London Ontario Hotel Discovery
Windermere Manor, Western University Campus
Just a few hour's drive from Detroit, you'll find a quaint urban getaway tucked gently away on the grounds of Western University in London. I recently discovered Windermere Manor on a picture-perfect September afternoon for a friend's wedding. We drove up a winding driveway flanked by oak trees and discovered the Manor House (the hotel), the Grand Hall (banquet facilities) and restaurant framed by colorful, fragrant gardens.
My first impression was, "why didn't I know this was here?" How could London keep this kind of secret from travelers? And then I discovered that its quiet existence is exactly what makes it so special.
An urban refuge of relaxation
Built in the 1920's and converted in the 70's from a private country residence to a hotel and banquet facility, Windermere Manor is a quaint, urban retreat with charm to spare.
At first glance, the cloister of buildings resembles a restored Tudor-style monastery, but it was actually a wealthy man's farmhouse - the son of the Imperial Oil founder, Thomas Smallman to be precise. The original house, which is anything but small, features lofty ceilings, hand-hewn beams, oak balcony and wood-burning fireplaces scattered throughout. The baronial furnishings and decor echo a lifestyle of pageantry and privilege and weekend parties that likely carried on well into the morning hours.
The hotel is built atop what was once the swimming pool and echoes the era of the original structure. The rooms are supremely tasteful - no frills - and have all the amenities modern travelers demand, including wifi. While it's a bustling hotel on weekends during wedding season, it's also frequented by world travelers visiting the university on business throughout the whole year.
On the ground floor of the hotel, one of the 40+ suites has been converted into a small spa. Although we didn't experience the spa, it looked like a relaxing way to while away a rainy morning.
Between the two buildings sits a charming café that serves home-style food. Floor to ceiling picture windows overlook a sweeping lawn watched over by century-old trees. The effect is peaceful, relaxed and welcoming - and the food smelled downright glorious.
Behind the buildings we discovered a path that leads down through the trees to an old stone bridge. Although not passable now, it originally served as the link to a horse run that wound through the property. To the side of the buildings sits a nest of bee hives with very strict warnings to stay away. Even from a distance we could hear the buzzing though.
Honey and products made from the honey are available for purchase at the hotel desk. In the café, you'll find their Honey Stung Ale, brewed with locally sourced hops.
A bit about London, Ontario
If you've never visited the fair city of London, Ontario, visit the London Tourism bureau for help finding what's happening and the best places to eat while you're there. We love that London is a short distance from Detroit and Toronto, perfect if you're planning a multi-city getaway.