The stunning Abercrombie Caves are 70km south of Bathurst (Goulburn Road via Trunkey Creek). The entrance to the caves is through the majestic Grand Arch and the marble walls are highlighted by soft, natural light. It’s over a century since goldminers built a platform for dances in one of the main galleries and today this historic area is used as a stage for underground concerts, Christmas carols and a venue for wedding ceremonies.
The Bushrangers Cave was once the hideout for the Ribbon Gang, led by one Ralph Entwistle. This was in 1830, way before Ned Kelly was even born. In some ways poor Entwistle copped the rough end of justice. Back in the Old Dart he had been convicted of stealing clothes and was transported to the NSW penal colony for the term of his natural life.
Things were looking somewhat up when he was assigned as a convict servant to a Bathurst landowner, John Liscombe. In November 1829 Ralph and another servant were entrusted with the job of taking a bullock dray of wool to the Sydney markets with the instruction to return with the proceeds of the sale and some supplies.
All went swimmingly until things went swimmingly, so to speak. On return to Bathurst they were pretty hot and sweaty and decided to take a dip in the Macquarie River. So, there they are taking a skinny-dip to cool off when Governor Darling and a gaggle of soldiers arrived at the river while in the area to inspect the new settlement of Bathurst. They were promptly arrested and charged with “causing an affront to the Governor and his party” – the sentence was a public flogging of 50 lashes!
Being somewhat peeved at the harsh punishment, Ralph managed to round up several other disgruntled convicts and they escaped to form The Ribbon Gang (they tied ribbons to their hats to mirror the rebellious 'Ribbon Men' of Ireland). The gang probably numbered around 130 at its peak and stealing food, horses, guns and ammunition led to other crimes, as bushranging crimes tend to do. Shooting policemen has never been well-tolerated by the authorities and when Ralph was caught he (and nine others) were charged with murder, bushranging and horse-thieving, all offences punishable by death. On November 2, 1830, Bathurst saw its first, and largest ever, public hanging. It had been quite an eventful 12 months for Ralph! You can visit the site of the hangings today at Ribbon Gang Lane in Bathurst.
Anyway, the caves are well worth a visit for the history and natural beauty. They are surrounded by native bush on a 1400 hectare reserve that has swimming holes and a public fossicking area. At the southern end of the reserve are the Grove Creek Falls and an all-weather track leads to a viewing platform.
Opening Times: Daily 9:00am - 4:30pm. (from May 1 the caves and reserve will close on Mondays at 4:00pm and re-open on Thursdays at 9:00am). Archway Cave is self-guided and Bushranger Cave has guided tours at 2.00pm on weekends.
If you are visiting Bathurst, Rydges Mt Panorama will give you a warm welcome and look after all your accommodation needs.