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Balm & Bounty in Huron County

© By Mike Keenan
  If it's relaxation you crave, a desire to unwind from stress, try the attractive Benmiller Inn and Spa, nestled amidst an enchanting panoply of trees in idyllic Huron County's rolling hills, two hours from Toronto in southwestern Ontario's abundant farming country where corn and soya bean reign supreme under the broad cerulean sky. From the highway entrance, it's a short, inspiring walk through a sheltered, wooded valley by the banks of Sharpe's Creek, named after a runaway slave who was Benmiller's first inhabitant. At one time, three mills were powered by this creek. Pamper yourself with tasty regional cuisine, an elegant spa and CAA/AAA four-diamond rated amenities such as rustic yet elegant accommodations, feather beds, sumptuous linen, Jacuzzis, fireplaces, a heated indoor pool, sauna, hot tub and quiet spa treatment rooms.
     The Ivey Dining Room was awarded a four-diamond rating for the third consecutive year and recently touted by Toronto Life Magazine as a top "Out of Town" restaurant. I sampled the lean, wild boar and my spouse enjoyed delectable wild salmon complimented by a pino grigio bottle of wine thrown in for good measure. We stayed in the Gledhill House, one of three outbuildings on the property with a great view of the water.
     On-site activities include fly-fishing on the wide Maitland River where you can catch steelhead, salmon and smallmouth bass as well as hiking, swimming and billiards. The inn's idyllic setting by water and woodland includes picturesque hiking trails and in winter, the area is a joy for cross-country skiers, with trails ranging from 1.5 to 5.5 kilometres for a total length of almost 20 kilometres. In the valley, protected from wind, a blanket of snow remains on trees, and creates a calm scene of incredible lasting beauty.
     We employed Benmiller as a base for exploration of nearby historic villages and towns such as Goderich, Blyth and Bayfield. First-rate golf courses are located nearby, and Huron County's quiet, rolling hills are perfect for easy cycling. And a short drive away, awaits Lake Huron's inviting white sandy beaches.
     In Blyth which dates back to 1851, we experienced an appropriate Canadian play at the Blyth Festival, celebrating its 35th year - Hockey Mom, Hockey Dad staring artistic director, Eric Coates, and written by Michael Melski, a story that seems simple but is surprisingly complex. This season, Blyth also offers Innocence Lost, a play about Stephen Truscott involving the drama in nearby Clinton in 1959 and The Nuttalls by Michael Healey, Governor General Award winner who wrote The Drawer Boy. And if it's more theatre you desire, the Huron County Playhouse is located in bustling Grand Bend, not far south on Highway 21 along Lake Huron. Prior to the play, we enjoyed a small farmer's market featuring Mennonite fare and sauntered through the art gallery adjacent to the theatre, an old municipal building exuding charm and a sense of community.

Canada Geese  CPR Goderich Station 1907  Goderich Beach and Lake Huron  Goderich, Boy At The Beach  Goderich Grain Elevators 

     We strolled through the quaint country towns and enjoyed a variety of small shops offering myriad collectables. In Goderich and Bayfield, there was ample shopping. Bayfield offered more eclectic items, but Goderich enjoyed easier beach access which included a Maritime Museum. In Goderich, there's a Farmers Market, open every Saturday in the Courthouse Park from May to October. Goderich is known for its "wheel and spoke design," with streets radiating from the Court House Square. Filled with beautiful Victorian homes and gardens tended by volunteers, Goderich is a past winner of the "Communities in Bloom" competition which explains why Queen Elizabeth called it the "prettiest town in Canada." At the beach, there's a long boardwalk, views of large grain elevators, a 1907 CPR roundhouse station, a lighthouse and, of course, plenty of Canada geese, sauntering along in one's path.
     Bayfield offers more Victorian style homes, eclectic shops, an inn and a neat bookstore featuring Wingham's most famous native, celebrated author, Alice Munro, all amidst lush tree-lined streets. The Marten Arts Gallery was a special treat filled with unique creations for both indoors and outdoors as was a stop at the ice cream shop.
     Driving leisurely along the back roads, it was evident that Huron County prides itself on being one of Canada's most fertile food-producing areas, and Benmiller takes advantage of this bounty with its menu which features fresh local produce and delicious Metzger meats.
     We stayed in a spacious "Ivey Room," featuring Benmiller's signature feather-top king bed with a stunning view of the beautiful property. The room offered light-coloured walls, appointed with contrasting pine headboard, mirror and dresser, exuding warmth. It was hard to say goodbye.

More Huron County Pictures

Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review. Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. His work is found in QMI published dailies such as the Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Vancouver Sun, London Free Press, Calgary Sun, Winnipeg Sun and Edmonton Sun.

Photo Credits
Mike Keenan

If you go
 Huron County, Ontario as seen on YouTube 
Goderich, Ontario
Bayfield, Ontario
Blyth, Ontario
Blyth Festival: www.blythfestival.com
Benmiller Inn: www.benmiller.ca
Huron Tourism Association: www.ontarioswestcoast.ca
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Huron_County

What's happening, money, distance, time?
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Transportation, visas, health, maps and temperature
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