Clonmel Estate B&B & Discoveries of St. Jacobs, Port Dover and the Lake Ontario Shoreline

With the weather gods perfectly cooperating, we embarked on another country excursion, a great opportunity to show my European visitors a bit more of Ontario. Despite the fact that Toronto has been experiencing its wettest summer in history, not a cloud was to be seen in the sky, and a great weekend was in store. This would be an excellent occasion for seeing a bit more of Ontario’s countryside.

All sorts of home-made and organic goodies at the St. Jacobs Farmers Market

After an excursion earlier in the week to the Kawartha Lakes Region northeast of Toronto, this time we headed towards southwestern Ontario. Our first stop was in St. Jacobs (the former Jakobsstettel) where we admired the various organic delicacies offered in the Farmer’s Market.

Fresh Ontario produce

Colourful peaches, cherries, zucchini, various vegetables, fresh bread and cured meats were enticing the tastebuds and the camera. Mennonite farmers were displaying their wares, sitting next to their black wooden buggies. St. Jacobs is located in one of the most fertile areas of Canada, and every Saturday more than 600 vendors exhibit all sorts of edible goods as well as crafts, furniture, clothes and many more.

A great outing at the market

From the market we headed into the village of St. Jacobs where we took in fascinating information about the Mennonite Story in the local Visitor Centre. Old Order Mennonites, a conservative branch of the Mennonite Christian church, have been living in Southwestern Ontario for about 200 years now, and similar to Old Order Amish, they live a simple lifestyle that is focused on family and community.

Mennonites are selling their products

A commitment to pacifism is an overriding ideal in the Mennonite community. The St. Jacobs Visitor Centre provides a great introduction to Mennonite history as well as the many international charitable activities and disaster relief campaigns that Mennonite groups are involved in different parts of the world.

A Mennonite choir performs on St. Jacobs’ main street

Following this informative introduction we then visited the Mill and Village Silos which today house five levels of shops, studios and galleries. Even the silos of the mill have been converted into display space. St. Jacobs’ main street also features a variety of specialty stores, cafes, restaurants and ice cream parlours.

Hospitality in St. Jacobs

After a hearty lunch on an outdoor patio we continued on to Cambridge, an important Southwestern Ontario town with impressive 19th century architecture. We admired the various churches and bridges over the Speed River and took in several performances of the Cambridge Folk Festival that was just going on. Then we set off on a drive through tobacco country past the town of Simcoe to arrive at our destination for the night: Port Dover.

Cambridge features beautiful architecture

Located on Lake Erie and formerly a sleepy fishing village, Port Dover has a population of about 6,000 people and over the last few decades has become a popular getaway destination. The waterfront features an attractive pier with a lighthouse, and we enjoyed a leisurely evening meal at Callahan’s Beach House Restaurant on the waterfront.

The light house in Port Dover

Over a traditional dinner of local perch and pickerel we looked out at the sandy beach and were amazed at the palm trees that adorn the waterfront. As darkness set in we almost felt as if we were sitting on a Caribbean beach somewhere. Apparently these tropical trees get planted here every spring after spending the winter safely in a greenhouse.

A beautiful sunset

For the night we retreated to the Clonmel Estate B&B, an impressive mansion with six guest rooms dating back to 1929. Hosts Bob and Connie Lawton graciously welcomed us and treated us to a delicious breakfast the next morning. Freshly baked muffins, scones, fresh fruit and a generous plate of pancakes with a side order of bacon got us ready for a long day of discoveries.

Bob & Connie Lawton

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