If you could turn back time on The Barracks Inn, it would have plenty of stories to tell before it became a luxury, 18-room boutique hotel in Ancaster, Ontario, less than an hour’s drive from Toronto.
Through its life, it has evolved many times. It has been a body shop, a tool-and-die business, a car dealership, and apartments. If you rewind even more, it was a drug store around 1868. Before that, it was believed to have served as barracks for soldiers during the War of 1812. It was that chapter which provided the inspiration for the name of the property opened in the fall of 2016.
Doing renovations on such a historic property presents some challenges. Do you stay true to its history or do you keep the minimal and go modern? Thankfully, the property found a sweet spot in the middle. It kept the gorgeous stonewalls, as seen in the lobby, while installing plenty of tech in the rooms, from radiant floors to fancy schmancy thermostats (which I never quite figured out to work properly).
I loved the fact that the rooms all had Nespresso Beverage Centers – a big notch above the usually types found in hotel rooms that are messy to use and don’t make very good coffee. For many people that first coffee in the morning is critical in order to get going. The stuff that comes out of the Nespresso provides the perfect amount of kick.
The rooms (each one unique in its décor and design) are nice and big with plenty of space to spread out your stuff (which I am apt to do) and the beds are truly delicious with high-thread count Egyptian cotton linens, as well as pillows that I love so much that I ended up getting a pair for myself. Too often I found pillows are sad affairs – too mushy, deflated and flat like deflated balloons. These were ideal because you could stack a couple and sit upfront in bed to work on a laptop or watch television.
One of my favorite things to do in a hotel room is to watch television in bed. I don’t have a TV in my bedroom at home because I’d never turn it off. My suite at The Barracks featured a 42-inch HD beauty with vivid bright color and sweet, crisp resolution. It even had Netflix ready to go, if I was in the mood to binge watch House of Cards again.
Even though the rooms are soundproof and the hotel was wonderfully quite at night, I could hear suitcases being rolled down the corridor in the morning over the hard floor. Some carpeting is difficult to drag your luggage across on the way to your room, but it does dull the noise significantly in common areas. If I built my own hotel, I’d be using carpeting even though it’s not as easily cleaned as tile or stone.
My issues are pretty minor. The inn delivers on the big things. The service is friendly and efficient. The rooms are spotlessly clean, even the chrome bathroom fixtures were without a single spot. I was traveling solo, but I liked that the bathroom vanity had two sinks – perfect for couples. The shower had a great rainfall feature, too.
Come morning, breakfast is included and it’s a decent one with a few pastries, fruit, baked goods and made-to-order omelets. And if you get a bit hungry before you check out, you can snag a few freshly made cookies from the big jar in the lobby.
I’m often working when I travel. It’s appreciated when a desk and a decent chair comes with the room. Sometimes I get a bit stir crazy and want a change of scenery so I was happy to find a small sitting area where I could sip on a tea and get some writing done. It had comfy couches accessorized with funky pillows, some small tables, and a door that lead to a balcony. During the day, there’s too much traffic coming from the street to enjoy any peace and quiet out there. I didn’t have a chance to revisit in the evening when I think it would be a more inviting space.
Location is a great plus for the property. Thought it doesn’t have its own restaurant, it’s right on Wilson Street, which has plenty of options whether you’re looking for quick and cheap on the run (Tim Hortons, that famous Canadian chain) or something more elegant. There’s a French bakery handy, a pub nearby and a very good Indian restaurant (India Village Ancaster), as well as Ancaster Mill, a popular spot for weddings.
For flying in, the Hamilton International Airport is about 15 minutes away. It’s a small, highly efficient facility that offers a more civilized option to the business of Toronto Pearson. Give The Barracks Inn a try and you’ll be pleased that you did. It’s as quaint as the small town of Ancaster and just as loaded with history, too.
Michele stayed as a guest of The Barracks Inn and Tourism Hamilton. As always, her thoughts and opinions are her own. Photos supplied by the writer.