Pub of the Week: Make a whistle stop at the Wellshot Hotel

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It’s a classic story: Jo Scott loved the pub so much she bought it. Born and bred in Ilfracombe, near Longreach in western Queensland, Jo started working in the Wellshot Hotel as a kitchen hand when she was 16. Today, she’s the proud owner of the pub she practically grew up in.

“After I left and went away to college, I would come back on the train, get off and go straight to the pub to work behind the bar,” she laughs. “I just love it; it has never been just a job for me, even though it is hard work.”

Ilfracombe’s only pub, the Wellshot Hotel started life on a small railway siding west of Anakie called Withersfield, but as the railway line was being built, the pub’s enterprising owner Paddy Finn decided to move it west along the line as it progressed. He dismantled it and moved it to Barcaldine where it stood for about 10 years before once again being shifted by bullock cart to Ilfracombe, where it became the Wellshot.

That was in 1890. There were five pubs in the town at that time, but the Wellshot is the only survivor. It is named after Wellshot Station – the largest sheep station in the world at the time. And strangely, despite being 650 kilometres from the Queensland coast, Ilfracombe was named after a little seaside village in England.

The train still comes through the town, but these days it’s Queensland Rail’s Spirit of the Outback making its run from Brisbane and Rockhampton to Longreach twice a week in each direction, stopping at Ilfracombe to pick up or drop off passengers. It’s a brief stop, not like days past when Jo recalls that the passengers would hop off for a dash to the pub for a quick beer while the train was in the station.

If you’re driving, you’ll find it’s an interesting approach to Ilfracombe. The road through the town is lined with tractors, wool wagons, steam engines, horse-drawn sulkies, wool bailers, earthmoving machinery, harvesters – a display that shows the evolution of transport and farming machinery in Queensland’s outback. The locals call it the ‘Machinery Mile’.

The main feature of the pub is the bar made from an old opened-out timber wool press. Like a lot of outback watering holes it’s also chock-a-block with memorabilia – a wool press table filled with fine merino wool, early photographs, money hanging from the ceiling and a big collection of hats around the top of the bar. Take a minute or two to read ‘The Wellshot and the Bush Pub’s Hall of Fame’ poem inscribed on one of the walls.

Country-style pub meals are served daily, and for those who’d like to stay, there are seven air-conditioned hotel rooms (single, double, twin and family options) that open onto a bush verandah.