Perth has been called “Ontario’s prettiest town” by TV Ontario. Not only does it have wonderful heritage architecture, but the picturesque Tay River runs right through the middle of town and even creates two islands. On the first evening of our outing to Perth we had dinner at the Stone Cellar, which is located in a beautiful heritage building. Our dinner menu was fabulous: crispy tortilla with avocado goat cheese cream & pan seared chicken, fresh warm rolls with shallot butter, roasted mushroom soup, crab cakes with a horseradish mayo and roasted red pepper sauce, baked brie with a wildberry compote and wild coho with roasted tomato sauce served with Bhutanese rice and fresh vegetables. (And no, I did not eat all this by myself) The
culinary offering was impressive.
In my quest for discovering more of the hidden gems of Ontario, another destination popped up: Eastern Ontario, an area I had never really explored much before. After some research and input from my friend Bonnie, a local expert, I decided on a visit to Perth and Smith Falls. So in the evening of July 18 I arrived in Perth, a gorgeous and historic town about 80 km southwest of Ottawa. Perth is renowned for its stone architecture that was created by Scottish immigrants in the early to mid 1800s.
On July 19 we set off on our explorations of Perth and surrounding Lanark County.
Our first stop was Tay River Reflections, a medical spa and fitness centre that was created by Dr. Manuela Joannou who is an active emergency physician and family doctor. Dr. Joannou has long been passionate about helping others achieve optimum health and well being. Her centre offers relaxing spa treatments and state-of-the-art anti-aging technologies as well as a large gym and fitness centre with a walking track and top notch equipment. Fitness classes, nutritional counseling, physiotherapy and massage therapy services are available on site and guests can even take advantage of the walking paths on the scenic riverfront property of Tay River Reflections. People travel here from far and wide to improve their physical and mental well-being.
After Balderson Village we drove back into Perth to witness the Stewart Park Festival. Held in beautiful Steward Park next to the picturesque Tay River for the 23rd year in a row, this weekend-long festival showcases more than 30 outdoor co…ncerts by an eclectic collection of Canadian and international musicians. The official Perth Town Crier (in real life Brent McLaren) opened the festival and enlightened me about the important role of the town crier who is a true ambassador for the historic community of Perth.
Our next stop was back on Gore Street, Perth’s main thoroughfare, to see more of the merchants who make this town such a popular shopping destination. We went into the Riverguild Fine Crafts store, a cooperative art gallery that was opened in 1977 by a group of local artists. Fine Artist Franc Van Oort who specializes in etchings, showed us through the store where you can find fiber art, jewellery, woodwork, clay and leather goods, fine art, paper crafts, metal work, glassware and other artistic creations by more than 70 different artists. What a great place to shop for unique gifts!
After our walk on July 19 walk on Perth’s main street we made a stop at O’Reilly’s Ale House, a popular watering hole in the heart of town. Housed in a historic mansion from 1848, this pub features nicely priced pub fare that is made from locally sourced ingredients. There is live music several days a week and a great patio outside with a view of the Old Fire Hall tower. During our visit I even had a chance to talk to Mayor John Fenik who was taking a short break from his duties at the Stewart Park Festival. He took the time to provide me with a brief overview of his heritage community. And finally, we got to sample several of the craft beers that O’Reilly’s has on tap.
In the afternoon we visited Sweet & Savoury Traditions, a small eatery that features fresh home-made meals for takeout as well as an assortment of sweets and pastries. Then we stopped at some of the famous heritage buildings of Perth which include the 1842 County Court House, a stone cottage named Inge-Va that dates back to 1824 as well as the 1855 tower of the Old Fire Hall where fire hoses were hung up to dry. Perth has one of the most outstanding early 19th century architecture collections in Ontario. Finally, I also had a chance to meet Mike Brown, one of Perth’s celebrities: Mike is an Olympian championship swimmer who is about to head off to law school soon. He won gold at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia, and is one of numerous Olympians that this small town has produced.
Continuing with our heritage tour of Perth, we made a stop in the most well-known historic building in town: the Perth Town Hall. This magnificent Neo-classical structure was built in 1863 from local sandstone. Today it is a National Historic Site and houses the municipal offices. The Perth Town Hall is also home to the Perth Citizens Band, Canada’s Oldest Town Band that was founded in 1852. The band meets at the town hall every Tuesday night for rehearsal and has a wide repertoire that stretches from Classical music by Mozart to Swing, the Beatles, Broadway music and contemporary works. One of the most famous appearances of the Perth Citizens Band was in 1893 when Perth sent the “Big Cheese”, a gigantic 11
ton piece of cheddar to the Chicago World’s Fair. Made from the milk of 10,000 cows, the Big Cheese was to promote the Canadian cheese industry.
In the afternoon I took a tour of the Best Western Plus Hotel where we were staying. The hotel has a central location in Perth and overlooks the scenic Tay River. The hotel itself is only a few years old and is equipped with all the latest amenities, including conference facilities, the Parkside Spa as well as stylishly designed hotel rooms. And the two ladies at the front are always ready to assist with a helpful smile. This hotel hosts many corporate travelers, wedding parties as well as people in search of a relaxing getaway in “Ontario’s prettiest town”.
On July 19, 2013, as part of our discoveries in Perth Ontario, we visited Stewart Park, a scenic park right in the middle of town that is bisected by the picturesque Tay River. Stewart Park is one of the Seven Wonders of Lanark County and home to various special events and festivals. This particular weekend it was hosting the 23rd edition of Perth’s Stewart Park Festival which featured free concerts by more than 30 different musicians and musical groups. The park is also a popular destination for wedding photographers.
Here are some evening images of historic Perth, Ontario. They show some of the heritage architecture of this pretty town as well as the box office of the Classic Theatre Festival, the professional theatre company in Perth that presents class hits from the Golden Age of Broadway and the London Stage. The current playbill features “The Star-Spangled Girl” by Neil Simon
In the evening we went for dinner to Fiddleheads Bar & Grill which is located in the beautifully restored Code’s Mill Building, one of Perth’s outstanding architectural heritage sites. The mill has a gorgeous interior courtyard, which is often used for weddings, and houses this restaurant as well as a café and other businesses. Dinner was great and included Escargot Pizza Strips (yummy), Breaded Zucchini Strips, Guiness Beer Gravy Poutine (sinful yet scrumptious), Cesar Salad, fresh berries with whipped cream and a crème brulée.
After breakfast we made a stop at one of Perth’s most photographed monuments: the sculpture of Ian Millar, a 10 times Olympic show jumper, and his horse Big Ben. Together, this show jumping team won the Show Jumping World Cup two years in a row as well as 40 Grand Prix titles. They also won two gold medals at the Pan American Games and represented Canada in more than 30 Nation’s Cups. Right next to historic Codes Mill beside the Tay River, a beautiful bronze monument has been erected as a tribute to Ian Millar’s and Big Ben’s outstanding achievements.
Gorgeous weather greeted us on July 20, 2013 for our second full day of sight-seeing in Perth. We started the day at the Masonry Restaurant & Market, a rather new eatery that specializes in
breakfast and lunch as well as high-quality takeout food from the market. Owner Kyle Woods and his team focus on “simple food kept simple” and everything is made from scratch with local ingredients. Our tasty breakfast include some of the Masonry’s signature dishes: Eggs Benedict on a cheddar & chive biscuit, and the Breakfast Flatbread, featuring poached eggs with walnut basil pesto, grilled asparagus and tomato chow, accompanied by a fresh fruit salad.
Our next stop was at the Perth Farmers’ Market which is held every Saturday morning
at the Crystal Palace next to the scenic Tay River Basin. The Crystal Palace, a large metal and glass pavilion, is actually a former bus shelter that was brought in from Ottawa. It holds special events during
spring, summer and fall and on this day it featured some live concerts as part of the Stewart Park Festival. At the Perth Farmers’ Market you can purchase all sorts of fresh local produce, fruits, flowers, pies, meat, eggs and preserves as well as locally made crafts.