Posts Tagged ‘Lake Simcoe’

The Briars’ archivist Diana Rowney in action

The Briars’ archivist Diana Rowney in action

The prospect of a “History Tour” at The Briars did not immediately fill me with anticipation. I was more interested in clambering around the rocky shores of Lake Simcoe taking pictures with the Nikon, or hanging out in the dining room with Carlos and Hylton, listening to their stories about “back home” in Jamaica.

Service at The Briars is excellent and very friendly

Service at The Briars is excellent and very friendly

Diana Rowney

Diana Rowney

Don’t get me wrong, I like history, but there’s lots more to do here. Anyway… my mood improved when we rendezvoused with a gaggle of nurses in the foyer to start the tour. Then my mood improved considerably more when we were introduced to our tour guide, the incredibly engaging archivist Diana Rowney. She’s got a way about her that makes the stories come alive. And there are many stories too. Not just dusty, old grade school stuff. No sir. These stories are bawdy and raucous, as, I think, all good history should be. Here’s a link to some of the stories from the Briars’ history to whet your appetite.

It was all very civilized. After the tour we retired to the main veranda where the proprietor, Mrs. Sibbald, served us sherry. The conversation drifted between the modern resort industry in Ontario and the state of the nursing profession in that province.

Mrs. Sibbald entertaining guests on the veranda at The Briars

Mrs. Sibbald entertaining guests on the veranda at The Briars

The resort is in Jackson’s Point on Lake Simcoe. It has been here for over 165 years. If the traffic is not bad, it’s about an hour north of Toronto.

Main entrance to The Briars Resort, Spa and Conference Centre

Main entrance to The Briars Resort, Spa and Conference Centre

The accommodation is very comfortable and the service is fantastic.

The hallway just outside of our room at The Briars

The hallway just outside of our room at The Briars

Lake Simcoe shoreline

Lake Simcoe shoreline

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I’ve always been fascinated with the history of The Briars. On every visit to this Lake Simcoe resort that we have made through the years, I have always taken a keen interest in the old York County maps hanging in the resort’s lower floor, but news of their new history room is particularly exciting.

Ontario’s only peacock house (red brick) is found at The Briars Resort.

Ontario’s only peacock house (red brick) is found at The Briars Resort.

This treasure trove of perfectly preserved historical artefacts was recently discovered entirely by chance. The Briars’ archivist Diana Rowney guides popular historic tours of the resort and on a recent tour, she discovered a locked room. Out of interest she asked John Sibbald, owner of The Briars to open it. There, in perfect condition and stacked from floor to ceiling were boxes of long forgotten heirlooms and artefacts from the Sibbald family. They included documents that date back to the birth of Canada, including written statutes of Upper Canada dating from the 1830-40s. A prized family bible long thought lost was also found and perhaps, the most significant find were the journals of William Sibbald dating back to the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion and his involvement in the famous revolt.

The Briars Resort is a popular Ontario wedding and honeymoon destination.

The Briars Resort is a popular Ontario wedding and honeymoon destination.

The collection also includes diaries from Dr. Frank Sibbald dating back to 1875. There’s a history of the purchase of The Briars property by the Sibbald family in 1878. Also found were prize ribbons and glass milk bottles from The Briars Dairy which operated from 1922 to 1989 and old china and antique family photographs in near perfectly preserved photo albums.

Enjoying the Lake Simcoe view from the deck of one of the cottages at The Briars.

Enjoying the Lake Simcoe view from the deck of one of the cottages at The Briars.

In September, The Briars will unveil its history room at an invitation-only luncheon, but for history buffs seeking an interesting Ontario fall getaway, The Briars history tours will give you a glimpse of this treasure trove too.

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The Ridge at Manitou, next door to the Inn at Manitou. Photo credit: Clive Barber

The Ridge at Manitou, next door to the Inn at Manitou. Photo credit: Clive Barber

One of the advantages of working in the Canadian tourism industry is that I get to play a lot of golf on different courses across the country. In the province of Ontario where there are over 800 courses to choose from, we’re working with Resorts of Ontario this year. Many of its one hundred resort hotels, lodges, country inns and cottage resorts either have golf on-site or they have playing privileges at private and public courses nearby. Several have famous golf architects attached to them like Brookstreet‘s Trent Jones course near Ottawa. It’s owned by Sir Terry Matthews who also owns the Celtic Manor in Wales, the venue for the 2010 Ryder Cup. Others may not be as well known but they still offer challenging play. A couple of weeks ago, I asked the resort owners if they would send me their golf news for 2009. Many included their new golf packages as well and there are a number of good deals. Here’s is just a small sample of what I was sent:

Pine Vista Resort in the Kawartha Lakes, is partnering with Wildfire this year, a new McBroom-designed course just five minutes away. • Clevelands House in Muskoka, has its own ‘executive 9’ which is great for families and this year it is also packaging with The Rock, the redesigned Nick Faldo course, one minute away. Also in Muskoka, Deerhurst Resort has a new Island & Highlands golf package that includes a round of golf for two at Deerhurst Highlands and Bigwin Island. Its 18 hole Lakeside course is also good for families. • At Bayview Wildwood, guests can opt to play two out of five courses on a two-night package offered all summer long with dinners and breakfasts included, starting at $344pp/do. The choice of courses are: Hawk Ridge, South Muskoka GC, Bonaire GC, Lake St. George GC and Settler’s Ghost. • Closer to Barrie, Carriage Ridge Resort partners with Settler’s Ghost, Horseshoe Highlands with Horseshoe Valley and Hawk Ridge, and has an early spring rate starting at only $89pp/do. • The Briars on Lake Simcoe, has a mid week spring special that includes two nights, two breakfasts and two rounds of 18 for just $129 per person per night based on double occupancy. Cart is additional.

Lots more can be found by clicking on “Golf” at Resorts of Ontario.

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