Find your perfect weekend, filled with scenic views, delicious eats, and intriguing shops in Almonte, Ontario. This place, known as “The Friendly Town” encapsulates everything about small-town charm found in Ontario. Discover the best things to do in Almonte for a Canadian summer weekend and revel in the beauty of this old mill town.
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Shout out to Lanark County Tourism for hosting me on this trip down memory lane to Almonte, Ontario.
Summer in Canada is fleetingly short. The long days and the bright sunshine last only a few short months before the snow returns. That’s one of the reasons I like to travel at home in Canada through small day trips or weekend getaways to make the most of the summertime. After looking at the map of Ontario for some inspiration, I spotted a town that I hadn’t been to in decades: Almonte.
Almonte, Ontario is a small mill town located about 40 minutes from Ottawa in Ontario’s Highlands. Like many other small towns in Ontario, Almonte has a lovely downtown with unique shops, quaint cafes and views of the river that runs through it.
Once upon a time, several mills dotted the Mississippi River – which is not the same river as in the States but runs 200 kilometres from Mackavoy Lake to its mouth at the Ottawa River near Gelatta. Almonte was known for the textiles that were produced here in the late 19th-early 20th century. Over the decades, as the mills were closed and renovated, and with the addition of more things to do in Almonte, the town turned into a lovely place to explore.
The owner of the inn that I stayed at, Almonte Riverside Inn, said it best – Almonte used to be a stop on a journey. Now, it’s the destination.
Certainly, in the 20 years since I last came to this part of Ontario, the town has evolved into a marvellous weekend getaway destination. So be prepared, because here is your ultimate weekend guide to Almonte, Ontario!
Almonte, The Friendly Town
Almonte is known as “The Friendly Town,” which was apparent almost immediately through conversations I had with residents as I wandered around.
My reason for visiting Almonte was personal. It was were my grandparents called home for many years. They lived in a little cottage along the banks of the Mississippi River. I have memories chasing toads, swimming and canoeing as well as the smell of the freshly baked bread my grandfather used to make.
I remember having to run back to the house for salt when my dad, who was helping build a dock emerged from the water covered in leeches. I remember the dog next door, whose name was Blueberry, but my father called him Raspberry, as dads do. I remember the fluffy grey cat named Smokey and the smell of the wood burning stove.
I was younger than seven when I last visited Almonte, and 20 years have gone by without returning. In fact, my grandparents, who left for Alberta after the 1998 ice storm that decimated the area, have only returned once or twice. But there are a lot of fond memories here, so I knew I wanted to return, not only to see what their house looks like but also to see how the town has changed.
How to get to Almonte?
Almonte is part of the municipality of Mississippi Mills, located in Lanark County in the Ontario Highlands. It’s only 40-50 minutes from Ottawa and about 4 hours from Toronto.
There is no public transit that goes to Almonte. The closest you can get to by bus from Toronto is to nearby Carleton Place, then take a taxi into the town. However, I recommend renting a car (if you don’t have access to one) and driving.
Driving also allows you to easily get around town since there are so many things to do in Almonte, that you’ll want to get from point A to B quickly!
Where to stay in Almonte?
Since it is a small town, the selection of where to stay is limited. The nearest hotel, The Grand Hotel, is in Carleton Place, but there are several inns in Almonte.
I stayed at the Almonte Riverside Inn, a boutique inn on the banks of the Mississippi River. This heritage estate is right in the heart of the town, giving you easy access to everything you want to do in Almonte. There are only six rooms, but each one is decorated differently.
From the moment I stepped into the gorgeous building, I felt like this was a place I wouldn’t want to leave. From the old wooden floors to the comfortable king-sized bed to the stunning views of the river and Old Town Hall, I was in my zone.
There are three types of rooms. The Getaway Rooms feature a lounge area, a king-sized bed and full modern bathrooms. The Scenic Rooms have a beautiful king-sized bed, full bathroom and views of the river. The Hideaway Rooms are a bit smaller but don’t skimp on comfort. Every historical detail is preserved, but the whole atmosphere is updated into 21st-century comforts.
What I loved about the modern upgrades were the keyless locks to each of the rooms. When you check in, you can set your own numeric code to your room. That way, you don’t have to worry about losing your key!
If you stay at the Almonte Riverside Inn, then you have to eat breakfast here too. Every room includes breakfast for two in what they call a hybrid a la carte/ room service experience. The night before, you fill out a card with your breakfast selection and keep it on your door handle. Starting a 6:30 am, you can have coffee, espresso or tea delivered to your room.
When you’re ready, you can head to the kitchen for the most delicious breakfast I’ve ever had. I say that with conviction, because I don’t usually eat breakfast, but I was perfectly satisfied with my selection. I chose the fluffy pancakes, bacon and real maple syrup (this is Canada after all) one morning and the next I tried the yoghurt, granola and fruit with peanut butter and jam on toast. I couldn’t believe these simple dishes were so gosh darn good. Honestly, I wish I ate this good every day.
They are also home to the Almonte Lobby Bar, a little kitchen and bar that serves carefully crafted cocktails and mouth-watering small plate dishes.
They use fresh and as-local-as-possible ingredients. They are famous for their Mushroom on Toast – definitely try it out!
RELATED: What to Pack for Canada in Summer
How to pronounce Almonte
Now that you’re totally convinced that you need to go to Almonte, like immediately, you might need to know how to pronounce the town’s name, right?! Is it Al-mont-eh or Al-mont or Al-mun-teh?
Worry not! It’s pronounced Al-mont. There are other towns like Almonte, Spain (pronounced Al-mont-eh). But the town in Ontario is actually named after Mexican General Juan Almonte because he was in the news when the townsfolk had to select a new name for the area. You can learn about the history of why the town is called what it is on the town’s website.
Things to do in Almonte, Ontario
What I love about small towns is that they work hard, but humbly, to attract people to come and visit. They may not have attractions like Parliament Hill in Ottawa or the CN Tower in Toronto, but they revel in their quiet, slower-paced way of life. There are so many things to do in Almonte, Ontario, so stay the weekend and enjoy them.
Stroll on the Riverwalk
Take a stroll along the scenic Riverwalk, a boardwalk and path along the river in the historic downtown of Almonte. You start at the Old Town Hall, where you will first be introduced to the area.
Officially becoming a town in 1880, the area was built up around saw, grist and woollen mills that used the power of the Mississippi River and its cascading waterfalls for production. At the height of production, six woollen mills were operating along this small stretch of river.
Before even that, the Algonquin, an Indigenous people, whose area stretched across eastern Ontario and western Quebec occupied this region.
As you walk along the river, you will see the remnants of the mills, which have, for the most part, been transformed into new uses, such as commercial space and residential condos. The walk leads you from the Old Town Hall, along the cascading waterfalls to the Metcalf Geoheritage Park
At the Metcalf Geoheritage Park, the first of its kind in Canada, you’ll be able to check out the rocks beneath your feet. Take a look at the rocks on display, which date back hundreds of millions of years (some even billions of years old). The local geology is perfect for spying the different types of rocks that formed over the years, then were exposed thanks to the power of water.
Ride the Right Bikes
Speaking of trails, if you love to bike and are looking for adventurous things to do in Almonte, then you have to check out the Ottawa Valley Rail Trail. This stretch of trail, which runs from Carleton Place to Mississippi Mills, is part of a larger 296-kilometre corridor between Smiths Falls and Mattawa. It was once a CP rail line (and was still train tracks when I last visited in the late 90s).
If you didn’t bring bicycles with you, don’t fret! The town offers bike rentals right at the Old Town Hall. These bright purple bikes are hard to miss and cost only $5/ day.
The Municipality of Mississippi Mills, which includes Almonte, celebrates Bicycle Month every June, where they encourage the use of the trails as well as hold events and races.
Canoe or Kayak
Continuing with the adventurous things to do in Almonte, renting a canoe or kayak to explore some of the routes is a perfect way to spend an afternoon in the town.
The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists have two routes through Almonte. The first is Mississippi River from Almonte upriver, which explores the town and upriver until Appleton, leading you through an area that could have abundant wildlife.
The second is Almonte and Mississippi River downstream. After the cascades, the water evens out again until the rapids at Blakeney. The Mississippi River Field Naturalists also offer canoe outings if you want to go with a group. Canoeing or kayaking the Mississippi River can be fun; remember to stay safe!
Shop in the one-of-a-kind stores
I don’t know what it is about small towns, but they always have the coolest one-of-a-kind shops. From fancy decor to fun clothing to the cutest bookstores, Almonte has all the shopping you need. If you’re going for the weekend, then walking along the shops in the downtown core is just one of the things you need to do in Almonte.
Tin Barn Market: This little shop is all about hand-picked and curated home décor of found pieces, antiques and new things too! They have a really fun collection, and I wanted to buy the whole store and re-decorate my apartment.
Mill Street Bookstore: You can always find me at a bookstore in a new community. I find that they are the best way to find out more about what’s going on in the community. A huge shout out to the owner who gifted me a couple of postcards after visiting the shop! Gotta love the small town charm!
Antique stores: There’s a whole whack of people out there that loooooooove antique stores. Maybe I just haven’t caught on, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy perusing the shops. There are a couple of antique stores right on the main street, and they were both very busy when I passed by.
L.G. Lee and Sons: One store you don’t want to miss is this little “hardware” store. It’s a division of the Lee Valley Tools, a successful tool company in Ontario. The founder of the Lee Valley Tools lived on a farm outside of Almonte and bought the Mill Street property decades ago. After many businesses came and went over the years, Lee and his two sons opened the “small country-style mercantile” selling unique merchandise for your home and garden. What’s cool about the property is that they’ve done what they can to preserve the historic architecture and even purchased antique store furnishings to make it look like you’ve stepped back into the early 1900s.
Cheerfully Made Goods + Market: Drawn in by their adorable window displays, I ended up spending a good 20 minutes looking around Cheerfully Made, a clothing and gift shop in downtown Almonte. I wanted to buy everything, but what I loved the most were the “Friendly Town” Almonte-branded t-shirts. They also had a bunch of Almonte specific t-shirts that were clever.
Pêches and Poivre: This charming little store is all about fine foods, both sweet and savoury, as well as items for the kitchen like gadgets and linens.
Refuel at a coffee shop
With all the adventuring, it’s nice to sit and relax for a little while, and the best place to do that is at a coffee shop.
You’ve got to try North Market Café and Catering, a café right in the heart of the downtown. It was founded by Rick and Amanda Herrera, who went from stall operators at the Almonte Farmers’ Market to their full-time café. They have a nice bright space that shows off the incredible artwork inside. They have daily menus that are always changing, but there are a ton of frozen meals that you can take home with you. And, of course, a great selection of coffee and tea.
After you’ve had a coffee head over to Baker Bob’s for a decadent, tasty pastry. They also sell other treats like cookies, cakes, cupcakes, and savoury pastries.
Indulge in some ice cream
I love ice cream – seriously, it is my comfort food. So I knew immediately that I wanted to try out the fare at the Almonte Ice Cream Shop. This seasonal outdoor ice cream shop serves scooped and soft serve as well as milkshakes, ice cream sandwiches and more! They even do fun cones for special events, like Pride and Canada Day.
Discover the history of basketball with James Naismith
If Almonte is famous for just one thing, then it’s that the inventor of basketball, James Naismith, was born and raised on a farm outside of town.
During his childhood, he and his friends would play a game called Duck on a Rock. The goal of the game was to knock off a small rock, which was guarded by someone, from a larger rock using stones. Naismith found that a lobbing motion was more accurate to go up over the guard to knock off the rock. It was the basis for a game he invented during his days at a Springfield, Massachusetts YMCA training school.
He was tasked with developing a game to be played in the winter months that was free from rough play. He used a ball and peach baskets with the arch throwing motion. So on December 21, 1891, he introduced the game of basketball to his classes.
Fun fact: Naismith attended the Olympics in 1936 in Germany where basketball was first played at that level.
Today, there is a statue of him at the corner of Mill Street and Little Bridge Street, definitely one of the things to do in Almonte. You can read all about his story and the story behind his statue and surrounding park.
You can also stop by his family farm (which is not open to the public), where there is a heritage plaque to commemorate the building. Just down the road, you’ll also be able to visit the Naismith Museum, which is located in the Mill of Kintail Conservation Area in conjunction with the R. Tait McKenzie Museum.
Another famous Almonte resident
Robert Tait McKenzie was one of Canada’s best-known artists of his time; he was also a sculptor (his works include the war memorial in Almonte, the Scotts-American War Memorial in Edinburgh, Scotland, the Ben Franklin statue in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, The Joy of Effort statue at the Olympic Stadium in Stockholm, Sweden and many more). He also was a medical physician and pioneered physical education in Canada. In the 1930s, he moved back to Almonte and renovated the old gristmill for his home and studio. The Mill fell into the hands of the conservation authority, which turned it into a museum for McKenzie and Naismith, after the death of McKenzie and his wife.
Visit the Mississippi Valley textile museum
By now, I’m sure you’ve guessed that Almonte has done what it can to preserve its history while allowing new exciting things to make their mark. One such venture is the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum, a must-see on the list of things to do in Almonte. Located in the former Rosamund Woollen Company, which is a national historic site, the museum features exhibits on the history of the textile industry in the area and holds art exhibits in the lower level. While I was there, Pathways by Tania Love was on display.
The permanent exhibit, Fabric of a Small Town, is a collection of textile machines and equipment used during the heydays of the industry. It also shows the difference between the fibres, how the wool is spun and weaved, and thoroughly explaining the process from “sheep to shawl.”
The museum also houses over 3,000 artefacts, like an old bell, punch cards, ledgers, a printing press and even an early version of IBM’s mechanical time clock.
In September the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum holds a Fibrefest, a four-day festival dedicated to all things textile, like knitting, weaving, quilting and more.
Dine, Dine and Dine again
There is a high concentration of restaurants to try in Almonte that you may not have time to try them all! Here are just a few to get you started (and keep reading for even more suggestions below).
Heirloom Cafe and Bistro: Fine dining taste without the fine dining prices. Heirloom Café and Bistro serves brunch, lunch and dinner in one of the old mills that used to dot the river.
The Barley Mow: The Barley Mow is a classic pub in Almonte with delicious food and drinks, but their location is to die for. I mean, how can you beat a two-story patio right on the river?! You just can’t.
Cafe Postino: Located in Almonte’s old post office, Café Postino is a delicious Italian eatery famous for their pasta. They fill up quickly, so make sure to call ahead for a reservation!
The Greene Mill: If you’re more into a food truck for a bite to eat, then why not try out the Greene Mill, a vibrant establishment that has a locally-inspired focus to their food. You can get bites like the veggie pakoras, hand cut fries, sandwiches and Buddha bowls. It’s no run-of-the-mill type of food truck (pun intended). They are generally open from 11 am to 7 pm.
Almonte Lobby Bar: As I mentioned above, I loved the vibe of the Almonte Lobby Bar. They make each dish with zest, and their cocktails are extra tasty! Must be all the love. Open 5 pm to 10 pm every day.
Low-fat doughnuts anyone?
Healthy Food Technologies – yup, read that name again – is famous for their doughnuts that have way fewer calories and fat than their regular counterparts.
It’s all through this machine that owners Ed and Doris Atwell built. Ed eats doughnuts every day, but he wanted a way to eliminate the heavy feeling you get after eating something with a lot of fat.
He ended up developing this machine that uses an incredible amount of science to fry the doughnut then, before the oil is soaked up by the spongy dough, they are sent into an oven to bake. It takes about the same time to cook as a doughnut in any other bakery, but it has 50 to 70% less fat and less than half the calories of a normal doughnut.
Ed and Doris spent a while explaining the science behind their doughnuts, and I’m 98% sure I understand. But I don’t want to give their secrets away. What I can tell you is that when Ed and Doris were developing their machine, they were giving away their doughnuts around town. Then, people started asking if they could purchase them, and the Healthy Food Technologies doughnut shop was born. Only open one day a week, Ed and Doris quickly realized that the demand was too high. Today they are open every day selling thousands of doughnuts a week, with people coming from all over to try out this awesome treat.
While “Low-fat doughnut” doesn’t sound appetizing at all, Ed and Doris nailed it. Their product tastes so good. They are light and fluffy and still have the flavour and rich taste of a regular doughnut, without the guilt and heavy feeling.
Chocolate making experience at Hummingbird Chocolate
I’m not naive enough to think that chocolate grew on trees, I understood that chocolate is made from cacao beans, but I thought it was like coffee beans, and I was so wrong. They grow inside these enormous cacao pods the size of your outstretched hand!
I learned this fun fact when I took a tour of Hummingbird Chocolate Maker in Almonte. Hummingbird Chocolate Maker crafts small batches of dark chocolate. But unlike a chocolatier, at Hummingbird, they make the chocolate straight from the cacao beans in their workshop.
Owner Erica Gilmour and her partner Drew used their past in international development to connect with farmers directly to pay them better than fair trade prices. They bring the beans from all over, and each one has a distinct flavour, from nutty to floral.
And boy, they have done wonders, winning dozens of international awards for their craft. Apart from their delicious dark chocolate bars, they also have fun ones, like maple, peanut butter, and more!
Hummingbird offers tours of their facility every Saturday, but you have to reserve ahead. If you can’t get to Almonte soon, you can pick up their chocolates at Farmboys across Canada or online.
Cupping experience at Equator Coffee Roasters
What pairs well with chocolate? Coffee! I don’t know too much about coffee, but that’s why I turn to the people that do know: Equator Coffee Roasters.
Equator is all about fair trade organic beans. Roasting is a science and Equator goes to great lengths to perfect their process and to keep the beans as fresh as possible.
Equator has three locations, two in Ottawa but their headquarters and roaster is located in Almonte. It’s also where they have their coffee experience lab, where you can try a cupping experience, one of the unique things to do in Almonte.
So what the heck is cupping? It’s basically like a wine tasting but for coffee. You get to experience the aromas and flavours that are in the different types of coffee. Boiling water is added to freshly ground coffee beans. Then it’s left to settle, so the coffee grounds sink to the bottom.
Next, you scrape off the layer of foam and grinds that are on the surface of the cup. Now it’s time to experience the coffee. First, you smell. What things come to your mind as you soak in the smells?
Then you slurp! Yup, you take a little spoon and slurp up the coffee. In the Equator coffee lab, there’s a chart that describes all the different flavours that the coffee can have. Although it took me a while, I was able to identify quite several flavours in each cup!
When you’re trying multiple coffees, you want to go from light roast to dark roast. There’s a lot more to it if you want to get really technical, but the point of the whole experience is to try something new and enjoy the process!
Equator Coffee Roasters offers periodic coffee courses, like the cupping experience, which you can find on their website.
Take a Good Food Tour
Remember how I said there are so many restaurants and eateries to try in Almonte, that you might not have time for them all? Well, I have a solution! Go on a Good Food Tour! In fact, it’s one of the best things to do in Almonte.
Food tours aren’t just for your parents anymore. They are the best way to experience local cuisine in a fun, relaxed atmosphere. Plus you get the bonus of getting to know the people behind the meals and little tidbits about the community too!
Whether you are travelling alone or with a group, a food tour can help introduce you to places you may not have thought to go to.
I want to send a huge shout out to Cathy of the Good Food Tours who let me tag along on her Down by the River food tour.
Our first stop was the Crooked Mile Brewing Company, where we sampled their craft beers and tasted the most AMAZING fish and chips I’ve ever had from the nearby Cheeky Chippy food truck. Owners Kelly Peltier and Tim Allars use Icelandic cod and hand cut fries for their English style- fish and chips. They went all out to perfect their craft, and it shows. I mean, I was ready to stop the food tour right there and order another round. They even use a brew from Crooked Mile in their batter. Alas, we moved on, but I quickly realized I would love every place we came to.
Next up was Dairy Distillery. Here they make vodka from milk permeate. WAIT, DON’T GET GROSSED OUT!
It is seriously cool. Milk permeate is basically the sugars that are filtered out during the milk making process. It has no commercial value, so farmers were getting rid of it. But Omid McDonald, the genius behind Dairy Distillery, saw an opportunity.
After a couple of test runs, they were able to get a great product, Vodkow. It’s clear like vodka, smells a tad like ice cream and tastes smooth. Oh and the best part? It is sold in milk bottles!
Shortly after my visit, I heard the good news that Dairy Distillery was given the green light to label their product as vodka, so look for them soon in your LCBO!
After this stop, we got in our car and drove over to the Old Town Hall, where we parked and walked to Sivarulrasa Gallery. This contemporary gallery hosts artists from the local area as well as from across Canada. A couple of times a year, the gallery holds Culture22, a music/art event limited to 22 people (the space’s capacity). Owner Sanjeev Sivrulrasa’s partner Angela Hui loves to create decadent desserts, so she treated us with a lemon tart (so freaking good) while we perused the artwork.
Sanjeev likes to take photographs of the stars – you know how I love dark skies – so I just fell in love with the space!
With dessert finished, we sauntered over to Mill Street Crepe Company, where the owner treated us to a mini savoury crepe. Stuffed inside was double smoked bacon, pear, brie, caramelized onion, spinach and drizzled with horseradish aioli. It took all that was in me not to devour it like an animal then steal everyone else’s.
After licking our lips, we were off to the next top on the other side of Mill Street. Along the way, Cathy gave us a candid history of the town, from the naming of the town to James Naismith to the lives of the different buildings. She loves the area, and it shows through her excitement along the tour.
Our last stop was at Tea and Cake, a small tea shop that serves high tea, breakfasts, lunches and cakes. Owner Gwendolyn Neelin fell in love with the British-style of tea when she worked in the U.K. At the shop you’ll notice that all the cups and saucers are all mismatched. Well, her entire collection is donated, and people are still bringing her china to use in the tearoom. I loved the scones; they were so moist and warm.
Going on a food tour with Cathy was one of my favourite events from the weekend. Not only did I get to stuff my face with delicious food, but I also got to meet the people behind these passion projects-turned-businesses.
Just outside Almonte
While there are plenty of things to do in Almonte, you can also look outside the town for some interesting activities. If you want to see historic structures, explore nature, or connect with yourself, then Almonte has it. Here are a few things to do outside the town of Almonte.
Seven Wonders of Lanark County
If you’ve done all the things to do in Almonte, then why not explore more of the surrounding Lanark County? Lanark County stretches from Smith Falls in the south to Lake Madawaska in the north. Lanark County is known as the Maple Syrup Capital of Ontario since they have a high concentration of sugar maples in the region.
What is cool about the area is the Seven Wonders of Lanark County. Residents and visitors got to nominate and vote for their favourite places within the region. The following are the final seven wonders that speak to the history and charm of Lanark County.
The Seven Wonders of Lanark County are:
- Five Span Bridge – at Five Span Bridges Park, Pakenham
- St. Peter Celestine Church, Pakenham
- The Mill of Kintail Museum – at Mill of Kintail Conservation Area, Almonte
- Blueberry Mountain – at CliffLAND | The Clifford Family protected Wilderness, Lanark
- Lady’s Slipper Orchids – at Purdon Conservation Area, Lanark
- Silver Queen Mica Mine – at Murphys Point Provincial Park, Perth
- Stewart Park, Perth
Visit the Five Span Bridge
About 15 minutes north of Almonte, in a town called Pakenham is the Five Span Bridge, one of Lanark County’s Seven Wonders. Built in 1901, this bridge has five arches, crossing 82 metres over the Mississippi River. So why is it so special?
Well, not only is it the only bridge of its kind in North America (which is pretty darn cool), it was built to withstand ice flows. The Mississippi River freezes over in the cold Southeastern Ontario winters and during the spring break up, large, powerful chunks of ice come hurling down the river. The bridge’s eight-foot thick piers have been withstanding those pressures since it was built in 1901 until it was restored in 1984.
Of course, mills were found on either side of the river, the largest of which, you can still see (and explore) the foundations of on the east side. There are parks on either side of the bridge, so feel free to sit and relax.
Mill of Kintail Conservation Area
As mentioned above, the Mill of Kintail Conservation Area is home to the gristmill-turned-museum for Robert Tait McKenzie and James Naismith. But it is also a 150-acre park with seven different trails that lead you along the wooded area and Indian River. One is a fitness path that has “work out equipment” along the way.
There’s even a historic Cloister-On-The-Hill, which is an open-air church, where people hold weddings.
Trails are open year-round from dawn to dusk, whereas the museum is open May to October, Monday to Friday from 9 am to 3:30 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm. It costs $6 per vehicle for site entrance.
Have you ever heard of soundscaping? I hadn’t either before travelling to the Mill of Kintail Conservation Area to meet with Chad Clifford.
Bundled with bags of equipment, we walked through the forests when he told me how he got started.
Soundscaping is a way to connect with the world around you through sound. Using microphones that are either handheld or strategically placed in the forest, you don headphones and just listen. Have you heard the munching noises of caterpillars or the different notes of a songbird, amplified beyond what our normal ears would hear?
It was beyond magical. Sounds of humans forced their way in too with the rumble of a truck on a distant highway or the sound of a jet passing overhead that sounds like you’re right next to it.
Chad uses this technique (and equipment that he built himself) not only for research at universities across Ontario but also for the average person like me.
In one of his workshops on soundscaping, you lie in a hammock with headphones on and listen to the sounds of the canopy from the microphones that were placed there.
Despite the onslaught of mosquitos, the workshop with Chad (and his daughter) at the Mill of Kintail was really fun, and I learned a lot! Chad has also recorded sounds from all seven of Lanark County’s Seven Wonders, go take a listen!
Equine Yoga at Willaway Farms
As a traveller, you step out of your comfort zone on the regular. But on my last day in Lanark County, I really went far out and tried Equine Yoga.
Yup, yoga with horses. Let me preface that I was nervous, because a) I don’t do yoga and b) I’m pretty sure I’m allergic to dust and hay. The idea of ripping my pants while sneezing like mad may have flitted into my mind. Unlike others, the idea of being around horses wasn’t what made me nervous; I love most animals, so I’m down to cuddle anything. Sure I’ve only been on a horse twice since I did riding lessons when I was seven, but growing up in a rural area with friends that own them, the fear dies away.
I went into the session at Willaway Farms outside of Almonte, with little to no expectations and just rolled with it. It turned out that it was pretty fantastic, and I felt elated at what I had just done when it was time to leave.
Susan Allen, the owner of Willaway Farms, led the yoga session with her barn manager Shelly. At first, we talked a lot about what it means to connect with horses, and why participating in yoga with them can be special.
I think what stuck with me most during our chat was that a lot of people think of horses as really big dogs (I sure did), but Susan said, that’s not the case at all. Horses and dogs share a common bond as domesticated animals since time immemorial, but dogs have always been predator animals, where horses have always been prey. This means the way you approach and bond with horses will be ~wildly~ different than dogs (pun intended).
Susan allows her horses to choose to participate. She can tell by their body language which one is ~rearing~ to go (sorry, another pun).
We first put our chairs in front of the horses’ stalls and did chair yoga, a way to stretch our bodies (I mean, most of us sit all day, am I right?). Not only does it get you warmed up, but you also strike that first bond with the horse.
My horse, Joy, who was a very calm lady, immediately stuck her head out of the door to sniff me.
Each session that Susan holds is different because it depends on the experience level of the participant and what the horse is feeling that day. She also runs six-week yoga sessions for people who want to dive in deep.
During my session, we stayed in the barn, and with the horses in the cross ties, we started doing some yoga poses. (Well, first I gave Joy a rub down because she was the sweetest. I stroked her neck, but she kept moving forward, so I gave her a belly rub, and she was happy as a clam).
Anyway, as mentioned above, I don’t do yoga, but Susan led us through a couple of simple poses that incorporate the horse.
So, there I was, doing a wall plank, but instead of a wall, I was leaning on the horse. And she. Just. Stood. There. Joy was so content to be a part of this process. We moved (not at all gracefully because I have zero balance) together. Joy shifted her weight to compensate my balance, and she stayed perfectly still as I draped myself over her.
It was beyond magical. For someone without any expectations, and a little hesitation, I left with a big smile on my face. I absolutely recommend doing something out of the ordinary like this if you’re looking for things to do in Almonte.
Marvel in the beauty of small-town Ontario. From the relaxing, laid back atmosphere, to the friendly community members that call this place home, Almonte is the perfect destination for people looking to get away for the weekend. Now that you’ve discovered all the best things to do in Almonte, Ontario, it’s time to pack your bags and hit the road!