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Thursday, 12 December 2013


My photo taken in 1957
Visitors have been coming to Dante’s Glen at Lawson since at least 1879, when the sites at Katoomba which are popular today were hardly known at all. There are three waterfalls on the round walk which starts just down the road from the Lawson Olympic Pool.

The name “Dante’s Glen” was in use by 1879, as shown by newspaper references to the place. Dante Aligheri (1265-1321) is remembered for his work “The Divine Comedy” which I doubt has been read by any readers of this Blog, though many will have heard of “Dante’s Inferno”. Professor Charles Badham of Sydney University lived nearby and I can guarantee he would have read it. Perhaps he is responsible for the name; however in an article in “The Catholic Press” for Thursday 25th October 1928, page 19, we read the following: “Lawson's Enduring Catholic Names. Not more than a dozen people know who gave certain enduring Catholic names to the most beautiful parts of lovely Lawson. The ground on which 'Dalmeny' and 'Durham Lodge' stand was originally known as Mount St. Bernard. This name, which appears on the old ordinance maps, was given by Miss Hay, the lady who owned the land and afterwards became a ruin. The two principal avenues in the town — San Jose and Santa Cruz — the latter more familiarly known as Falls-road — were titles bestowed by an old pioneer, Mr. J. G. Hay. He also named Mary Street, St. Michael's Falls and Dante's Glen. Now that Mt. St. Bernard has been donated by Mr. Meagher to the Sisters, it may revert to its original name.”                                          
1920's probably a Harry Phillips photo

Whether the name should pronounced “danntee” or “dontay” or some other way I don’t know. I’ve used the former in my You Tube video, so I hope this doesn’t upset anyone who knows better than I do.

The waterfall in the Glen is commonly called “Dante’s Glen Falls” today; however the name “Christabel Fall” was in use until at least 1912. See the article on North Lawson Park in “Guidelines for Researching and Assessing Associations” (here) which contains lots of fascinating material. Amongst this is the statement that Christabel was Joseph (José) Hay’s daughter and another that Prof. Badham named Dante’s Glen. I’d like to see the old name for the waterfall restored while retaining the name of the Glen.

The old stone steps referred to in North Lawson Park are numerous on the ascent from the Glen to the Fairy Falls track and it is to be hoped that they will be respected in any restoration work. Incidentally, Hay also named the two falls which are now called “Fairy Falls” “Cecilia Falls” and “Sebastian Falls”. They sound like Shakespearean characters, but this
Fairy Falls 1920's
doesn’t seem to be the origin of the names. Perhaps some reader can enlighten us.


Two final comments about this beautiful walk. First, there are numerous graffiti on rocks and trees all along it. Some date back 130 years. Read, but do not add! (See the “Illustrated Sydney News” for 17th October 1889 page 17). Second, the water flowing down Dante’s Glen is sparklingly clear while that going over Fairy Falls is rich in iron to the extent that there are iron oxide stalactites growing on the rocks there. Someone might like to explore why this is so.

Iron oxide stalactites at Fairy Falls
St Michael's Falls
You will find my You Tube video of this walk here . Other online references of interest are “Looking Around Lawson” (here),  and “Dante’s Glen” (here). My Blue Mountains You Tube playlist may be found here . I have three other playlists - on gem hunting/mining, Glen Innes and New Zealand.


  1. I took my kids there today for the first time. I was googling Dantes Glen hoping to find a reason for the conical shape... It's like a sinkhole or something