With a rich farming heritage and an enduring “homemade” culture in food and crafts, Lanark offers daytrippers great opportunities to bring home a piece of the County. Enjoy the sweetness of one of densest collections of maple farms in Ontario, pick up the ingredients for a good charcuterie plate, stroll through an unusual outdoor art gallery, tour historic mills (once the centre of community industry), or purchase a piece of local artwork.
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 handmade sweaters, quilts, and all things knitted.
Carleton Place considers itself the wool headquarters of Ontario. It is home to the head office of the Canadian Wool Growers Co-operative where a million kilograms of wool are graded annually. The co-op also operates the Real Wool Shop on Franktown Road selling yarns and wools.
Perth is home to a few good wool shops as well (including The Mill Store and The Knitting Studio) and some older mills that have been converted into restaurants and coffee shops (such as Coutts and Company). The beautifully restored Code Felt Mil is now home to Fiddleheads Bar and Grill.
There are several special events in Lanark that celebrate this special relationship with fabric, wool, and textiles: Carlton Place’s Lambs Down Park Festival is held in mid-June and Almonte’s Fibrefest is held in early September.
Lanark’s restaurant kitchens and culinary artisans make use of the county’s agricultural abundance to create hardy staples, perfect for creating a top-notch brunch or impressive cheeseboard.
Lanark County has one of the highest concentrations of sugar bush farms in Eastern Canada. Three of the best places to scarf down some hot pancakes drizzled with the sweet stuff are Wheeler’s Fulton’s, and Temple’s Sugar Bushes and Pancake Houses, all located within a few minutes’ drive of one another. Wheeler’s has a maple syrup museum and kids’ playground, Temple’s has two sugar bushes to tour, and Fulton’s has a maple shop which even has maple syrup body products.
Balderson Village Cheese Store sits on the site of the original, nineteenth century village cheese factory (10 minutes north of Perth). Although well-known for its aged cheddars, the store also sells gourmet food stuffs (such as locally made Mrs. McGarrigle’s mustards) and a variety of other Ontario fromage, including Ivanhoe, St-Albert, Maple Dale, and Black River Cheeses.
The popularity of organic farming, gluten-free baking, and no-yeast breads continues to grow. Just west of Perth, Little Stream Bakery uses stone-ground flour (ground on the premises), deep well water, unrefined salt, sourdough culture, and organically grown grains to create bread and rustic pasties in their woodfired oven. They also offer glutenfree options, using ingredients such as hemp and rice flour, as well as vegan treats, including apple turnovers.
In Perth, you can see the wide range of Lanark artwork at Riverguild Fine Crafts – a long-standing cooperative gallery featuring the work of 15 local artists and 60 consignment artists from across Canada. Salt-glazed pottery, batik artwork, leather goods, wood carving, weaving, cooperative games, landscape art quilts, and pewter lanterns are just a few of the media found here.
The last weekend in March, enjoy the Maple Run Studio Tour. Visit artist studios and indulge in sweet maple treats in the Pakenham area. The 10 stops include a trip to a pancake house, North America’s only surviving fivespan bridge, and the longest-running general store. Visit Lanark. There really is something for the whole family.