Wandering is defined as trusting to find exactly what you need, when you need it, and it’s no wonder that Ontario’s Highlands beckons you to come wander. Whether you’re looking for adventure or a place to slow down, there’s something for you. If you’re not sure what kind of wanderer you are, take the quiz at ComeWander.ca and find out!
While I can be all over the map (I refer to myself as an all-the-things kind of traveller… because I want to do all of the things, haha!), this trip pegged me as a serenity seeker. Whether you’ve been travelling non-stop for a while like I was in Massachusetts, work life has been crazy, or you’re just feeling burnt out, I promise you’ll feel good as new after a relaxing weekend away in Ontario’s Highlands.
7 in 8 people don’t indulge enough to some spa time. Okay, I totally made that up, but I swear we don’t take enough time to treat ourselves! At Circa 1894, treating yourself is as easy as waking up and stepping outside your door… literally. This adorable bed and breakfast in the heart of Lanark County offers three bedrooms inside as well as two RVs in the warmer seasons. By the bedrooms there’s also a common room with a microwave, kettle and Keurig for guest use. I had the pleasure of staying in the Rose Room which was absolutely perfect. As soon as I stepped in I couldn’t wait to return with Robin in tow!
You won’t just a great night of sleep, but you’ll be starting your day off right. Donna and Cam will whip up an amazing breakfast for you and can accommodate a variety of diets. Their vegan shepherd’s pie is a real treat and it’s super healthy as the recipe helps reduce inflammation! If you’re going to have anything though, I would suggest the Belgian waffle. My mouth is watering as I re-look at this photo. Staying at Circa 1894 also comes with another huge perk… can you guess what it is? I’m sure you have, but I’ll confirm later in the post!
Did you know that Ontario’s Highlands houses a one-of-a-kind museum? Massage your brain muscles and creatively cruise over to the Lanark Highlands Basketry Museum. Curated by Ankaret Dean, it’s the only like it in Canada – and possibly the world! You’ll find a wonderful collection of baskets and other woven artifacts from a variety of wood types. My favourite are the Aboriginal works – their use of decorative pine needles are so intricate!
Ankaret is a fountain of information and you will learn so much from her. Like did you know that in Sweden they didn’t like the shiny side of birch bark like we do here, so they would use a double weave technique to explore the inside of the bark instead? You’ll hear plenty of facts like these as she takes you through the museum. If you’d like to visit yourself, the museum is open 11-3pm on Saturday from May thru October, or by appointment. Want to try your hand at basketry? Sign up for one of Ankaret’s workshops and you’ll also see her in action! The schedule can be found here.
You may hear a little tune coming from across the way, so head up the road to the McDonalds Corners Farmers Market. Hosted at the MERA Schoolhouse, the market happens every Saturday from 9am to 1pm. Here you’ll find a number of local vendors selling handcrafted goods from jewellery to delicious treats. Performances from local artists will also treat your ears as you wander the market!
By now you’ve probably worked up an appetite. I highly suggest treating yourself to a large pizza (because treating yourself also includes upsizing when you normally don’t) cooked to perfection in the local wood stove. Also, if you’re lucky, you might get to meet the local celebrity – Dusty the chicken!
Feeling content with a full stomach? Nurse that food baby by returning back to Circa 1894 and let the treating begin… with some spa time! By staying at Circa 1894, you’ll have access to their amazing spa facilities. Feel your worries wash away while enjoying their two hot tubs, one cold tub, Finnish sauna and two infrared saunas. Just remember the mantra: hot, cold, rest.. and of course, repeat! If you’re panicking because you’re not staying at Circa 1894 and you feel like you’re going to miss out on this amazing gem, never fear! You can book an appointment to enjoy their facilities by the hour.
Circa 1894 is truly unique not just in the exclusiveness of their spa (how often do you get a spa to yourself?!), but in its history. Over the past 2.5 years, Donna and Cam have crafted Circa 1894 into what it is today. The building you stand in was the former United Church of Watson’s Corners. The first year saw numerous renovations to the church, followed by the Sunday School and a 900ft addition this past year. See the bottom right corner of the old church photo? That’s where you’ll eat breakfast now, although it looks a LOT different!
The work Donna and Cam did is absolutely magnificent, not just in sheer beauty but in its environmental significance! Many of the materials used are reclaimed to reduce its impact along with the systems inside. The B&B uses a ‘recover system’ where water from the sink and shower is filtered and reused in all toilets, therefore reducing their septic load by 30% while recycling 100% of their greywater! The ceiling in the B&B common room? Recycled from the Royal Ontario Museum. Many of their furniture and fixtures are also reclaimed! You can read more about how they locally sourced as much as possible during their renovations while enjoying the infrared sauna.
It may be tough to remove yourself from the hot tub, but you’ll need dinner so head down to the adorable town of Perth. This quirkly little town in Ontario’s Highlands offers plenty of delicious choices. It was a tough decision, but East Meets West won the battle. It offers plenty of options not just in culinary selection but also for both carnivores and omnivores alike. Upon arrival it was a little chaotic as the power had gone out, but after a few minutes it luckily came back on! While there are North American, Indian and Italian flavours to choose from, I opted for their Shrimp Korma. Not too spicy with plenty of vegetables as well, it was absolutely delicious! Paired with their samosas it makes for a great dinner choice. You can also sample some of the local beers which they offer on tap. The town of Perth is also known for its arts and culture so grab some tickets to a local show afterwards if the opportunity presents itself!
Return to Circa 1894 for a relaxing night and opt for an early sleep. Why? At Circa 1894, B&B guests have exclusive access to the spa from 8-10am before it opens to the public. I’ll cash in on that, thank you! Who doesn’t want to start their day off with the spa?! In all honesty though, you really need a few trips to the spa to fully enjoy it and the healing qualities it can have. I personally had an awful knot in my left shoulder and by the time I was done at Circa 1894 the pain had melted away. It’s amazing what can happen if you just take some time to unwind!
After one last delicious breakfast and a great chat with Donna and Cam, it’ll be time to bid Circa 1894 farewell. While it’ll be tough, it’s one of those places you know you’ll return! You can opt for a hike on your way home or check out one of the events happening in town. You can even plan your visit around one of them, like Perth’s Garlic Festival which happens during the 2nd weekend in August! Either way, your time in Lanark County will be too short and will leave you wanting more.
Ontario’s Highlands has so much to offer – and this is all in just one of their five regions! With over 23,000km of unspoiled rural territory to explore, it’s a place you’ll have to visit more than once. It’s the perfect destination for a romantic getaway or a girls weekend like it was for Lauren and I. No matter what type of wanderer you are, I’d say we’re all memory makers. Why? Because I have no doubt that you’ll walk away with memories from Ontario’s Highlands that you’ll never forget!
A huge thank you to Ontario’s Highlands for not just hosting me but also for the quick change in plans when Mother Nature decided not to cooperate. Also thanks to Lauren of Justin Plus Lauren for being a fun travel buddy as always! You can read her post about our adventure here! While most of the activities listed were complimentary, all reviews and opinions are my own.
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