts exhibits. The local granite Australian Standing Stones at Martins Lookout, Watsons Drive, are based on the Ring of Brodgar in Scotland and honour the "contribution of the Celtic races to Australia's development". The stones are the site of the Australian Celtic Festival (Web:www.australiancelticfestival.com) during the first weekend of May.
While you're in the area, you might also consider a horseback pub-crawl with Pub Crawls on Horseback (Tel:02/6732 1599, Web:www.pubcrawlsonhorseback.com.au), who run half-hour to four-day horse-riding adventures through the bush with overnight stops at traditional Aussie pubs – a weekend trip costs $395, all-inclusive.
Greyhound buses and Countrylink services stop in town en route between Sydney and Melbourne. The visitor centre is at 152 Church St (Mon– Fri 9am–5pm, Sat & Sun 9am–3pm; Tel:02/6732 2400, Web:www.gleninnestourism.com), as the New England Highway is called as it passes through town. Numerous motels line Church Street, of which the best value is Alpha Motel at no. 60 (Tel:02/6732 2688; $61–100). Wildlife spotters should head to Craigieburn Tourist Park, 2km south of town off the New England Highway (Tel:02/6732 1283; camping $20, powered site $25, cabins $76-100), set in lush forest.
For food, head to Grey Street, where you can choose between the Tea and Coffee Shop, a cosy tearoom with loads of pancakes; modern Australian cuisine at the Tasting Room (closed Mon & Sun); or a hefty, bargain-priced feed at the Imperial Hotel.