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.
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 Historic Cooking Workshops will be right up your alley. 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.
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.
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.
Erchless Estate, Oakville
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.