The final episode of Downton Abbey is behind us, leaving scores of fans of the beloved period drama in mourning. If you’re among them, why not choose to see the tea cup half full? Planning a Great Canadian Day Trip to some of these close-to-home historic sites will make you feel like you’ve stepped onto the set of your favourite show.
This 40-room Italianate-style villa that was built in the 1830’s was home to Sir Allan Napier MacNab, railway magnate, lawyer and Premier of the United Canadas and his family. Downton fans will love exploring this Hamilton landmark and discovering the Canadian perspective of the family who lived above stairs and the servants who lived and worked below. The Monarchy obsessed will also be interested to learn the castle’s connection to British royalty: Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall is the museum’s Patron and the great, great, great granddaughter of Sir Allan MacNab.
Can’t-miss events at Dundurn this summer
On weekends through June, July and August be sure to take part in Dundurn’s Historic Kitchen Garden Tours. The one-hour tours are offered at 12:30 and 2:00 pm. Costumed garden staff will share informative stories and historic gardening knowledge about the two hundred varieties of heirloom fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers grown in the garden for Dundurn’s kitchen. The tours are complimentary with admission.
If you were a fan of Downton’s Miss Patmore, Dundurn’s Cast Iron Chef Series on Saturdays in July will be right up your alley. The two-hour events start off with a tour of the Kitchen Garden, where you’ll help the gardener select the ingredients for what’s being cooked that day. Then, you’ll take a seat in the outstanding historic kitchen below stairs and watch the cooks work their culinary magic on the cast iron range. The cost is $25 and includes some fresh herbs and a booklet of selected recipes for you to take home. The complete series can be purchased for $75.
Saturday, July 9, 2016: Cast Iron Chef Series - A Toast!
Celebrating the endless assortment of things that Victorians loved to eat on toast, with homemade bread of course!
Saturday July 16, 2016: Cast Iron Chef Series – Pastry
Butter not miss this one! The talented Dundurn kitchen staff will be “roll” playing with a lot of dough!
Saturday, July 23, 2016: Cast Iron Chef Series - Salads
This endless supply of recipes for fresh salads will “leaf” you wanting more!
Saturday, July 30, 2016: Cast Iron Chef Series - Soupreme
You’ll be bowled over by this amazing selection of Dundurn’s favourite soups!
Learn more about Dundurn National Historic Site.
If you were captivated by the stories of the hard-working farm hands, like Timothy Drewe, who helped Downton farm the land, you must pay a visit to Myrtleville House Museum in Brantford. Built in 1837 for Allen and Eliza Good, the house tells the story of four generations of the Good family and their remarkable influence on development, politics and agriculture in this part of Ontario. The magnificent wood frame farmstead is a focal point of the site, which also features period gardens, a workshop with a blacksmith forge and icehouse, a smoke house and a bake oven.
Admission is by donation and the museum is open Monday to Friday from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm.
It’s recommended that you call staff prior to your visit at 519.752.3216.
Learn more about Myrtleville House Museum.
If you enjoyed Downton Abbey for its never-ending family drama, plan a trip to Whitehern Historic House & Garden. The McQuesten family was an enterprising Scottish-Irish clan that occupied this downtown Hamilton mansion from 1852-1968. With bankruptcy, legal battles between family members and struggles with mental illness and addiction, their story, which spans three generations, is filled with Downton-grade drama.
Can’t-miss events at Whitehern this summer
The Wednesdays at Whitehern Concert Series in July and August offers a wonderful way to experience this historic estate. Bring your lunch and enjoy the stunning historic garden setting and all-you-can-drink tea or lemonade for just $1 while listening to live music that Cousin Rose would love.
For the ultimate Downton experience, visit Whitehern on Sunday, July 3rd between noon and 7:00 pm. The Downton era will be celebrated in high tea style that afternoon, complete with period music, guest speakers, fashion shows and vintage vendors.
Learn more about Whitehern Historic House & Garden National Historic Site.
For a chance at actually encountering some characters from days gone by, add Erchless Estate to your itinerary. Mysterious sightings of at least nine ghosts have been reported at the property, which was built in 1858 by Colonel William Chisholm, a merchant and ship builder and the founder of the Town of Oakville. Named after the Chisholm clan's seat in Invernesshire, Scotland, six generations of the Chisholm family lived at Erchless Estate over a period of 130 years. Rumour has it that some of them have never left. Rebecca, who was the wife of William Chisholm, dropped dead at the Estate’s gate one day and there have been reported sightings from time to time at the gate and in the gardens ever since. Other reported spirit sightings include Christopher Columbus Lee, a former butler, and survivor of the Underground Railroad, who has been seen walking up the steps and throughout the property and Colonel Chisholm’s son, Robert, inside the adjacent Custom House.
The Estate is open to the public from Tuesday through Sunday from 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm and free general admission. Download the map for the Oakville Historical Society’s excellent walking tour to take along.