Ruined Castle Blue Mountains

Ruined Castle Blue Mountains

Ruined Castle Blue Mountains

Like Ahab chasing Moby Dick, I obsessed over Ruined Castle.

The gods of bushwalking looked unkindly on me. Each planned hike to this sandstone rock formation cluster in NSW’s Blue Mountains had to be postponed.

I didn’t just want to know what you could see five hours hike deep into Australia’s bush. I needed to know.

The hike to Ruined Castle is a 6 hour return trip from the staircase at Echo Point, Katoomba. But, true to form, I’m at risk of missing out on another hike with half the day already gone. So we cheat, catching the Scenic Railway down to the valley floor.

Built in the 1880s for Katoomba’s coal mine and carrying passengers since 1945, the Scenic Railway is the steepest incline railway in the world. It’s received several facelifts in modern times.

Ruined Castle Blue Mountains, Australia

The hike starts in the lush green rainforest of the Jamison Valley.

Canopies of tall sassafrass and coachwood trees shade us from the harsh Australian sun. Lyrebirds scuttle across our path, eager to get out of our way.

Ruined Castle Blue Mountains, Australia

As the hike takes an incline, we ascend into scrubby, rocky outcrops, sprouting the occasional Warratah. Sheer sandstone rockfaces drop off into the valley on our right hand side. The sandstone cliffs look like honeycomb with their blonde colouring and missing chunks where time and weather have eroded them.

Ruined Castle Blue Mountains, Australia

The panaroma of the Jamison Valley lies to our left, a sea of blue-green Eucalypts bunched together. The silence is only broken by the occasional cry of bell birds or small reptiles slithering next to our path.

The air feels cleaner in our lungs. It even smells different, the oil from the eucalyptus trees pervading the atmosphere.

Ruined Castle Blue Mountains, Australia

The tourist sign describes the hike as experienced. Bushwalker websites call it hard. It’s not for the unfit. It’s suited to experienced hikers or people used to regular intense cardio workouts. There are also sections that are tricky to negotiate if you’re not flexible.

Whilst you don’t need rock climbing gear or shoes, there are some large rocks to haul yourself over, particularly when you reach Ruined Castle. And the track is rough in parts. There are fallen tree trunks which look like Titans have thrown them into place. And there are few railings or guards on rocks or sheer drops.

Ruined Castle Blue Mountains, Australia

The final leg of the hike is a steep and windy incline. It’s uneven and dusty. Roots jut out and rocks spring out of nowhere to trip you up. I can hear North Nomad cursing under his breath at my “we’re nearly there!”

After 20 minutes of this intense cardio causing the backs of our throats to burn and our hearts to almost explode, Ruined Castle appears.

Ruined Castle Blue Mountains, Australia

It sits at the very peak of the mountain’s incline – a large cluster of car sized rocks balancing precariously in the middle of this isolated bush. It towers over everything, only matched by the neighbouring Mount Solitary. The structure does resemble a medieval castle torn apart by war.

These natural formations always impress me. How do they get here? What natural process caused this? What dreamtime story did the Gundungurra people tell about it?

Ruined Castle Blue Mountains, Australia

Ruined Castle Blue Mountains, Australia

My initial jubilation at reaching the formation bursts when we realise I might be too short to climb it without equipment. A group of experienced looking climbers are working their way up to the top of the formation, with difficulty. One of the climbers has wedged himself between two boulders with just his toes and fingertips, yelling out instructions to the group below him.

Ruined Castle Blue Mountains, Australia

North Nomad goes for a wander. He runs back with a smile. There is a much easier side that even short limbed me can manage. The group overhears and sounds exasperated that they didn’t investigate alternative routes. Wedging myself into crevices and throwing my back pack over rocks, we make it to the top.

Ruined Castle Blue Mountains, Australia

From the top of Ruined Castle, the view is endless. The rugged bushland of the Jamison and Cedar Valleys sprawls as far as the eye can see. This view is broken only by the sandstone cliff-faces and Mount Solitary to our right. We find a flat spot of rock and eat our lunch on top of Ruined Castle.

Sunning myself with my sandwich, I contemplate my white whale from its back.

– We originally posted this on our blog almost a year ago. This repost is with bigger, better photos. 

12 thoughts on “Ruined Castle Blue Mountains

  1. Love this part of the world! I’ve been wanting to do this hike for ages… didn’t realise it was so hard though… how bad are the heights (I’m a little afraid of them….)?

    • If you’re fit, it’s not too bad at all. Only the 600m incline at the end is challenging. And at the time, Shawn was still smoking, so it really was a bit nasty for him! I was back in the days of weight training 3x a week, swimming and pilates every day. Ohhhh for those fit days!

    • Hi Emilie, we use a Pentax WG 3. Shawn got it so we could take it scuba diving/swiming/snorkelling, and use it on hikes and caving, too. It’s Crushproof, shockproof, waterproof, and coldproof – basically me proof! Though, it’s only coldproof to -10 Celsius. Which is a bit of a problem when you live in Toronto and it hits -40 easily in winter!

  2. I haven’t had a chance to go hiking in a while, and am rather glad that I get to live vicariously through the beautiful pictures you post. <3 Word on the street (well, really from the mayor) is that they recently actually opened up two hiking trails where I live (!!), so I'm gonna have to check those out once it stops being so darn cold!

    • Aw, thanks Farrah! That’s fantastic that they’ve opened up some trails where you live. I saw your photo on Instagram of all the snow in your area this morning and I couldn’t get over it. I’ve only ever been in Kentucky in stinking hot weather!

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