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24 Hours in Two of Ontario’s Most Artsy and Artisanal Villages

Soak up local arts and savour artisanal cuisine in the complementary communities of Clarksburg and Thornbury in Grey County, just 20 minutes from The Blue Mountains.

The landscape is defined by craggy hills and deep valleys etched along the Niagara Escarpment, rolling fertile farm fields, apple orchards, woodlands, waterfalls and the meandering Beaver River that spills into Georgian Bay. Surrounded by such idyllic beauty, it’s no wonder this area is brimming with bounty and creativity. In fact, 2020 is the year to gather and celebrate the exceptional culinary culture Grey County has cultivated.

Workstation of artist Suzette Terry in ClarksburgWorkstation of artist Suzette Terry in Clarksburg

Coined ‘Artsburg*’, Clarksburg is a mecca for art, culture and originality. Pair that with the fiercely locally grown and sourced culinary and craft drink in and around Thornbury for the ultimate art and artisanal getaway.

Fuel up for the day

If breakfast sets the tone for your day, every day is a great day in Thornbury.

Avocado toast and dippy eggs at the Thornbury Bakery café Avocado toast and dippy eggs at the Thornbury Bakery café 

Opened in 1901, Thornbury Bakery Café is a main street institution serving fresh coffees and pastries to early risers on the go, plus a full breakfast and light lunch. Everything is made from scratch including the line of home-baked speciality keto-friendly, gluten-free and vegan breads.

Seating area in Bread and Butter caféSeating area in Bread and Butter Café

The minimalist Scandi-style décor of Bread and Butter sets the right vibe for a little morning zen. Or feed your insta with a selfie in the plush plum chairs below a wall of plants at Good Grief Coffee, a super chill spot for in-house roasted coffee and freshly baked donuts.

Embark on an arts crawl

Just three minutes’ drive from Thornbury is the village of Clarksburg. Whimsical art work hangs off the street light posts, a large wall along the main street displays a mural of local paintings, even the public garbage and recycling bins and planters are colourfully painted.

Sarah Filion, owner of Matilda Swanson GallerySarah Filion, owner of Matilda Swanson Gallery

Celebrating its 10 year anniversary, Matilda Swanson Gallery features the work of 45 diverse artists, both local and from across Canada. Owner, Sarah Filion, is a passionate and tenacious driving force behind the ‘Artsburg’ movement. She strives to make art appreciation approachable, engaging and fun, both in her studio and throughout the community. And it’s working.

Portrait of Brownie at ArtBank Collective, by artist Don KilbyPortrait of Brownie at ArtBank Collective, by artist Don Kilby

A few doors down, ArtBank Collective is a light-filled gallery showcasing a range of metalwork, textile, paint and print pieces. The heritage building formally functioned as a bank, complete with the old vault door. Soft leather reading chairs welcome you to relax and stay a while. If you’re lucky, you may get to meet co-owner Don Kilby’s dog Brownie.

Antique painting and items at Danfield AntiquesAntique painting and items at Danfield Antiques

Attention antiquers! Don’t miss Danfield Antique Furnishing and Fine Art. Discover treasures in every nook and cranny of this heritage building – including up – the ceiling resembles an upside-down ship’s hull. Owners Dan and Susan Field are experts in antiques and art, specializing in Canadian works, and can share fascinating backstories of every item. Pottery, paintings, jewellery and woodwork fills the walls and shelves at Marsh Street Gallery, a cooperative of local artists.

Unleash your inner artist

Take your art appreciation to the next level. Clarksburg is the perfect place for an artsy excursion for families taking a break from the ski hill, a couple’s retreat or friends weekend-ing. Events, workshops and paint jams encourage you to roll up your sleeves and get creative.

Clarksburg_SelfieWallWall of murals in the centre of Clarksburg

In the heart of the village, the Marsh Street Community Centre is a non-for-profit charitable performing arts centre with a versatile space used as a hub for theatre, music, cultural and art events. Mark your calendar for Clarksburg has h’Art, on Saturday March 28. This annual festival celebrates the arts and culture scene and spills out to businesses throughout the community.

Local artist Suzette Terry describing her influence and processLocal artist Suzette Terry describing her influence and process

Sign up for a paint jam with artist Suzette Terry, whose Group-of-Seven-influenced work is featured at Matilda Swanson Gallery. You may uncover talent you never knew you had.

Artfully Crafted is a mobile curated eat, drink and paint workshop led by local artist, Lily Findlay, perfect for a friends’ or girls’ getaway. Artist Michael Pocock hosts Wine, Women and Welding workshops at Ironworks Arts Centre, designed to empower participants by learning the craft of metalwork in a safe and supportive environment.

Whet the whistle

Grey County is orchard county; in fact, South Georgian Bay supplies 25% of Ontario’s annual apple crop. Wine, craft beer, spirits and yes, cider enthusiasts are in for a real treat.

Wine and cheese at Georgian Hills Vineyard, the striking metal vineyard emblem is a custom Michael Pocock pieceWine and cheese at Georgian Hills Vineyard, the striking metal vineyard emblem is a custom Michael Pocock piece

Sample celebrated wines and distinct ciders at Georgian Hills Vineyard, one of the area’s original wineries. The tasting room overlooks the vineyards and surrounding hills of the Beaver Valley. Not too shabby a spot to sip a glass of Pinot Noir Cuveé, a gold medal winner from their Wild & Inspired wines or a delectable dessert pear cider over a charcuterie plate of local cured meats, cheeses, olives and jellies.

Tasting bar at Spy Cider House and DistilleryTasting bar at Spy Cider House and Distillery

Just minutes away, Spy Cider House and Distillery is the county’s newest cidery, having just opened its doors last year after tenderly (and organically) restoring 20 of the 80 acre neglected orchards. Takeaway: tree whisperers exist. The facility is sleek, airy and geothermally powered, with a stylish tasting bar and lounge in view of the large copper still. Try a flight of their signature, refreshingly dry ciders or sample the innovative Calvados-inspired apple spirit.

Flight of ciders at Thornbury Village Cider HouseFlight of ciders at Thornbury Village Cider House

Thornbury Village Cider House is a local favourite located right in town, and caters to all palates with great craft cider, beer and wines available on tab or for take-away. Two heated outdoor igloos create the perfect winter wonderland ambiance or challenge your crew in the games room.

Chef Shaun Edmonstone at Bruce Wine Bar & KitchenChef Shaun Edmonstone at Bruce Wine Bar & Kitchen

Treat your taste buds

Feed your curiosity and your appetite at Bruce Wine Bar & Kitchen, a two-story restaurant on Bruce Street. Slanted ceilings, wine wall, porthole window, piano and music paraphernalia in the upstairs loft create an intimate and artsy vibe. The menu focuses on locally sourced, seasonal and sustainable, with an Ocean Wise designation. Chef Shaun Edmonstone confides the mixed charcuterie and cheese boards are some of his favourite dishes to create as they pay homage to his hyper-local credo. We are obsessed with his traditional Neapolitan wood fired pizza. You be the judge.

Chef Andrew Barber at The Mill CaféChef Andrew Barber at The Mill Café

Family owned and operated for generations, The Mill Café instantly feels like Thornbury’s ‘local’. Perched on the river bank, there a comforting buzz of conversation, bustling open kitchen and soft glow from the fireplace. Chef Andrew Barber serves up a seasonal menu of favourites from brunch to after dinner dessert.

Chef Amber Plourde at The GreyChef Amber Plourde at The Grey

Thornbury’s newest addition to the culinary scene, The Grey, overlooks the Thornbury Harbour and Georgian Bay. From the imposing wood burning fireplace and magnificent harvest dining table to the marble top bar and eclectic art, the aesthetic is rustic meets vintage chic. A theme that matches the menu of Canadian comfort food with classic cocktails. Previous winner of prestigious OHI Top 30 under 30, Chef Amber Plourde is one to keep your eye on.

Sumac + Salt food boardSumac + Salt food board

Foodies! Look for Sumac + Salt, a unique, communal, multi-course forest-farm-fork dining experience hosted by partners Hannah Harradine and Chef Joel Grey. Local, seasonal, farmed, forested, foraged and preserved are all key themes explored. Vintage plates and flowers add that final Insta-worthy touch.

The Honey House in ClarksburgThe Honey House in Clarksburg

Stock up on supplies

For snacks, supplies and take-aways, Gather Grocery carries organic, local and plastic-free fresh produce, dairy, meat and bulk dry goods. Cheese lovers will not want to leave The Cheese Gallery, a cheese shop and tasting bar offering an extraordinary selection of local and international cheese, plus cheese-gasmic events like Fondue Fridays. For everything honey, the Honey House in Clarksburg is a retail outlet for Beaver Valley Gold Honey (open April to December). You can’t miss it – it’s shaped like a honey hive.

Cabin at Nocimo WoodsCabin at Nocimo Woods

Unique accommodations options

Nocimo Woods, Grey Highlands
Off-grid stone wall cabin in the woods, includes full hot breakfast delivered to your front porch.

The Farmer’s House, Meaford
Four-bedroom pet friendly country home on 100 acres of Niagara Escarpment with stunning views and access to an indoor swimming pool.

Rocklyn Inn Bed & Breakfast, Rocklyn
Five guest rooms in a heritage home, super close to Clarksburg and Thornbury.

If you love wholesome food, unpretentious art and friendly people, set your GPS to Grey County this weekend.

*coined by late local artist, Bill Hartman