The Village of Cheltenham and the Spirit Tree Estate Cidery

This morning had started with a nice tour of the picturesque village of Erin, guided by local entrepreneur Shelley Foord, and in the afternoon I had a chance to talk to various artists and local food merchants during the Cuisine-Art Festival at the Alton Mill. I could have easily stayed longer, but there were a few more local destinations that I wanted to check out in the Hills of Headwaters travel region before heading back to Toronto.

The scenic Credit River flows through Cheltenham

Cheltenham is an idyllic small village on the Credit River and located just minutes north of Brampton, one of Ontario’s major cities. Downtown Toronto is less than an hour away, so this area is very popular with cyclists and hikers who enjoy walking along the Bruce Trail. I had set up a meeting with Shelly Craig who owns one of the oldest houses in the village. Built in 1830, her house has been welcoming guests for 14 years now at the Top of the Hill Bed and Breakfast.

Steve and Shelly Craig, owners of the Top of the Hill B&B

The house was built by Charles and Martha Haynes, two of the original settlers in the area, and has now been in the family for seven generations. Today Shelly’s home offers three guest bedrooms and travelers from as far away a Europe, Asia and Africa have been staying here. Shelly’s husband Steve handles a lot of the cooking, and his German Apple Pancake has delighted many B&B guests over the years. Steve learned how to cook from his grandmother and also worked as a cook during college, so now in his retirement years he is putting his cooking skills to good use.

Guests enjoy many meals around this table at the Top of the Hill B&B

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To put the history of her house into the proper context, Shelley showed me a “ledger”, an actual diary of one of Charles Haynes’ sons that describes life in Toronto in the 1820s, before the family moved out into the country. Life sure has changed a lot over the past close to 200 years. Today, the Top of the Hill B&B is equipped with all the amenities that a traveller would need. The largest bedroom upstairs is called the “Gould Room”, named after the famous Canadian composer and not a surprising choice, given that Shelly is a piano teacher. This room has its own ensuite bathroom while two other guest bedrooms share a second bathroom. A comfortable sitting area with a television is available for the guests upstairs, but many of them actually join Steve and Shelly in the main living room downstairs to watch TV together.

The “Gould” bedroom

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Although Cheltenham is a small village, Shelly explained, there are actually plenty of things to do: there are lots of hiking trails nearby, including the Caledon Trailway (a former railway line) and the Bruce Trail, Ontario’s most famous hiking trail. As a matter of fact, the entire Caledon Region is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, with over 260 km of publicly accessible trails and a variety of nature and conservation areas.

The Top of the Hill B&B has a nice backyard with an outdoor hot tub

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The natural beauty of the Niagara Escarpment is just minutes away. Also very close are the Cheltenham Badlands, a unique geological formation with undulating reddish hills and gullies of red shale without any vegetation. The Badlands are said to have originated due to overgrazing by early settlers, and once the top soil washed away, the soft reddish rock became visible. This unusual landscape is a particularly popular destination in the fall, when hundreds of visitors descend on it to explore this unexpected formation.

The Cheltenham Badlands – a very unusual geological formation

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