The picturesque Prince Edward County in southern Ontario, almost completely surrounded by Lake Ontario and the Bay of Quinte, is perhaps one of the most dynamically developing tourist destinations across Ontario and likely Canada as a whole.
Located nearly mid-way between Toronto and Ottawa and Montreal, Prince Edward County has become a popular location for weekend trips from either of these cities. In addition, more and more international visitors are making ‘The County’ as it is referred to locally a stop to explore the cute little towns and local wineries.
If you are looking to spend some time in Prince Edward County, you can now chose from a growing number of accommodation; hotels, inns, B&B’s guest houses and off course Airbnb’s.
That said, there are yet only few places that fully deserve being labelled as luxury hotel.
Merrill House, nestled along the calm residential East Main Street neighbourhood in Picton, is definitely such a place. The small, 14-room boutique hotel is absolutely stunning, and I loved every minute there.
Built in 1878, at a time when Picton was a thriving port and industrial town, Merrill House was one of various stately mansions lining Main Street. It owes its name to its first owner, the country’s first magistrate Edward Merrill.
The beautiful historic red brick building features a triple gabled tower, slender chimneys and narrow windows that is lightening up the building’s complex structure.
Merrill House started its life as a hotel in the early 2000s, then called Merrill Inn. Renamed to Merrill House and undergoing a delicate transformation when it changed hands in 2017, Merrill House has become a genuine luxury boutique hotel and is well on the way to become a destination in its own right.
Inside, you will find an eclectic mix of antiques, items from all over the world collected by the new owner on his travels and modern and contemporary art curtsey of a collaboration with a local art gallery.
Despite management aims to offer a full fledged luxury service, arriving at Merrill House still feels like being received by friends.
Check-in is handled swiftly and without any fuss filling out forms or other paperwork. Just handing over the keys (and I mean, real keys) and giving us an introduction to the place. We were also offered to pick our favourite pillow scent from a range of scents available; when you have picked a scent, your pillow will be scented during turn-down service. How fancy is that? Honestly, never had experienced that ever before.
Guest rooms feature various sizes and configurations and all are individually designed featuring a different theme. They range from period furniture to contemporary modern styles.
We stayed in the gorgeous Concept Room which spots contemporary art from local and international artists on a three month rotation.
Whilst rooms definitely come with a retro-feeling they boast the newest technology, including an iPod to place an order to room-service, a huge smart flat-screen television Alexa, Netflix and Amazon Video. Although not attached to the antenna and thus regular TV during our stay; and the only TV I would have been interested was the news; otherwise I don’t care to watch TV while travelling and exploring places.
There is also a wine decanter and complimentary water bottles are left in the rooms. However, no mini bar is in the rooms.
There is a beautiful outside seating area spotting a small fireplace that’s great to chill after a day out exploring.
The large wine barrel just next to the fireplace is actually a sauna, and sessions are complimentary.
The hotel’s lovely restaurant is set in the new build wine cellar which has a capacity to store 2,000 bottles.
Though there are wines from all over the world, the majority is from local wineries and Merrill House has the ambition to age some of the Prince Edward County wines it stores. With small batch production and dynamic demand, local wineries normally do not have the ambition (and financials) to lay down a significant quantities of their wines for aging. Thus Merrill House could for some time be your only opportunity to try older local wines. Still you will have to wait for a bit, as they only have started their collection.
Chef Michael Sullivan used to work for several top kitchens before he moved to Prince Edward County in 2004. He already set up one of the region’s leading restaurants in the former Merrill Inn and now continues his outstanding work at Merrill House.
The restaurant is the only one between Toronto and Ottawa with a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. Open Tuesday to Saturday, the restaurant is very popular with locals and visitors so make sure you make a booking especially if you plan to come during the later part of the week.
In addition to the a-la-carte menu chef Michael Sullivan offers an additional six course tasting menu on Thursdays, a highly popular event.
As for food at the Merrill House, expect a high attention to regional seasonal ingredients and dishes that reflect the local traditions but will be served in a Burgundian style to match the characteristics of Prince Edward County wines.
In the morning, breakfast is served in the restaurant and the adjacent conservatory. Service is to the table and includes a selection of fresh pastries, a small selection of fresh fruits and freshly squeezed orange juice complemented by a small but well-sought warm breakfast. The blueberry buttermilk pancake is to die for!
In case you do not want to go out to any of the local wineries for a wine tasting; or you still did not have enough wine tastings if you did so, the hotels offers private wine sessions with wine director Astrid Young. Each typically lasts around two hours and there are various options including tasting of international wine flights, wines from Prince Edward County, sparkling wines, and more.
I had a wonderful time at Merrill House and can only recommend to make it your base when visiting Prince Edward County.
343 Main Street East