By Katharine Fletcher; Images Eric Fletcher
Whether you want a quiet getaway during the holiday season or an elegant Victorian New Year’s, consider spending a night or two at historic Spruceholme Inn.
Located in the village of Fort Coulonge in West Quebec, it’s less than a two-hour drive from Ottawa. Worries and stresses of the city and work slip away while you drive west on Highway 148. You’ll enjoy arresting views of the Ottawa River as well as glimpses of undulating farmland, prosperous homes and swathes of dark woods.
George Bryson, Sr. was one of the Ottawa Valley’s most successful lumber barons. After building his own estate, he built not one but three stone homes in Fort Coulonge for each of his children. Only one, Spruceholme Inn, is a commercial estabshment. The other two remain as private homes.
Today, Spruceholme offers Victorian elegance in the heart of West Quebec. Not only are the bedrooms tastefully appointed in a manner befitting the Bryson mansion, but there is a fine dining room, too. A piano bar just off the dining room completes the ambiance of ease and rest reminiscent of a traditional English pub. Here you can nurse a pre- or post-dinner drink and chat with your hosts, proprietors Glenn and Marlene Scullion.
They saw the ‘for sale’ sign on the property’s wrought iron fence early in 1996. It got their creative juices flowing and they started dreaming their dreams for the old home. After extensive renovations, the Inn was opened for business in 1997.
One of Spruceholme’s particular delights is that the Scullions convinced the former owners – direct descendants of Bryson – to leave many of the original antiques. Some give a particularly intimate feel to Spruceholme.
This intimacy is notable in the dining room, where photographs of the Brysons adorn the walls, peering down at you as you eat. Your attention is also drawn to the sweeping staircase with its gracious banister. The rise of the staircase is gentle, and you soon find yourself exploring upstairs, amid more antiques.
Not surprisingly, the bedrooms are charming, so perhaps your greatest challenge will be in deciding which one to choose. Because Sir Wilfred Laurier stayed there, we chose the Bryson room. A contemporary of George Bryson, Jr., the two politicians would have had much to talk of into the wee hours of the morning.
All of Spruceholme’s six rooms have ensuite bathrooms and the Bryson’s room is wondrous large. It is a well-lit space that boasts a generous bathtub and roomy shower stall. In fact, it is so spacious that surely any couple can dawdle about quite happily without getting in each other’s way.
And we must not forget the food. Chef Roger Guertin presents a fine selection. We both enjoyed the garlic shrimp, not overcooked – and seasoned to perfection! Desserts – all made from scratch by Marlene – are delicious. As well, this lady somehow manages to rise before her guests and make a light breakfast, with piping hot coffee.
Marlene and Glenn do close for Christmas Eve and Day, but they welcome you throughout the rest of the year. Says Marlene, “We offer a really delightful New Year’s Eve menu and at midnight, we gather around the piano. Glenn plays Auld Lang Syne, and everyone lingers, welcoming in the New Year in an old-fashioned, country style.”