So many Ontario communities are searching for the right lure for visitors. Lanark County has taken such a refreshing approach to this challenge that this beautiful region is a perfect case study for the face of modern tourism.
No glitzy developments or manufactured fun here. Lanark is a community committed to being itself. It is a place that cherishes its own landscape and history, naturally creating tourist attractions and activities that are unique and genuine. Many of these attractions are top-notch and are all based on a deep sense of history and a rugged, quintessentially Ontario landscape. With a location that puts most of the county within 45 minutes of Ottawa, it is hard to imagine a more rewarding destination for day trips or long-weekend getaways.
Lanark’s past blends with its present with its pride in its Made in Lanark bounty. Ontario has its own mighty Mississippi River, and its power was harnessed to make Lanark County the engine of a vigorous textile industry. Although mills and textile factories were an important source of employment and commerce for over 150 years, the last one closed in 1989. The industry leaves behind a legacy of charming towns and a penchant for fabric creations and all things knitted. Beyond textiles, Lanark has long been home to skilled artisans, farmers, and manufacturers of great products found on the shelves and tables across Ontario, from maple syrup to Mrs. McGarrigle’s Fine Mustard.
Today, there is a wave of youth returning to this county’s small villages. With them, come new ideas about farm-to-table cuisine, artisan craftsmanship and reclaiming salvage for resale and repurposing old buildings into the building blocks of a modern tourism industry.
Village Hopping in Lanark
One of the best parts of getting out of the city is experiencing the joys of small-town life – easy parking, no traffic, bucolic views, friendly shopkeepers and affordable prices. Lanark is one of the easiest counties to “village hop,” since highways 7 and 15 form a loop that makes it possible to visit several of the main attractions in a day. So pack up your car for an old-fashioned drive in the country, complete with Canadian Shield scenery along the way.
In the north county, you have the hills of Pakenham, with its landscape reminiscent of an English village. Country cottages and churches are spread across green fields and a five-span stone bridge passes over the Mississippi. Just to the south, Almonte has experienced a complete renewal in recent years, as artists and locavores have turned this village into a day trip all on its own, filled with one-of-a-kind shopping, restored mills, and memorable food. Nearby Carleton Place boasts one of the most beautiful town halls in the province. This majestic nineteenth-century stone hall has skyward-reaching turrets and a bell tower visible from nearly everywhere in town. For those with an interest in Eastern Ontario’s history, you can explore the engineering feat of the Rideau Canal in Smiths Falls, with its Bascule Bridge and locks. In Perth – also known as stone town – you’ll not only find great architecture, but a gateway to several local natural wonders including a provincial park and a great hike.
Day Trips Made for You
This picturesque county has some-thing for everyone, from handsome stone villages to wholesome country fairs, to outdoor adventures.
It won’t take long to unwind once you arrive in Lanark. Exploring the backroads and countryside of rural Ontario provides a rewarding opportunity in itself. The hidden gems found in the villages and towns of Lanark make for great memories to share with friends when you get home. You’ll make them jealous they didn’t come along for the ride for a taste of authentic Ontario.
Caitlin Carpenter is a travel writer with Days Out Ontario (www.daysoutontario.com), a trip planning website and travel blog.