MTL Tavel: To The Manor Born

With our schedules as they are, nothing beats short-haul weekends away: there’s less planning involved, you’re far enough away to feel ...

With our schedules as they are, nothing beats short-haul weekends away: there’s less planning involved, you’re far enough away to feel on vacation, but not so far that you spend an entire day getting there. Thankfully for us, Montreal is well situated within a three-hour drive of the Eastern Townships/New England’s finest destinations for sporting activities, regional cuisine, and cultural excursions.  

In this second instalment of the series, Guillaume and I discovered the jewel of Lake Massawippi during a winter post-holiday press visit, and are pleased to report that if well-appointed relaxation is your thing (as it is ours!) then you’ll want to make this historic country retreat your next destination at any time of year.

Built in 1899 and converted to an inn in 1950, Hovey Manor sits perched on the northern shore of the lake and remains one of the region’s finest white-pillar examples of a time when, post-Civil War, wealthy American businessmen from the South turned their backs on New England and built summer homes throughout the area’s gently rolling hills.

In 1979, Stephen and Kathryn Stafford purchased the inn and set about both preserving its story, while making continuous improvements to the grounds and structure as a quietly sophisticated getaway. A labour of love for the Staffords, the place has since garnered a whole slew of awards, not to mention, in 2008, membership into the posh Relais & Chateaux association of the world’s most notable hotels, inns, and restaurants. Accolades aside, however, it is truly in the soigné service and attention to detail that make a visit here truly memorable.

In spirit with the manor itself, the village of North Hatley is as picturesque New England-style as they come, the center only 5 minutes from the inn by car. Settle into your room after the ninety-minute drive from Montreal and then explore the postcard-worthy surroundings before grabbing an afternoon snack at one of the cafés.

True to request, our room was among the ones redone after a 2006 fire caused quite a bit of damage. Since the renovations, the hotel now offers either traditional or modern decor among its 30 rooms and 7 suites, along with a mix of sizes and views to suit your budget. Rates will also vary depending on whether you take the room alone or add dinner and a gourmet breakfast buffet to the package, and there’s even a secluded chalet for up to 10 people – perfect for a wedding or corporate retreat. 

Located in the coach house, our room was in the ‘de Grand Luxe’ category and could best be described as upscale country casual. One of the benchmarks we use in our reviews is the whether the accommodations provide enough in the way of comfort and relaxation to entice you to spend part of the day inside, and honestly, if you said I couldn’t leave the room for the next couple days except for meals I wouldn’t have minded one bit! 

What more can one ask for than a heavenly king bed, large walk-in closet, and sitting area beside an electric fireplace? A door led out to a private patio overlooking the lake, of which one can only imagine making a lot use in summer. The ensuite bathroom was spacious with double vanity, rain shower, and soaker tub large enough for two adults to use at once.

Amenities include luxurious touches one would expect from this calibre: L’Occitane bathroom amenities, Frette towels and, of particular value to yours truly, a Nespresso coffee machine that benefits from a thoughtful capsule restocking during afternoon housekeeping. Just the thing when you return to the room in need of an afternoon pick-me -up.

Back on the main level, the study is the perfect place to relax with a newspaper, get re-acquainted with a board game (chess anyone?), or simply recharge. Everywhere you went there was a welcome fire going, from the restaurant and study, to the Tap Room pub and, thanks to a gracious turndown service, in our very own room. 

Part of the hotel, but impressive enough to stand on its own as one of the finest kitchens in the Townships, the restaurant’s calming, neutral decor overlooking the English gardens or beside the cosy inglenook fireplace acts as the perfect setting to take in Chef Roland Ménard and chef de cuisine Francis Wolf’s inventive, beautifully presented take on modern French cuisine. Before dinner be sure to grab a drink in the (rather underutilized) George Washington Bar adjoining the dining room, or else retire to the Tap Room Pub post-dinner for a nightcap and a debrief of the day’s activities.


Speaking of activities, this truly is a four-season place with tennis, a heated pool, kayaks, canoes, and two private beaches in summer countering a snowshoeing trail, nearby skating rink, and a new ice-fishing offer in winter. We tried this last one during our stay, and were greeted by patch of the lake that had been cleared to make way for a fire pit, pizza baking in a portable oven, and hot chocolate. It was all a godsend on this sunny and cold winter day, but did little for our catch! Despite instructions on how to carve a hole in the ice, and proper baiting/reel technique, I alas had the one that got away…but at least one of us got lucky!

For information or to book a stay, please refer to, or call 1-800-661-2421


Photo Credit: © Manoir Hovey


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