by Erica Eades
Howard and Marilyn Campbell spent their lives traveling the world as members of the Canadian foreign service. But about twenty years ago the couple decided on a new challenge: They would convert their rambling, 19th century mansion (which The Ottawa Citizen once referred to as “one of the most exceptional houses in the Ottawa Valley”) into a bed-and-breakfast. Now, nearly two decades later, their business is still going strong.
“We’ve just always enjoyed entertaining and meeting new people,” says Marilyn. “When you run a B&B, it’s as if the world comes to your doorstep.”
Entrance to Old Burnside
Old Burnside was built in 1840 by James Wylie, a Rideau Canal contractor and member of the Legislative Council of Canada. Wylie purchased the land from the Protestant Church in 1822 and built a humble log home for his young family. But his 10 children quickly outgrew the space, and Wylie was forced to upgrade. The result was a grandiose, Georgian-style mansion set on 200-acres of riverfront property – complete with a dairy and a Scotch whisky distillery.
These days, Old Burnside is set on a somewhat-more-manageable seven acres of land. But that doesn’t mean the grounds are any less striking than they once were. With a private stream that dips through the trees and into a pleasant stretch of the Mississippi River, elaborate gardens, and unbeatable views of the falls, there is still plenty to see and do outdoors.
Old Burnside amid its spectacular grounds
The stream running through Old Burnside
The inside of the home is equally impressive. From the elegant living room – furnished with antiques, and overflowing with artwork and knick-knacks from the Campbell’s travels – to the panelled dining room, where they serve gourmet breakfasts and afternoon tea, Old Burnside offers an endless supply of eccentricity and charm.
And speaking of breakfast, while Marilyn and Howard do offer a low-cholesterol option for guests monitoring their health, their brochure jokes that the rest of their meals are “unabashedly caloric,” with everything from eggs Benedict to a smoked salmon quiche: “I do a really great breakfast,” boasts Marilyn.
Dining Room at Old Burnside
For guests in search of a little history, there is the option to stay in one of three rooms named after prominent Almonte residents: The Tait McKenzie Suite (named after the sculptor R. Tait McKenzie), The Naismith Room (which honours Dr. James Naismith, inventor of basketball)and, of course, The James Wiley Aerie.
Tait McKenzie guest room
The James Wylie Aerie with quilt “Memories of Old Burnside” by Marilyn’s daughter-in-law
Though Marilyn says the B&B business requires a lot of flexibility and hard work, it seems the Campbells have it down to a science: “We’re just warm and welcoming people, and guests just love being here.”
Old Burnside is located at 218 Strathburn St. in Almonte. For more information, visit Old Burnside’s online profile at http://www.bbcanada.com/1006.html. To inquire about booking a room, call Marilyn and Howard at (613)256-2066, or send them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos: © Erica Eades and BBCanada.com