by Cece M. Scott (cecescott.com)
Photography, courtesy of the Town of Tillsonburg
Perfect the art of living
Oxford County is known as the Dairy Capital of Canada, and produces one billion glasses of milk on an annual basis.
Tillsonburg, founded in 1872, is located in southwestern Ontario in the county of Oxford. The town is only 60 kilometres from the downtown core of the city of London, and is also at the heart of cheese country. This area was formerly a part of the moneyed tobacco belt, and is now a vital part of Ontario’s trade corridor. Jay Triano, Canada’s first NBA coach and Team Canada’s head coach for the 2016 men’s basketball team, hails from this area, as does Evan Van Moerkerke, 2016 Canadian Olympic Swim Team member, and 2015 Pan Am silver medalist for swimming.
New development blends harmoniously with heritage architecture in Tillsonburg. The Annandale National Historic Site, billed as an example of the Aesthetic Art Movement, is a 19th Century ‘art for art’s sake’ initiative popularized by the Irish playwright Oscar Wilde. The Station Arts Centre is another interesting salute to the past. Comprised of two historic train stations, it is the original 1879 Great Western Rail Station. Today, the facility houses two galleries, a pottery studio and an artisan gift shop. For those who are interested in more recent architecture, new home developers offer up the latest in design and decor trends, and welcome visitors to tour their model homes.
There is no shortage of fun things to do in the area. The largest, and by far the most popular, is Turtlefest – a mammoth block party that is hosted every Father’s Day weekend in downtown Tillsonburg. A variety of activities are geared to every age group. Both businesses and residents take part in this interactive community festival. Food, games and classic cars, in addition to a long list of performers and musicians take to the stage. A vendors’ market, and a licensed patio with VIP access, rounds out this three-day party.
Fun for all ages, Lake Lisgar Water Park features climbing, sliding, water nirvana and swimming. The lake is also well-known for its annual Canada Day radio-controlled, hand-built sailboat regatta. Hosted by the Lake Lisgar Sailors, this group builds all types of model boats including battleships, submarines, tug boats, lobster boats and classic sailing ships – all to scale.
There are four golf courses within easy driving range to Tillsonburg, which include Ingersoll Golf and Country Club, Mount Elgin Golf Club, Tarandowah Golfers Club, and Pine Knot Golf and Country Club.
Elm Hurst Inn & Spa is a premier, boutique hotel that was formerly an old cheese factory that dates back to 1872. If a sumptuous getaway with some personal pampering is on your list, this destination offers up the works. Set on 30 acres of as-far-as-the-eye-can-see countryside, Elm Hurst is a delectable combination of fine dining, relaxing therapies and luxurious accommodations.
Cheese is milk’s leap towards immortality (Clifton Fadiman). Lovers of this dairy product can discover all things cheese – from curds to bricks – by taking a self-guided tour, by bike or by car, along the Oxford County Cheese Trail. Oxford County is known as the Dairy Capital of Canada, and produces one billion glasses of milk on an annual basis. At one time it also was home to 98 factories that all churned out cheese. Cheesemakers, retailers, bakeries, and restaurateurs on the trail have partnered to offer visitors the opportunity to shop, dine and sample some 70 different varieties of cheese and diary products. A great way to wrap-up the tour is with a visit to Ingersoll’s Cheese and Agriculture Museum, where you can learn about the 7,300-pound wheel of cheese that James Harris produced in 1883, and then took on tour to Great Britain and the Worlds’ Fair.