Clyde Hall: Ontario Bed and Breakfast Done Right
Clyde Hall, in Ontario's Lanark County, is a place that you go when you're tired of being at home, but you don't necessarily want to be away from home either. If you must, make a call to the cliché police, but Clyde Hall really is a home away from home.
I've stayed in all sorts of accommodation in Ontario but, for me, Clyde Hall was just special. The property itself is stunning, the history is fascinating, and, no word of a lie, I would drive back up to Clyde Hall from Toronto just to eat another breakfast there. While the property has unparalleled charm, and the cuisine is downright tantalizing, the heart of Clyde Hall is Liisa and Rob.
The efforts that Liisa and Rob go to on a daily basis to ensure that everyone has the best stay possible is something I've never seen. I also got the sense that they weren't going the extra mile because they felt they had to, but rather because they wanted to. I would recommend everyone to visit Clyde Hall (though the secret is out and availability is sparse) because I know they'd get the same treatment. I've already told my parents that they need to book a stay for that very reason.
I'll put it this way, staying at Clyde Hall aside, if I was up in Lanark County, I wouldn't hesitate to just drop-in and say hello. Bri and I struck an instant bond with them, and that's a bond that only continued to grow. Both Rob and Liisa are fond of one of the comments that was left in the Clyde Hall guestbook not long ago and it says that Clyde Hall is a place "where you arrive as a guest and leave as a friend."
I couldn't have said it better myself.
The History of Clyde Hall
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While I do want to focus primarily on Clyde Hall in it's modern form (as an Ontario bed and breakfast gem), I'd be remiss not to touch a bit upon the history. In short, there's not a ton of historic accommodation in Ontario, but Clyde Hall Bed and Breakfast certainly fits that bill.
As a Canadian in general, I'm used to travelling around the world and staying in places that are considerably older than my country (at least from a constitutional standpoint), so it was a welcome change to "embrace the history" at Clyde Hall.
The history of Clyde Hall dates back to 1846 when a man by the name of Alexander Caldwell built this lovely stone mansion. It would not be an overstatement to suggest that Clyde Hall is an architecturally impressive by almost any standard, and its history is unique. This, in my opinion, makes it valuable not just to Lanark County, but to Ontario and Canada at large.
I'll try to keep the history relatively succinct, but Alexander Caldwell was a well known man of his time, and was a phenomenally successful miller, retailer and, most prominently, a man interested in the lumber trade. He built Clyde Hall on the back of his success and Clyde Hall became a focal point for the area, and was regularly used for social gatherings and the like. It was, in short, the ideal country home.
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Clyde Hall itself is a typical neo-classical structure, which was common in Lanark and Perth at the time. Clyde Hall went into disrepair not that long ago, but was turned into a bed and breakfast not that long after and revived. If you're fascinated by the history, they've laid it out beautifully on the Clyde Hall website.
About a year ago, Rob and Liisa saw the property for sale and decided to take a leap of faith and buy it. Liisa told me, "'It was one of those things where we had a small window to make a life altering decision. Rob and I are both risk-takers.'"
While we were talking about all this Rob noted, with a smile on his face, "Our kids thought we were absolutely insane...until they came here. When they finally came up here, they they just said...'we get it.'"
Clyde Hall Today
Clyde Hall B&B is, in short, a historical building outfitted with modern amenities. You'll be able to bask in the charm of another time, but you'll also have the opportunity to be pampered by all the benefits of the 21st century. For better or for worse, the hot tub wasn't yet invented when Alexander Caldwell had this place built, but Clyde Hall certainly has one now (not to mention the pool for those extra hot days).
Your biggest dilemma as it relates to Clyde Hall isn't going to be which room you'd like to choose, it's whether they've got anything available. Clyde Hall is one of the hottest properties in Lanark County, and really Ontario at large. This might have something to do with the accolades they've amassed along the way. Cottage Life actually voted Clyde Hall one of the 10 Best B&Bs in Ontario, and Huffington Post voted them one of the Top 15 Bed and Breakfasts in Ontario not long after.
They've got a number of suites and options available, so you might want to head to their reservation page to see what suits you best. When Liisa began talking about their rise in popularity she said it best when she said, "'It's crazy, we've had to turn so many people away!" Rob and Liisa are born hosts, so I legitimately get the sense that they wish they could accommodate everyone.
At your disposal, you've got the Caldwell Suite, the McMullen Suite, the Highland Room, the Jade Room, and the Poolside Clyde. Each mode of accommodation offers its own unique experience. For example, you might enjoy the privacy of the Poolside Clyde if you're on a romantic weekend away, whereas you might prefer the McMullen Suite if you're looking for views of the nearby golf course, or a sunken whirlpool tub.
We had the pleasure of staying in the McMullen Suite at Clyde Hall.
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If the McMullen Suite doesn't check of all your boxes of what an Ontario Bed and Breakfast should be, then you'll need to get your highfalutin, lofty expectations in check. It was everything that Bri and I wanted. My younger self is probably going to snicker when I say this, but in older age I've become a sucker for antique cheval mirrors, and, well, you can see the above picture.
What you can't see is the walk-in closet and large bathroom with a whirlpool tub, and walk-in glass shower. The McMullen Suite at Clyde Hall offered us luxury and privacy in spades, but we also appreciated feeling a part of something larger. After all, we were only steps away from being in lovely communal areas, such as the sun room on the first floor where Bri and I did a little work on Saturday morning.
From chatting with Rob and Liisa, I could just feel so strongly that this was more than a business. I never got the sense that they thought of Clyde Hall as something to inflate their bank accounts, but rather as a place to host, create new stories, and make new friends. I think Rob said it best when he noted, "We want to have fun with it, too. We could easily make this into a wedding venue, but then it's like 'well, that's no fun.'"`
Clyde Hall Cuisine
You might come for the allure of a Lanark County escape, but you'll stay for the food. For me, this is what really separates Clyde Hall and makes it the Ontario bed and breakfast. Rob and Liisa actually ran a very successful bakery in Durham Region before retiring and taking on this project. They're both exceptional chefs, and the two of them together make a formidable duo in the kitchen. Rob actually teaches cooking at a nearby college a few days a week. He's a pastry aficionado.
Cuisine wise, they started off with your basics, but now they're really expanded. They've even got an ever popular high-tea sitting in the afternoons. Even if you aren't looking to stay the night, it'd be worth it to stop by for the high-tea sitting. It'd be even easier if you live in Lanark County or Perth, but I would honestly drive from Toronto - it's that good.
I think Liisa summed it up well - "I like being creative. I love to cook. The one thing that I like to try to do is to keep stepping it up. When we started we with your basic eggs Benedict and stuff like that, then it was like, let's introduce some micro greens, let's spruce it up a bit - let's add this, let's add that. Let's change the menu around."
We had the privilege of eating two breakfasts there, and each one just blew me away. When I was younger, my mom would always cook these gorgeous, elaborate breakfasts. It was to the point where I had friends fighting to stay over on Saturday night just in case they could get some breakfast in the morning (and they so often did). Now, I will never say that my mother's breakfast can be beat, ever, but I will say that I could sense that this breakfast also had a lot of love in it.
Breakfast, for one reason or another, is probably my favourite meal (especially Turkish breakfast), so I put a lot of value in a quality breakfast, and Rob and Liisa know how to put one together. The first breakfast, pictured above, was exceptional, and round two didn't disappoint either.
The second morning we had eggs benedict with homemade hollandaise, maple bacon and all the fix-ins. If there is a better way to start your day, I'm yet unaware of it.
Rob summed it up well, "It will always be a fresh-made, high quality breakfast."
What Makes Clyde Hall, Clyde Hall?
The grounds are stunning, and the nearby rushing stream doesn't hurt, but it's the people that make the bed and breakfast, and that's what Rob and Liisa have done. During our time there, we felt like part of the family.
On our first full day, before we took the complimentary bikes out for a spin, we were just hanging out in the kitchen with Rob and Liisa, then, all of a sudden, Rob perked up and said, "the deers are here!" With a pep in his step, he went and got the scraps from breakfast and went out to the back to feed the deer. I was in awe, but Liisa was quick to note Rob's special relationship with the deer. Apparently, he was a fan favourite and won the trust of a whole deer family.
Bri and I watched, with full bodied smiles.
Later, when I asked Rob about running this fine Ontario bed and breakfast he said,"There's just always something to do. I mean, someone has to look after the deer!" I also get the feeling he likes looking after people, too. He went on to say, "that's what we try to do, we try to make people have an experience. That's what I like most, it's the people."
On the first night, we also ended up having some wine with Rob. Liisa, Rob's mom and a few other guests. The conversation flowed, as did the wine, and I know Bri and I just felt like we'd rather be there than anywhere else in the world.
The way Liisa talked about her life reminded me of my approach to work and life itself. She said, "you're always meeting someone new. Look at all the stories, all the happenstance! With a desk job, you just don't get those experiences. We've met people from all over the world!"
Appreciate the Small Things at Clyde Hall
Each day, it seems the world spins faster and faster. We've never needed places like Clyde Hall more. I've stayed at 5 star hotels around the world, and they're lovely, but in a clean, cold, corporate sense. There's something different about a bed and breakfast done right. You might be able to tell from the article, and the title, that that's precisely how I feel.
I also have to admit that on a personal level there's something I respect about taking the plunge on something like this and seeing how the cards fall. Rob and Liisa have worked hard to get where they are, and, in truth, they deserve to be booked out indefinitely. There story of success is one of kindness, determination, and creativity.
In my quest to uncover what makes Ontario a special province, I've uncovered a lot of incredible stories, and this is one of them. If you like hotel chains that have locations in every city with a population over 5000, then Clyde Hall might not be for you, but if you seek authenticity and warmth, then you should look in this direction.
I've probably stayed in a couple of thousand different forms of lodging at this point - from hostel to hotel to night trains and everything in between. But Clyde Hall is something different, in the best possible way.
Rob said it best when he said," Our son, Michael, take pride in the fact that his parents own this place, and same with our daughter Alex. You know, this place...it's more than just a B&B."
I want to humbly thank Clyde Hall for hosting me as media. All opinions are my own. I want to hear from you guys. Have you been to a bed and breakfast before? Have you visited Ontario or Lanark County specifically? Would you like to visit Clyde Hall? How about that breakfast, right?!
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