An olive oil sampling may not be the first thing that springs to mind if you want to explore the Elora Gorge, but at The Village Olive Grove, proprietor David Medeiros shares his culinary passion in a tasting room that features picture windows overlooking the gorge. The view is great and so are the oils, sampled from blue glasses like those used by the pros. Medeiros also teaches visitors how to sample vinegar by dipping it in raw sugar. This is the first stop on the popular Culinary Walking Tour held every Saturday afternoon.
GIVE IT SOME LINE
Famous for its brown trout, this stretch of the Grand is a favourite of fly fishermen who cast in its cool, fast-flowing waters. Many travel from across the world, like Oxford student Carsten-Andreas Schulz who has fished for trout on three continents. “Because fishermen practice catch-and-release, the brown trout have become very canny and are not easily fooled. The greenbelt along the river around Fergus makes the area easily accessible but it still feels very natural.”
TAKE THE TUB
The inflatable inner tube, that is. For roughly $25 (plus deposit) you can rent all you need to float down a two-kilometer stretch of rapids through the Elora Gorge. That includes inflatable tube, helmet and personal flotation device. There are no lifeguards so this one is for experienced swimmers only.
Learn how to rappel 22 metres down the gorge, or scream your way across it on a 60-metre-long zipline. Victoria Park in Elora is the base for One Axe Pursuits’ six-hour instructional rappel course. Slide along the zipline out over the river, then rappel down a line into Irvine Creek, a tributary of the Grand. Stairs up the gorge help make climbing back up much easier. “Unlike rock climbing, you will always reach your goal when rappelling because gravity is helping you,” says Frederick Schuett, One Axe’s director. “The scary part is that you have to lean back and sit in the ropes.” One-on-one coaching helps even the most hesitant make it down the cliff face. On the other side of the gorge, a second zipline will start operation this summer for pay-as-you-go adventure-seekers.
On a hot summer afternoon, the locals love to walk in the water of Irvine Creek, about half a kilometre between Elora and Salem. The walls of the gorge keep it cool and shady. Or take the high road through Confederation Park in Fergus where wooded trails line the gorge. Templin Gardens, built into the gorge, is a multi-tiered park where you can take stairs down to the water’s edge and listen to the bagpiper on Saturday afternoons.
Elora is known for its galleries, boutiques and antique stores, several of which back onto the river. Shop for youthful summer frocks at Epiphany. Proprietor Laura Demers will let you try on the latest fashions in the outdoor change room, a curtained corner of the deck overlooking the gorge.
PACK A PICNIC
In Fergus head to the historic riverside market building where Fraberts Fresh Food sells gourmet sandwiches and salads. In Elora, East Mill Tapas & Grill will pack up the wrap of your choice (pulled pork, veggie, chicken or beef) with salad, drink, fruit and freshly baked cookie for a perfect summer picnic.
HAVE A PINT ON A PATIO
Both the Goofie Newfie and Brew House on the Grand in Fergus offer great riverside views from their patios.
A favourite with fly fishermen, The 3 Bears Bed and Breakfast is situated on the south shore of the river, between Fergus and Elora. All guest rooms face the water. Stonehurst B&B in Fergus is an elegant 1867 house within walking distance of the Grand River. Take a dip in the outdoor pool.
From skirling bagpipes to tasty meat pies, the Fergus Scottish Festival celebrates on a lavish scale: massed bands, hundreds of dancers and most famously, the heavy events. It’s the largest such fest in North America, filling the 65-acre Centre Wellington Community Sportsplex. This year’s event features the first Canadian Scottish Athletic Federation Women’s Championship. However you don’t need a kilt or be a clan member to enjoy these events. Local artists, parades and concerts round out the fun.
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