The Australian Celtic Festival-Year of Scotland

Set in the stunning Glen Innes Highlands, New South Wales, the Australian Celtic Festival is a Celtic experience like no other. Each May, the township of Glen Innes embraces their Celtic Heritage and joins in the festivities held among the Australian Standing Stones national monument. Glen Innes, located in regional New South Wales, proudly hosts the annual Australian Celtic Festival as one of their premier events on the first weekend in May, drawing visitors from all over Australia and Internationally. Now in its 31st year, the festival will be highlighting the Year of Scotland with an action-packed program from the 4 May until 7 May 2023.

The Main Event

Pipe bands on display. Photo: Steven Earl.

Enjoy the major attractions at the Australian Standing Stones on Saturday the 6 May and Sunday the 7 May. Catch the live weekend action of jousting tournament or highland games. Keep the kids entertained with loads of activities in the Celtic Kids marquee, browse Celtic inspired market stalls, meet your clan and learn about your Celtic heritage or simply enjoy the broad range of Celtic music, dance or traditional fashions. The festival has an exciting line-up with many crowd favourites returning to the stages and a variety of soft delicate melodies and big Celtic rock sounds. Austral, Mad Kelpie Playdate, Kejafi, Moreton Celtic Fiddle Club, Limerick & Highlander are just some of the talented and award-winning artists performing.

There are also extra evening ticketed events including the Friday Night Ceilidh – Fire and Feasting as well as Saturday Night Celtic Dance Spectacular – Luminescence. This show is a must see along with the many other dance performances throughout the weekend including the Australian Celtic Dance Championships. Those interested in the history of the ancient Celts and Vikings can’t go past the re-enactment village or the An T-Arm Albannach as they re-enact the Jacobite rebellion. The New England Medieval Arts Society (NEMAS) is a social community offering a look at Celtic and Viking culture from over 1000 years ago. Explore the village and find cooking stews, roasting meats, traditional games, arts and crafts and the practise of military drills plus various demonstrations and battles throughout the day. An T-Arm Albannach are a Living History Group which re-enacts the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745-46 and re-enacts a small clan presence amongst the gathering of the Clans in support of Bonnie Prince Charlie as he raised his standard against the Hanovarian Dynasty.

The Jacobite army brought with it not only highlanders and lowlanders, but other nationalities who were loyal to the Stuart cause. An T’Arm Albannach sets itself in the Scottish Highlands as the clans gather to the call of ‘Bonnie’ Prince Charlie.  Nova Hollandia will also be demonstrating live jousting tournaments on horseback with four sessions throughout the weekend. Highland Muscle will be leading the Highland Games with traditional heavy events for both women and men. A huge highlight in 2023 will be the Pipe Band Competitions, visits by Highland cows and ponies. After a full day of adventure kick back at the Boar and Drum Bar and licensed precinct with outdoor screen and listen to the music with old friends and new in the welcoming atmosphere.

Events happening around town

During festival week there is a range of fun events happening around Glen Innes for visitors and the community, catering to all interests and ages. On Thursday the 4 May, the Australian Celtic Festival hosts the official 100,000 Welcomes Concert at the Glen Innes and District Services Club. This is a taster of what’s to come and a popular event for early arrivals. This year there will also be a fun run, events at the Land of the Beardies History House, dinners at the Glen Innes Showgrounds as well as many of the pubs, clubs and restaurants in town with special Celtic fare and entertainment. There will be the Highlands Hub Celtic Symposium, Busking competition, Australian Celtic Cultural Awards with an awards night held at Gawura Gallery as well as an Art Trail.  

Finlay Wilson, The Kilted Yoga. Photo: AJW Photography Scotland.

It is wonderful to see the return of international travellers to Glen Innes and the Festival are very proud to have acclaimed traditional musician Dr Paul Anderson who is an official honoured guest who will also be performing throughout the weekend and at official ceremonies. We are also proud to have Finlay Wilson – The Kilted Yoga who will be holding workshops and demonstrations at the Standing Stones and offering a special Kilted Yoga Day Retreat at the beautiful Waterloo Station. Tickets are required for these events as spaces are limited.

There are also some fantastic, free, family friendly activities to enjoy like the official opening ceremony which is held in the historic town centre on Friday morning. On Saturday you must not miss the Street parade from 9.30am where the crowds gather to watch the massed pipe bands, clans and societies marching in solidarity. Following the parade check out all the local businesses who have got in the spirit of the event and decorated their windows. There will be free buses throughout the town heading to the Australian Standing Stones with stops at the Glen Innes Visitor Information Centre, Showgrounds and various ACF supported businesses in town. Those who aren’t heading up to the festival can grab a bite from the beautiful local eateries in town or in the main street.

Find a place to stay

Gathering of the Clans. Photo: Steven Earl.

Glen Innes has many accommodation options to suit all budgets, from the humble motel to the luxurious and secluded farm stay, there’s also a great range of caravan parks and some free camping areas. There’s also the option of seeing more of the beautiful New England High Country region in its peak Autumnal season by staying in Glen Innes’ surrounding villages and neighbouring towns that are under an hour’s drive to the festival. Tickets for Australian Celtic Festival official events are on sale and available online at where you can also find the full program of events happening around Glen Innes or follow Australian Celtic Festival on Facebook and Instagram.

Main photo: Cape Byron Celtic Dancers. Photo: Steven Earl.

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