Baryulgil, New South Wales: Travel guide and things to do

Baryulgil (pronounced Bay-ul-gil), like Malabugilmah, is a tiny Aboriginal settlement located 72 km north-west of Grafton, 112 km from Casino and 712 km north-east of Sydney. It is not easy to reach. From Grafton it is necessary to head north on Summerland Way, towards Casino. Just past Koolkhan branch north-west to Mountain View and beyond to Coaldale (38 km from Grafton) and Baryulgil.

Coaldale and Baryulgil are located on a line of road surveyed in 1859. The residents of Grafton funded this survey in order to establish a new dray route from Tenterfield via Tabulam due to concerns at the growing tendency of woolgrowers to cart their produce to Lawrence.

The first property in the vicinity was the enormous 'Yulgilbar' run, established as 'Swanlea' at the end of the 1830s by Edward and Frederick Ogilvie, the sons of William Ogilvie (see entry on Denman). It covered 58 000 acres by 1848.

Edward returned from a trip to England in 1859 with German craftsmen and a vision of a major homestead. Yulgilbar Castle was built between 1860 and 1866 and incorporated chandeliers, an Italian fountain and stone lions. The Governor, Earl Belmore, stayed there in 1869. Edward died in 1896 and the Castle began to decay. The furniture and effects were auctioned off in 1932. It has since been renovated and is a private home, not open to the public.

Goldrushes to Lionsville and Solferino, west of Baryulgil, took place in 1872-73 and mining continued until the early 1890s when prospectors were drawn to new finds in Western Australia. Coaldale was proclaimed as a village in 1885.

Asbestos mines operated at Baryulgil from the early 1940s until closing in 1979; a legacy which has left the small town and its inhabitants and water supply polluted with asbestos. The mines were worked mostly by the Bunjalung people, the original inhabitants of the area. They began legal action against the mineowners in the 1980s.

Baryulgil is essentially an Aboriginal community of some 200 people with a further 250 at the nearby Malabugilmah, a settlement set up to relocate some of the old workforce away from the asbestos pollution.

Coaldale, 34 km south-east, is situated in an attractive valley, surrounded by beef cattle country. There are picnic tables and toilets near the old school building and the memorial hall.