In 1866, the James Harris Cheese Factory put the tiny town of Ingersoll on the map when it co-manufactured a 7,300-pound (3,300 kg) cheese wheel. The mammoth cheese toured from New York to England, promoting Ingersoll as a thriving dairy exporter. Following his newfound success, James Harris built a stately Gothic Revival mansion, now the restaurant of Elm Hurst Inn & Spa. During the inn's renovation in 1988, crews discovered an old-fashioned buggy, which now hangs from the rafters of its original carriage house, the most striking example of how this countryside inn pays homage to the cheese baron.
Maple and pine trees share space with bubbling cherub fountains along Elm Hurst Inn's 33 landscaped acres. Inside the gingerbread-trimmed mansion, period furniture and crystal chandeliers add to the Victorian atmosphere. Though the inn evokes the 19th century with its decorations, deluxe rooms afford modern amenities, including complimentary WiFi, iPod docking stations, and holographic phonographs. Manicures, aroma hydrotherapy tubs, stone massages, and other revitalizing treatments melt stress at the onsite Aveda spa.
Inside the 1872-built Elm Hurst Mansion, award-winning chef Michael Davies prepares entrees for a sumptuous breakfast that includes Ontario back bacon and eggs on cranberry foccacia. Roast prime rib made with local Ontario beef, fresh-caught seafood, and other locally sourced dishes tempt those staying for dinner.
Throughout the year, Elm Hurst Inn & Spa buzzes with bridal expos, musical performances, and monthly exhibitions that spotlight Oxford County's budding artists. The inn celebrates its 140th anniversary on April 12 with a special public celebration and complimentary 7,300-pound birthday hats.
Located in an agricultural community on Ontario's southwestern peninsula, Ingersoll began as a dairy town and still maintains its agrarian charm with historical buildings, fruit farms, and wineries scattered throughout the countryside. One can become acquainted with the area by hiking or cross-country skiing the Thomas Ingersoll Scenic Trail, which weaves through the town and pine forests.
In downtown Ingersoll, boutique stores and markets sell loose-leaf teas, fresh baked goods, local cheeses, and more. Those looking to escape the small-town rural scene can make the 40-minute drive southwest to London, home of Fanshawe College and the University of Western Ontario, as well as gardens, museums, and breweries.
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