Merrickville, Ontario Canada: 19th Century English Village Perfection
I just love hopping in my car and exploring somewhere new, especially when it leads me to little, off the beaten path villages like Merrickville, Ontario Canada. Only an hour away from Canada's capital city, words simply can't describe how picturesque Merrickville is. As one of the best preserved 19th century English settlements in Canada, it has become a favored weekend getaway for people from far and wide. (Honestly, if I could ram Merrickville into a snow globe and take it home with me I would.)
Situated along the Rideau Canal, which was declared a world Heritage site in 2007, Merrickville is brimming with quaint shops, historic homes, gorgeous gardens and wonderful restaurants. It certainly lives up to the title Jewel of the Rideau. Oh, and Merrickville may have the best fudge I have ever tasted!
- Merrickville-Wolford Jewel of the Rideau
Having officially been dubbed Canada's Most Beautiful Village by Communities in Bloom, and with more designated heritage buildings than any other Onta...
Merrickville, a Village Forgotten
Merrickville got it's humble start in 1760 by it's namesake William Merrick when he received a Crown grant to build a sawmill in the area. In time a community grew around it and it became known as Merrick's Mills.
By the early 1800s the community had grown adding a number of businesses, taverns and hotels. And then experienced yet another serge of growth in 1832 when the Rideau Canal was officially opened. In the early 1860s the town was incorporated and it's name was changed to Merrickville after it's founder.
Sadly, in the 1880's transportation shifted from the waterways to rail and almost all activity and growth stopped in Merrickville. As a result, for the next hundred years Merrickville lay dormant and ignored. This is now considered a blessing to residents and visitors alike as this lull allowed the village to be untouched by industrialization and served to preserve Merrickville's unique character and architecture.
Today the historic buildings and canal in Merrickville provide us with a wonderful glimpse of the past.
Where to Shop in Merrickville
Merrickville’s main street is absolutely teaming with lovely, little shops and boutiques that sell everything from hand blown glass ornaments to artwork and pine furniture. Many housed in historic stone buildings. People make the trip to Merrickville from all over for the homemade fudge made at Country Bumpkins. (It’s ridiculously good, like angels crying on your tongue good. Maybe it's because it's made by a one armed man.) And for some reason it really appeals to bikers. I have yet to figure out the connection between bikers and fudge, but when I do I’ll let you know.
Oh and then there’s the mustard. Merrickville makes the most wonderful mustard too. Mrs. McGarrigle’s Fine Foods is the epicenter of all mustard awesomeness and it’s all done by hand. It's actually won awards, (who knew there were mustard awards?) The Oktoberfest mustard is my fav, and my husband enjoys having his socks blown off by the wasabi mustard.
If fudge and mustard aren't quite what you're looking for, why not check out the whimsical Gothic wonderfulness that is Anarchy Gallery? It's run by local artist Angelina Wrona and filled with her delightfully dark artwork. (Think dracula, meets big eyed wood nymphs and killer fuzzy bunnies.) It also has an eclectic mix of unusual jewellery and clothing. If your taste veers towards the unique and ethereal this store is a must see.
Other shops that shouldn't be missed are the Stone House Gallery, Artiques Christmas Shop, My Green Shelf, and Mirick's Landing. I can't seem to get out of any of these stores with out buying something wonderful.
Where to Eat in Merrickville
For a small village, Merrickville certainly has more then it’s share of restaurants…and not a chain restaurant in site. Hooray! Favorites include; The Goose and the Gridiron for traditional English pub style food and Gad’s Hill for a slightly more gourmet approach, their curried potato salad is incredible! If you’re a fresh and organic kind a person The Yellow Canoe’s is super healthy and delicious and then there is my guilty pleasure, Bob’s fries. Not greasy, just yummy. And if you haven’t tried a poutine from this place yet, you need to get on a plane right now and do it!
Breakfast isn't available at all restaurants in Merrickville, but the Village Bean, Mainstreet Family Restaurant and Elements Bistro all have delicious breakfast offerings. Elements has just expanded to include a wonderful bakery. The baker there is renowned for her amazing cupcakes, called "Kim Cakes." They are an absolute must and I have become somewhat obsessed with her vegan chocolate mint cupcakes. I'm not kidding, don't leave town without trying one.
What to Do in Merrickville
Merrickville is a wonderful place to visit any time of year…okay, maybe not in January, it’s really cold in January, but during the summer this sleepy, little village becomes awesome-tacular. (That’s a word now, I’m making it one.) Everything from motorcycles, to jazz and postcards are celebrated in this historic village. The Merrickville Car Show in mid July and Canalfest during the first weekend of August are both crowd favorites. I love the motorcycle show at the end of June so I can watch the bikers fight over fudge.
If you don't mind a little winter chill, why not try to make it for the annual Christmas in the Village event held on the first Saturday of December. The town is bustling with activity including: carol singing, horse drawn carriage rides, marshmallows for roasting in the street in the fire barrels and even a visit from you know who. We never miss it.
Another option would be to grab your camera and a picnic lunch and head to the Merrickville Ruins. It provides endless unique photo opportunities for shutterbugs and gives you a real connection with days gone by. Looking at the Ruins it becomes easy to imagine what life might have been like in this village over a hundred years ago.
Historic Homes in Merrickville
An entire afternoon can happily be spent strolling the lovely streets of Merrickville admiring the historic homes and buildings that make it one of the best preserved Canadian examples of a 19th Century English Village.
Some homes of note would be the Merrick Tavern, Tyndall House, Aaron Merrick House and the Stephen Merrick house. A map for a self guided walking tour of all the historic buildings in Merrickville is available on the town's website or by following the link here.
Where to Stay in Merrickville
If you’ve decided that one day just isn’t enough to experience all that Merrickville has to offer, and you just need an extra day to OD on fudge and mustard, check in to one of the local B&Bs. I personally love the idea of B & Bs because it feels like home, but not mine and I don’t have to clean any toilets. The Millisle Bed and Breakfast is super fantastic! The food is manufique and the rooms are gorgeous and big. And it’s right in town which is a big ol’ plus. I’ve also heard B&B at 142 Rideau is an absolute gem with five star accommodations and super-licious food.
You’ll Just Keep Coming Back
Merrickville truly is the "Jewel of the Rideau." It's warm, welcoming and beyond picturesque with something for everyone. Whether it's drinking an English ale on a patio, enjoying the gardens and historic buildings or snooping through the wonderful shops, Merrickville does not disappoint. Oh and don't forget to try the fudge!