There are a few things you learn as a traveller: expect the unexpected and you don’t always have to go far from home to have an amazing new experience.
Recently I ventured less than a hour from Toronto to visit the small, yet surprisingly lovely, Village of Alton in Caledon, Ont. It was the perfect time to go as the fall colours were in full force and it was nice enough weather to hit some local scenic spots you always happen upon in small-town anywhere.
I had planned my weekend getaway to spend one day exploring and the other day to relax and indulge at my accommodations – the Millcroft Inn and Spa. It was the perfect combination of seeing new things, while taking time to pamper myself.
My first stop was Alton Mill Arts Centre, an amazing place that seems to be the town’s centre piece and the place where locals and visitors use as a central hub to meet.
The building itself is historic – it was a functioning mill at one time – but after standing vacant for years, it was transformed into the bustling arts centre it is today. Not only is the building itself architecturally functional and “industrial-chic”, but the surrounding grounds are also full of art and beautiful scenery.
Before heading inside, I spent a lot of time outside enjoying the sculptures placed all over property and taking pictures of the gorgeous scenery. The Mill even has part of the Bruce Trail in its backyard, so I decided to hike a few kilometres into a beautiful forested area before heading into the building.
Once inside, I wasn’t disappointed.
Boasting no less than three-storeys, I spent hours in this place, exploring every room, studio gallery, shop and exhibit on display. About 25 artists call this place home and besides exhibiting and selling their work, many of them offer art classes to the public.
I especially enjoyed the five gallery spaces where I got to see some great paintings, sculpture and photography.
The exhibits are ever-changing and are filled by local and visiting artists alike.
After all that walking around, both indoors and outdoors, I ended off my visit at the Shaw’s Creek Cafe, which is full of specialty coffees and other drinks, and a plethora of homemade seasonal treats.
Although the Millcroft Inn is literally a kilometre from Alton Mills, I had been told about a must-see scenic attraction – the Cheltenham Badlands. This place looks like it had been taken from somewhere far away and dropped off here.
Rolling hills of red rock harkens visitors year-round to this unique site.
Here is brief description about the Badland from the ontariotrails.on.ca website: “The ‘Badlands’ is a geologic term for an area of soft rock devoid of vegetation and soil cover that has become molded into a rolling landscape of rounded hills and gullies. They exhibit the reddish hue of the Queenston shale that forms them; the iron oxide in the shale produces this colour.”
I spent a good 45 minutes walking around and exploring, and of course, taking pictures. This unique Ontario site is definitely worth checking out.
Then it was back to Alton and my accommodations for the night - the historic Millcroft Inn and Spa.
From the stunning grounds, where many a bride has had her wedding photos taken, to the lounge and the cozy restaurant with one section overlooking the Mill Pond and Shaw’s Creek Falls, this place is the perfect combination of cozy and quiet with a touch of rustic elegance.
I stayed at the Manor House, steps away from the main inn, which was once a family home that was transformed into beautiful guest rooms. It had an old farm house feel with modern-day luxuries and French doors that opened to a killer patio, where I enjoyed a complimentary bottle of wine.
My evening plans were simple: relax, then dine in the inn’s award-winning Headwaters Restaurant. The menu is a bit pricey, but staying here is a treat and you have to treat yourself once in a while.
My guest and I dressed up to dine by candlelight, and we enjoyed everything from wild mushrooms and exotic cheeses to vegetarian gnocchi.
After dinner, I enjoyed a relaxing bath in my huge, jetted bathtub and the next morning, I went to get some real pampering at the spa.
I have a lot to share about this experience, but you’ll have to wait for my spa story coming in January.
I can tell you, however, the spa is in a separate building, about a two-minute walk from the main inn and offers a complete wellness centre. It has 17 treatment rooms, a cozy fireplace area and the building also houses the pool and fitness area.
Before heading home, I explored the grounds, camera in tow as you cannot be a bad photographer here or in Alton in general. Everyone I saw had a camera and was snapping away at every piece of gorgeous scenery there is to behold.
If you’ve never checked out this beautiful area in Ontario, don’t feel you have to wait until the summer or fall. This area is open year round and there is a full range of winter activities to enjoy. Whether going on a ski trip, planning a girls’ weekend or are looking to have a romantic weekend getaway, check out Alton, Ont.
Upcoming Alton Mill Arts Centre exhibit
There is always something to do at the Alton Mill Arts Centre, including revolving exhibits in their five galleries. Here is a listing of upcoming events in December:
- Dec. 2, opening reception for “Waterfalls and Wildlife: The Nature Photography of Warren Cartwright at 2 p.m. in the Falls Gallery. The show runs until Dec. 31.
-Dec. 1, back by popular demand, come out and have your professional photo taken with the green, ill-tempered, but beloved Grinch from noon to 4 p.m. The Grinch will be back Dec. 8, 9 and 16 from noon to 4 p.m.
- Dec. 16, the annual production of Dickens, A Christmas Carol by Humber River Shakespeare Company, returns to the Alton Mill Arts Centre from 2 to 5 p.m. Bring the family out to see this poignant and classic tale told by five actors playing 23 characters in Victorian costumes. Tickets are $15 or $10 for children. Visit www.humberrivershakespeare.ca or purchase them at the door. This show sells out yearly.
For more information on Alton and the surrounding areas, visit www.thehillsofheadwaters.com/
Upcoming - Florida road trip Part 2 will be featured in December’s column.
Maria Tzavaras, a freelance writer for the past 12 years, took up travel writing a year ago. She likes learning about new people, places and cultures, which she accomplishing by visiting a far off country or someplace in her own city. Maria also does animal advocacy and rescue. If you have a suggestion for a travel story, email her at email@example.com