Exploring Valley Villages: Merrickville

Oct 19th, 2018 | By | Category: Adventure, Featured

This 225-year-old village boasts a hip arts scene, funky shops, good eats – and spectacular nature

By Katharine Fletcher

Two-hundred and twenty-five years ago, William Merrick founded the village which took his name. Although much has changed since 1794, Merrickville boasts many historical attractions – as well as great biking, hiking, shopping – and a truly inspired cultural
scene.

Another draw is that the Rideau Canal (Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site) passes through town. The canal surveyors, engineers and workers found 300 residents here back in 1827 when the waterway was being constructed. As well, they must also have discovered a thriving mill-town scene where some could find a welcome meal, lodging perhaps, and a connection to news of the outside world.

In that regard, not much has changed. You can paddle the waterway here, hike woodland trails, bike – or simply wander town, exploring.

What are my top recommendations? Here’s a list.

• Rideau Canal National Historic Site
bit.ly/2N8FJor

• Merrickville Blockhouse National Historic Site
Corner of Main & St. Lawrence Streets,
downtown Merrickville

bit.ly/2R8lxpS

• Merrickville Blockhouse Museum:

bit.ly/2DM7XG2

The Rideau Canal itself is a National Historic Site of Canada, being constructed between 1826-32 as a military defence against possible attack from the Americans. But in the heart of the village, the Merrickville Blockhouse is a Park’s Canada’s National Historic Site of Canada in its own right. Built between 1832-33, it is the largest of four such structures designed to defend canal locks if war was declared.

The Merrickville blockhouse has thick masonry walls capped with a timbered, overhanging second story. If a war was declared, it represented a mustering point, but during its first uneasy years it was used to store ammunition, arms, and other supplies – plus housed as many as 50 soldiers. Eventually, the upper storey was transformed into the lockmaster’s home.

Walking trails around Merrickville

brochure/map: bit.ly/2OX8SF0

With its eight trails in and near the village, exploring Merrickville can take several days. After visiting the Blockhouse, continue on the 1-5 km loop in Merrickville to view its heritage buildings.

Other trails represent country walks of varying lengths, from 1-15 km. One trail links to the Rideau Trail, Eastern Ontario’s longest trail, extending from Kingston to Ottawa. And don’t forget that come winter, country trails may be used for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.

Biking around Merrickville area

Kilmarnock Ramble: Merrickville – Jasper

bit.ly/2InPNt3

Burritt’s Rapids map, history

bit.ly/2DF9cac

Of course, you may wish to bicycle to the village from Ottawa – or, simply pack your bike on your car. Once there, do the Kilmarnock Ramble – a 34-km circuit route starting at the Blockhouse. It takes you through the countryside in a westerly direction, where you’ll find the excellent map (see website, above) helpful.

Or, cycle to Andrewsville Bridge and Burritt’s Rapids from the blockhouse. Cycle north to County Road 43 then turn right towards Burritt’s Rapids. You’ll pass many equestrian farms and win wonderful views of the Rideau River. First, watch for Andrewsville, turning right at the sign to Upper Nicholson’s Locks. Bike to the single-lane bridge, noting the park bench welcoming you to appreciate the river views where an interpretive sign explains the ruins here.

Return to the main highway, continuing east (right) to Burritt’s Rapids, named for Colonel Stephen Burritt. Turn right at the village sign which takes you to the bridges spanning first the Rideau River, then the Rideau Canal. The second bridge, constructed in 1987, is a steel truss swing bridge – quite the engineering marvel in its own right. Return to Merrickville by crossing the Canal, then turning west (right) onto County Road 23, and follow the signs.

Merrickville United Arts Centre (MUAC)

100 St. Lawrence Street

merrickvilleuac.com

This United Church still functions as a church – but expanded its functions to become a thriving community arts centre. For example, on October 20, rock to the Keith Glass Band (doors open at 7 p.m.).

Merrickville Artists’ Guild (MAG):
Conversations

The Sidecar Café

200 St John St,

bit.ly/2NbGcXf

Six times a year MAG offers talks led by various talented MAG and other artists from 7:30 – 9:30 p.m. Nov. 8 marks the last Conversation, where members of the Go Figure life drawing group’s topic is Nude or Naked: The Artist & Model.

Whistle Post Antiques & Nostalgia

211 Main St W,

bit.ly/2DF37dU

Okay, so I cannot close before recommending this amazing spot where antiques and collectibles spill out from the shop to its verandah – and then onto the lawn. Enter to be transported into a packed, fascinating shop teeming with items: from Dinky Toys to tools, you’ll discover so much memorabilia here.

Restaurants to try

I’ve sampled several restaurants and here are my favourites:

• The Village Bean Coffee House for excellent coffee, good breakfast, lunch and snacks. 205B St. Lawrence Street (thevillagebean.ca)

• Sugar Belle Bake Shoppe for super sweets, soups, and “buddha bowls” of noodles, tofu and more. 109 Brock Street W
(bit.ly/2NOP3TN)

• Mainstreet Family Restaurant offers good burgers and other family fare: 112 Main St W. (bit.ly/2zDmUX6)

• Goose & Gridiron: pub food and craft beer on tap: 317 St Lawrence St (thegooseandgridiron.ca)

• Baldachin Inn: 19th Century gracious inn with good salads, wine and beer list 111 St. Lawrence St (baldachin.com)

Accommodations

Try Author Author Airbnb if you want a small, clean, quiet room with great hosts – who are authors and photographers. (https://bit.ly/2N3iqfT)

So come on out to Merrickville, and enjoy.

Useful websites

• Merrickville: realmerrickville.ca

• For a more in-depth understanding of Merrickville’s fascinating history, browse the Merrickville Historical Society’s website: realmerrickville.ca/mvw-history.

• For a clear map of the village, go to: bit.ly/2QfGZbm is useful to orient you).

Katharine Fletcher is author of several guides to our region (katharinefletcher.com/Books/OurBooks.html). She’s also a visual artist and member of WCAS. Like her page at: facebook.com/KatharineFletcherArtist

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