Markham House B&B: Chronicles of a Weekend Escape to Narnia from Vancouver BC

This Bed & Breakfast near Sooke is half a day from Vancouver.  Markham House, a country manor near the sea  furnished with antiques, carved wood furniture and wardrobes, is another world for a holiday in 2012.
This Bed & Breakfast near Sooke is half a day from Vancouver. Markham House, a country manor near the sea furnished with antiques, carved wood furniture and wardrobes, is another world for a holiday in 2012. | Source
A comfortable B & B at Sooke, Honeysuckle Cottage with private patio and hot tub is a retreat for a honeymoon, annniversary or event with someone special.  Cook at home in the fitted kitchen or dine in Victoria or at nearby Sooke Harbour House.
A comfortable B & B at Sooke, Honeysuckle Cottage with private patio and hot tub is a retreat for a honeymoon, annniversary or event with someone special. Cook at home in the fitted kitchen or dine in Victoria or at nearby Sooke Harbour House.
Gardens and orchards extend to the temperate rainforest at the 10-acre property's edge.  The climate of this part of Vancouver Island is similar to the the south of England.
Gardens and orchards extend to the temperate rainforest at the 10-acre property's edge. The climate of this part of Vancouver Island is similar to the the south of England.
Aluminum in the soil makes hydrangeas blue.
Aluminum in the soil makes hydrangeas blue. | Source
Liatris and heather in the purple border surround the putting green for visiting golfers at this hotel near Victoria, Canada.
Liatris and heather in the purple border surround the putting green for visiting golfers at this hotel near Victoria, Canada. | Source



Heavy rain filmed the windshield. As dusk deepened, the rain forest on either side of the narrow highway 14 neared. The wipers on highest speed barely cleared the glass for us to peer out, searching for the sign. Behind us, a caterpillar of cars crept homeward.

This is the rainforest, where the west coast of Vancouver Island meets Juan de Fuca Strait. We had come from Vancouver, BC for a weekend to Sooke. A long time ago my friend Lynn, who had been working as a nurse at Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife, had told me how she loved the feel of this place, the verdure, the moss on the trees, the year-long growing season. In the depths of Northwest Territories' winter as we spun yarns of what we would do once we left the gelid nights of the northern lights, she had spoken of this place, her words a seed in my mind that I was harvesting now, thirty years later.

The blue rectangular B & B sign appeared. We eased left onto gravel and followed Connie Road uphill for a short distance. Above us barely visible mountains vanished and appeared in swathes of cloud. Through the wooden gates of Markham House we followed the forest road past the orchard and the greenhouse. The glow of coloured Christmas lights on the dormant vines of honeysuckle warmed the darkness.

Earlier in the afternoon we had found the place and turned in on impulse. A phone call an hour before canceling tonight's reservation had left the place free for us, Our hostess Sally Markham had shown us around the one-bedroom Honeysuckle Cottage with wooden floors, an iron stove for winter heat, a couch for a third bed, a snug bathroom and a cupboard that opened to reveal a microwave, kettle, sink, dishes and whatever you might need to prepare a snack or simple meal. My daughter and I were on the road that weekend for a birthday present, a trip to give my daughter, new to driving, some road experience on the highways and ferries of coastal British Columbia. My eyes met hers in conference, but I didn't need conversation to confirm that the magic of the place held her in thrall as well.

"Do you want to stay here tonight?" I asked her. She nodded, speechless, barely containing her delight.

After settling in we drove the 30 minute trip to Victoria for sightseeing and dinner, then returned home eagerly in rainy darkness to our Honeysuckle Cottage.

In 5 minutes, changed into our bathing suits and fluffy terry robes that came with the room, we were kneeling once again on the porch, heaving the cover off the Jacuzzi. Despite the drizzle, fog and mid-September temperatures, the hot tub held a snug 104 degrees. Bath-warm water immersed us as we settled in.

Above us pines and Douglas firs towered, still and reverent in the fall darkness. Beyond the deer fence, they grew thickly up the slope of the hillside to the high horizon. I sipped Chardonnay and watched wafts of steam dissolve into fingers of fog from the forest. We floated.

Later, in the tiny perfect kitchen that opened up inside a cabinet like the wardrobe of Narnia,we made hot drinks and popcorn, then settled under blankets for a movie picked from the selection of about 20 available for guests to run.

Hot showers, a feather comforter on an exquisitely comfortable bed, and the sound of rain on the leaves and eaves outside brought a sound sleep.

In the morning garden, I followed a small brown rabbit to an orchard fruitful with tart small apples and orange plums, where cedar-lath arbours trailed tendrils of grape. In the border near the putting green, scarlet and yellow begonias rampaged at the feet of a stone lion whose left paw was raised like Buddha in a mudra of blessing. Near a pond with reeds and an island, the brown rabbit hopped away for cover. The pond was more than decorative, for in the country like this, on well and septic system and away from city water, the property's pond provided for fire safety, where the pumpers could find a water supply.

Leaving the 10-acre garden, I wandered through the main house, furnished with antiques, wooden stairs and banisters, with views of the colourful borders from every window. TheTudor style house has 3 guest bedrooms, all with private or ensuite bathrooms.

We ate breakfast on English Staffordshire china with pale green napkins--delivered in a picnic basket at 9:30--granola, scones, butter, jam, fruit salad, and later blueberry pancakes with bacon, "if you like," Lyall asked us when he delivered the picnic basket. We liked.

We felt like daughters of Eve in a faun’s cottage.

After breakfast we drove to the shore at low tide, drawn by the smell of salt flats and seaweed to walk out Whiffen Spit and watch sailboats tack off the harbour of Victoria. Bicyclists could follow the Galloping Goose Bike Trail from Victoria to Sooke for a weekend getaway, less than a two-hour trip.

Nearby restaurants include the award winning Sooke Harbour House. It was closed during our visit in late September, but summer visitors might want to check it out.

We left Sooke around 1 and caught the 4 pm ferry from Swartz Bay to Tsawassen, then drove through the Lower Mainland and reached home near Vancouver before 7. There are also ferries between Port Angeles, Washington and Victoria for travellers who want to explore the scenic Olympic peninsula or visit the Twilight town of Forks, Washington. We left that trip for another day, but, in the words of Robert Frost, knowing "how way leads on to way," I wondered if we would ever be back. We need to make it soon, for now Markham House is for sale. Sally and Lyall want to leave Vancouver Island and relocate closer to their growing grandchildren, and who would blame them for succumbiing to the lure of that spell?


References: Frost, Robert. "The Road Not Taken."

Honeysuckle cottage interior
Honeysuckle cottage interior | Source
Honeysuckle cottage has a private patio and hot tub for breakfast outside on fine days.
Honeysuckle cottage has a private patio and hot tub for breakfast outside on fine days. | Source

Comments 11 comments

sean kinn profile image

sean kinn 5 years ago from Key West and Budapest

I visited Victoria two Novembers ago. We took the ferry from Seattle across the Sound while I was doing a job search at Ft. Lewis. Victorians (is that correct?) were incredibly hip, and it was one of the most beautiful places I've visited on the planet to date. Somehow, the UK managed to reach across the Atlantic and North America to place itself on our West Coast. Had tea at the Empress. Incredible. :-)


wilderness profile image

wilderness 4 years ago from Boise, Idaho

We spent a week near Victoria in a beautiful lodge, but I would take this B&B any day. If we ever return, you can bet we'll make a tall effort to find this one.


Janis Goad profile image

Janis Goad 4 years ago Author

It's such a beautiful B&B in a gorgeous location. You would have a wonderful anniversary weekend there, or just a vacation. Hope you can make it one day.


GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

What a magical discovery, enchanting and so beautiful, thank you. I'm making a note of this on Pinterest so I will find it - if and when I ever get to that part of the world which has always been my dream.

My grandmother's maiden name was Markham. I wonder if she and Sally are related?


Janis Goad profile image

Janis Goad 4 years ago Author

Where did your grandmother live? I will send Sally and Lyle an email and ask, if you like. Sally is very interested in alternative healing and reflexology--I think she practiced professionally for years before she and Lyle "retired" to run Markham House B & B. Lyle has been in hotel management for his career--managed hotels in the Caribbean and Moontreal. They both speak with English accents, so I know they grew up there, not in Canada. They could be cousins to you somehow. Wouldn't that be wonderful?


innerspin profile image

innerspin 4 years ago from uk

I'm sitting here sighing with nostalgia. We had a perfect few days at East Sooke a while back. This B&B sounds bliss, I hope it now has new owners to take good care of it, and it's visitors. Thanks for sharing your lovely memories.


Janis Goad profile image

Janis Goad 4 years ago Author

Where did you stay in East Sooke? I love that part of the island.

Markham House B&B is still for sale, and Sally and Lyle are still there. I hope you can get back soon.


savingkathy profile image

savingkathy 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

It sounds like you and your daughter had a wonderful, magical experience. Thanks for sharing it with us!


innerspin profile image

innerspin 4 years ago from uk

We stayed in a private rental property called Rumakita, just along from Aylard Farm. Fabulous. It's since been sold. So the B&B is still available........off to buy a lottery ticket! The house looks sort of familiar, we drove around the whole area a lot, it was so lovely.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 4 years ago from malang-indonesia

Beautiful and I love all the pictures above. Thanks for writing and share with us. Voted up!

Prasetio


Janis Goad profile image

Janis Goad 4 years ago Author

innerspin, I just looked up Rumakita and Aylard Farm--they are so close to Connie Road. Next time we stay at Markham House, I will do a trail in East Sooke Regional Park at Aylard Farm. There is so much history in the region, and the temperate rainforest is amazing, wreathed in spanish moss and smelling of mould and humus. Thanks for the comments and tips!

Praesetio30, thanks for visiting. I hope you get to visit the region one day.

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