Castle Hill: once a rural out-of-the-way suburb, but now a sprawling new metropolis of apartments, dining, and the convenient drunken stumble home from the metro station at Castle Towers.
Castle Hill, home to the Bidjigal Clan of the Dharug people. This town is also referred to as Mogoaillee by Narguigui (Chief of South Creek in 1840); “mogo: refers to a stone hatchet and “aillee” is a denotative term for belonging.
Living in between the Hills Shire Council but bordering on the Hawkesbury Council, Castle Hill used to be a colony of rich orchards and farms which have all but disappeared with the suburb’s gentrification. The colonisation of Castle Hill dates to July 1801, when Governor King started the first European settlement in the area through the convict operation of the Castle Hill Government Farm. Built on a strong foundation of agricultural roots, this town’s abundant produce brought farmers to compete in the original 1886 Castle Hill Show (which ran up until 2016 before people realised the council wasn’t going to put any more effort into it). With Australia’s first convict uprising in 1804 where Irish convicts wanted to return to Ireland – the Battle of Vinegar Hill – Castle Hill carries its history through landmark buildings and heritage sites scattered on Old Northern Road.
I love my little suburb. Well, it’s not so little anymore; it only seems like yesterday that I had my Kindergarten picnic in the old Arthur Whitling Park across from Castle Towers. Under the cool shade, we all clutched onto our new build-a-bears and were in absolute awe of the beautiful flower gardens nearby. In its place is the new Arthur Whitling Park, attached to the back of the Metro, which does remind me somewhat of a giant glass cockroach.
It seems that as I’ve grown from childhood to adulthood, Castle Hill has transformed with me. While I could speak forever on the exciting plastic show bags from the Castle Hill Show (sorry Dad for conning you into that one), letting go of the past and embracing the change of my suburb has allowed me to look back on those moments with gratitude. Although I easily reminisce on the core memories of going to Kernel Popcorn outside of Event Cinemas, the excitement of the new people brought in has finally cultivated a nightlife and brought a greater diversity of ethnic food grocers and eateries.
Maybe the phrase “nightlife” is a bit generous. It’s only recently that Castle Hill has expanded from its restaurants to include the infamous Hillside Hotel and their $12 espresso martinis on Friday nights. With the Castle Hill RSL also down an unusually long and seclusive road, finally we have a buzzing night-time economy. At last, the need to escape the Hills has transformed into the desire to stay in the Hills. This isn’t to say that I froth over the tremendously unproportionate new apartments towering over the Castle Hill metro station.
I recently asked some of my friends on Instagram in a public poll about the best and worst things about living here, and I had to agree with the majority: the damn convenience of the metro line.
I take for granted how connected the suburbs around me have become, and even travelling into the city has become less of a dreaded feeling. Whilst the roads themselves seem built to torment learner drivers (my blood boils remembering the Victoria Road roundabouts), the new swimming pool centre and convenience of shopping choices seem to outweigh the ageing conservative population in my town.
Try these recommendations from a Castle-Hillean herself: try Youeni if you are looking for a bougie plant-based menu for brunch, or Betty’s Burgers for a group dinner. However, if you’re looking for a cute date spot, there is a cute Italian candle-lit restaurant called Modo Mio on the corner of Terminus Street (though it gave my bank account some real damage). Castle Hill may not be as developed and thrilling as Chatswood, but we still have our own entertainment with escape rooms, bowling and, surprisingly, a museum discovery centre.
Castle Hill will always be home to me. Those reminders of driving down my leafy street during Autumn with the golden branches overhead make me grateful I live in a suburb that boasts so many green spaces. Being so close to the Bidjigal bush walk and having friendly visits from brush turkeys has had a huge impact on my identity growing up and influenced my respect and passion for the environment. With a new Green Corridor Plan implemented by the council, I can only hope Castle Hill further balances its development with the sustainability that so many of its residents strive for.
Perhaps you’ve never been to my not-so-quaint suburb Castle Hill. But it’s worth checking out the eateries at Towers and visiting Heritage Park for a picnic. Plus, who can argue with a $12 espresso martini night?