For many of us, the chaotic nature of life in the concrete jungle can eventually reach critical mass. Whether it’s a classic case of cubicle fever, or the persistent siege of car horns, emails and calendar updates – we all experience the inevitable need to break free of it – and escape.
Luckily, L&A County offers near limitless potential for travellers seeking a much-needed disconnect from the digital dystopia. Countless opportunities to immerse oneself in the tranquillity that only rural Ontario can provide. Only three hours from Toronto, an hour from Kingston and a short drive from Ottawa – this region is much closer than many realize.
For this second chapter in our series exploring Lennox & Addington County – Heidi and I set course for the enchanting hamlets of Tamworth and Erinsville in Stone Mills Township. Here, we would get a chance to inspire our creative spirits, embrace nature – and experience a taste of life at the edge of The Canadian Shield.
Tasty Pastries in Tamworth
After a scenic drive from Kingston, we cruised our way North along County Road 4 to find ourselves camped-out in The River Bakery & Cafe’s parking lot excitedly waiting for the shop’s 9:00 AM opening. Once the doors were unlocked we stepped into the quaint little café and were instantly charmed with it’s warm and inviting atmosphere.
It was tough to choose which of the delectable looking baked goods we wanted to try, so we put together a sampler platter of sorts. Our bountiful breakfast consisted of a veggie galette which was an indulgent pizza-like food only baked onto a puff pastry crust. We also shared a pair of roulades which resemble a Danish, only, one was stuffed with parmesan and leeks, while the other was filled with spinach and feta cheese.
Last but not least, we also split an amazing baked sausage roll stuffed with smoked jalapeno and cheese pork sausage. Paired with several cups of North Roast Coffee’s Stone Mills Blend, it was a delicious breakfast for fit for the history books.
Taking Some Time to Reflect
To officially kick off our quest, we stopped in at Neville Point Park to stretch our legs, and stand face to face with the natural serenity of Beaver Lake. This is just one of hundreds of lakes in the region – but the unique nature of the point makes this a must see and a great starting point when visiting the area.
With brilliant lakeside views on either side of us, Heidi and I meandered around the park for a quiet walk as a peaceful choir of bird songs, the wind and other organic sounds instantly confirmed that we made it!
Standing by a lake, closing one’s eyes and simply basking in that sweet silence – is an important first-step to successfully escaping the city.
Gone are the gnarly noises of the city, rampant to-do lists and stacking deadlines. In their place is a sensation of complete detachment as the atypical stress points become a fleeting afterthought amid the brilliant calm that only nature can provide.
Echoes of the Past in Erinsville
From Neville Point, we returned to County Road 41 and headed South to Erinsville. There, also sharing the shore of Beaver Lake was a wonderful park-space maintained by local Lions and Rotary Club volunteers. Nearby the park is the Erinsville Rail Station – a fascinating relic of Canada’s industrial revolution.
Once a part of the former Bay of Quinte Railway, (1889-1941) Erinsville was one of six total stations linking communities together and providing a vital economic utility to the developing region.
The park itself is a great place to go for a swim, with a nice gazebo space for picnics, and some lovely gardens to walk through. The view of the lake is incredible and there are several benches and picnic tables where you can sit down, and again take a long look at the amazing natural quality of the surrounding lands.
After our third lap around the path at Lions Park, we had developed a hankering for some lunch so we made the short drive back to Tamworth to seek out some tasty vittles, and explore the village proper.
A Lovely Lunch at The Historic Tamworth Hotel
Standing gloriously on Ottawa Street is the immense and lovingly restored building known as the Tamworth Hotel. Today, this Victorian vision of rustic hospitality houses a consignment shop called Second Time Treasures as well as the eclectic and classical themed Black Cat Café. Wrapping its way around the building’s exterior is a grand patio and veranda on the upper level. Both adorned with brilliant white wooden porch corbels.
As we stepped inside the café, our senses were instantly graced with the amazing aroma of freshly ground coffee and other smells to tempt the taste buds. For lunch, we each had a bowl of roasted cauliflower soup which was a flavourful experience reminiscent of my late grandmother’s recipe book(s). I also enjoyed a Montreal style smoked meat sandwich, while Heidi selected an egg salad sandwich.
The end result was a truly divine dejeuner on the veranda of Tamworth’s storied historic hotel. Absolutely lovely.
That Enchanting Book Shop Though!
After lunch, we decided to take a leisurely stroll throughout Tamworth to get a proper introduction to this charming country village. It was as we were making our way down Concession Street that we noticed folding signs that read: “Book Shop” and had an arrow pointing up Bridge Street East. We followed the signs, which then took us to a wooden fence and stone walkway which led to a lovely red brick house.
Outside the entrance, there was a beautiful little stone wall garden and emerald green yards. As we passed the little garden I noticed something that immediately begged my attention. Situated around an old tree stump was an arrangement of tiny teacups and dishes lovingly placed along the edge of the stump.
Like something from a storybook, this little Tea Party for Fairies was both delightful and derelict, having been lovingly set in place some time ago. I thought it was absolutely adorable and only served to add to the already fantastical charms of the surrounding property. As we stepped through the doorway, we found ourselves in one of the most unique and enchanting bookstores imaginable.
I’m pretty sure we spent the better part of an hour snooping through the shop’s extensive collection, which encompassed everything from antique books, to Canadian literature, history, poetry and of course my personal favourites: science fiction and fantasy. We also had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with the bookshop’s owner Robert Wright.
I have a weakness when it comes to independently owned bookshops – and this “secret” little shop was among the most fascinating I’ve encountered. Before we left, I was already plotting my next trip to Tamworth so I could spend even more time exploring Robert’s impressive and evocative literary treasure vault.
Bon Eco Design: A Creative Community
After prying ourselves away from the Tamworth Bookshop, we made our way back to Addington Street (County Road 4) to check into our lodgings at Bon Eco Suites. Owned and operated by Carolyn Butts and Hans Honegger of the similarly named Bon Eco Design Studio – the suites along with their studio comprise a diverse creative community of sorts where creative professionals, designers and travellers alike can gain access to studio space or lavish accommodations from which to either work, relax or both.
We started with a brief tour of the Bon Eco Design Studio, where Carolyn showed us a wonderful selection of artwork and other products that she has created using 100% repurposed materials. All manner of items from handbags to mirrors and tapestries were on display, all comprising reclaimed components including tires, various fabrics and other resources.
Bon Eco is a versatile creativity hub, its moniker meaning: Good Ecology. Carolyn’s creations are each a brilliant reincarnation or vivid metamorphosis of previously discarded items – transformed into both brilliant works of art and practical items like furniture. Essentially, she takes the idea that “one person’s trash is another’s treasure,” to a whole new dimension.
Lavish Accommodation for Creative Spirits
Our room for the night was entitled The Voyageur which sported an open-concept layout and pleasant urban-futurist motif. The countertops and floors were concrete, and the furniture an interesting mix of classic and improvised. The table, for example, was made from an ornate tabletop fastened to an old truck tire. The table was accompanied by four spinning stool-like seats that were also made from repurposed tires and steel rims.
The brightly lit room featured a three piece bathroom with shower, a full kitchen as well as a French-press for coffee, comfortable seating – and best of all there was no television. Yes, you read that correctly. No TV. In keeping with Bon Eco’s vision of creative reflection and the inspiration provided by the surrounding area – there was no need for it.
I suppose one could use the free WiFi to stream some Netflix or something, but that would essentially defeat the purpose of escaping the technological trifles of urban life, now wouldn’t it? Besides, thanks to our discovery of the Book Shop – we now had plenty to read as we took some time to relax and enjoy our suite.
Upstairs, in the same building, there was another interesting suite. Carolyn told me it was extremely popular with creative professionals – especially writers. The Explorer Suite was a charming apartment facing Main Street, with an equally modernized decor. It had a large table – which was absolutely perfect. I could easily see myself renting it for a week someday, and crushing some mad writing sessions at Bon Eco.
Lakeview Tavern & Restaurant
After spending some time enjoying the comforts of our room – we made our way back to Erinsville for a highly anticipated dinner at the legendary Lakeview Tavern. Not only is this establishment a popular venue for pub-grub and live entertainment, but it’s also a fascinating element of local history.
Since 1878, this iconic and happening lake house has been operated as a tavern. It has had several owners over the past one hundred and forty years but has always remained an elemental component of the region’s social history.
Once inside the Lakeview, it was like teleporting back in time. The shiny chrome and red upholstered stools along the bar screamed the story of every famous roadhouse saloon from the movies, and the tables and seats were the classic pub style furniture you’d expect from an establishment of The Lakeview’s storied tenure.
For those just joining us, Heidi is a venerable burger connoisseur, so I was not surprised when she chose the Inferno Burger. This blissful bounty of French fries and grilled beef came topped with jalapeno peppers, cheddar cheese, deep fried onions and a sassy buffalo-esque hot sauce. It also came with a deep-fried pickle, much to Heidi’s delight.
I decided to keep it real and ordered a pound of crispy and delicious chicken wings that were tossed in a garlic and herb dry rub. Paired with an ice-cold pint of beer, it was a rather appropriate feast of traditional tavern fare.
Basking in The Golden Hour
Once we had settled-up at The Lakeview, Heidi and I decided to take a short drive North, along County Road 41. Throughout our first day, the skies were grey and overcast, which seems to be something of a trend with our various trips. Heidi wanted to find a spot to shoot some photos of the sunset, thinking that the clouds would display some brilliant colour combinations.
It wasn’t long before the cloud cover began to break, revealing a fantastic inferno of light as dusk made its arrival. We found a safe spot to pull off the road, and got out of the car near a picturesque cattle pasture – and witnessed a truly captivating sunset, the likes of which were the very definition of “#NaturallyLA.”
The beautiful way that the grass danced in the glow of the setting sun. The sound of birds, crickets and the occasional moo from the growing group of cows who were staring at us – likely pondering just what the heck these two people were doing. There was an astounding abundance of peace all around us. It was a level of calm that can only exist out here – well away from the city.
As we crawled and crouched at the shoulder of the road, and throughout the ditch, shooting photos, I heard an approaching truck apply its brakes and pull to a stop.
A man’s voice called out from the vehicle. “Hey, are you guys ok? You good?”
“Yeah, we’re fine thanks,” Heidi replied. “We just had to stop and appreciate this sunset.”
The gentleman glanced at the glorious scene spread out before us and chuckled to himself. “You know, we just bought a farm out here, for this exact reason.” He remarked, before wishing us both a good evening and driving off into the proverbial sunset.
Standing Upon The Infinite’s Precipice
The overcast skies throughout the day had cast serious doubt on our goal to shoot some photos at the Lennox & Addington Dark Sky Viewing Area. The clear dark sky forecast looked rather bleak and by nightfall, I had sent a message to my counterparts at L&A County that it was a no-go. We’d have to aim for the following night.
Instead, we had spent a portion of the evening visiting with Carolyn and Hans at their home – and sharing in some fascinating conversation over coffee which was fantastic. In fact, I could write an entire article about Bon Eco in its entirety, but that’s a story for another time.
As we walked back to our suite we casually glanced toward the skies, only to realize that the clouds had completely split apart, and were for the most part completely gone. What an amazing surprise! With absolute glee, we raced back to our room and set to work gearing up for some epic dark sky viewing!
It was only a 12-minute drive from Bon Eco Suites to the L&A Dark Sky Viewing Area – and by the time we arrived, we were standing beneath an astonishingly clear and moonless night. The site itself has plenty of parking and sports a large concrete pad making telescope or camera setup a snap. Being the most Southerly point with a proper dark sky viewing area, this is a place where you can see the cosmos as they were meant to be seen.
It’s important to note that you should make sure you bring flashlights because if you arrive after dark you’ll have trouble finding your way around. There are no street lamps or lights on-site, hence the dark sky part. It’s considered proper etiquette to be mindful of where you’re shining your flashlight, (at the ground is best) so as not to disturb anyone who may already be enjoying the view or shooting photography.
After a day spent soaking in the terrestrial beauty of L&A County, it was only fitting to accompany it with a viewing of this celestial spectacle from the dark sky viewing area. I have always found that stargazing, with or without a telescope is an effective way to quiet the mind and gain some raw perspective. I always feel grounded when faced with the awe-inspiring and immense magnitude of the cosmos.
The #Unspoiled Beauty of Sheffield Conservation Area
Despite our late night stargazing session, we managed to get up bright and early the next day. There was barely a cloud in the sky and the sun was shining in all its glory. After packing up our things and eating a quick breakfast consisting of some leftover goodies from the River Bakery.
Earlier that morning, Heidi went for a walk and stopped to pick up some fresh coffee at the nearby A1 Corner Restaurant & Variety. After our makeshift breakfast, we made our way North once again, to Sheffield Conservation Area.
While the previous day was overcast, yet beautiful – this new day was truly glorious. There was nigh a cloud above as made the short drive back to Sheffield. First, we returned to the L&A Dark Sky Viewing Area to get a good look at it during daylight.
The shape and dimensions of the platform exquisitely pay homage to the natural lay of the land – hugging the edges of nearby exposed Precambrian rocks that embrace the pad. These granite geological features are some of the oldest on this planet. Also set within the pad is a black raven, which points to astrological North.
After our review of the observation platform, we took another short drive North, to the conservation area’s entrance – for a scenic hike along some gorgeous trails starting at Little Mellon Lake. The trail itself sports some rather challenging and variable terrain that is recommended for avid or experienced hikers.
This was one of the more advanced trails that we’ve hiked so far and traversed some truly primordial landscapes featuring exposed granite outcroppings as you make your way throughout lush forested areas and picturesque wetlands. At one point, early on in the hike, we came to a panoramic lookout area with a splendid view of Little Mellon Lake.
Sheffield’s visually stunning hiking trail certainly belongs on any experienced hiker and outdoor enthusiast’s list. It’s a diverse and engaging trail with some top-notch photo opportunities. By the time we wrapped up our hike, we were getting hungry so we returned to the Village of Tamworth once more, to enjoy some lunch before making our way home.
Delicious Delights at The Devon Cafe
To add a delicious end to our inspiring excursion, Heidi and I stopped in at the Devon Café and Five Corners Craft Market. This quaint little café prides itself on offering “small country prices, with big city choice” and delivers on that statement in spades. The dining area is bright, warm and inviting with a classical decor.
My favourite decoration was a framed sign that read: “We don’t have WiFi. Talk to each other!”
The menu is filled with tempting choices, each selection made with an equal amount of love, using tried and true homemade techniques. I selected the Reuben Sandwich which came piled high with succulent smoked meat, sauerkraut melted cheese and mustard on rye. I also enjoyed a side Caesar salad – which was fantastic. The lettuce was crisp and fresh, and the dressing had a down-home flavour that paired quite well with the sandwich.
Heidi had a traditional BLT sandwich and a bowl of cream of cauliflower soup. I wasn’t sure how she could handle a hot bowl of soup after a particularly warm jaunt through nature – but she is something a superhuman after all. Heidi said that the soup was excellent, and we both agreed that this lunch really hit the spot after a solid morning of hiking at Sheffield.
Discover Inspiration at Every Turn
I can say with absolute certainty that the most difficult aspect of our trip – was prying ourselves away. Between peaceful lakeside views, inspirational discoveries, breathtaking scenery, delicious food and amazing people – this trip was an unforgettable experience that touched on all the core senses.
Knowing that this tranquil destination is so close to home, we can’t wait until our next adventure in Lennox & Addington County.
Thanks for reading! If you’ve been inspired by this story, check out the handy Google Map below – and start planning your own inspiring escape! There is a world of opportunity waiting for you in L&A County, and we hope you come visit soon!