Look for the ancient Appalachian Mountains
Taking in the view from the top of Montreal's Place Ville-Marie on a clear day, a visitor could be forgiven for gazing at a crumpled range of hills along the eastern horizon and wondering, “What the heck are those?”
"Those" are the Appalachian Mountains, and they form the scenic backbone of the Eastern Townships. In less than two hours from Montreal down Autoroute 10, the Eastern Townships (or Cantons de-l'Est) feature some of the most breathtaking landscapes in eastern Canada with distinctive roots from the British Isles.
The perfect spot to start exploring the Townships is Knowlton. Situated on the western ramparts of the mountainous highlands, near the south end of Brome Lake, Knowlton is a cottager's mecca. Get there in no time by driving just 12 kilometres south of Autoroute 10 at exit 90, along Highway 243.
The area was largely settled by English and Scottish farmers who, being loyal to the Crown, moved north out of New England after the American Revolutionary War in the late 1700s. Additionally, Irish peasants who left their homeland in the mid-19th century also found themselves in the Eastern Townships area.
The best antique spots
The history of these early residents is most evident in the Townships' Victorian architecture and numerous antiques shops. Check out the town of Sutton (25 kilometres south along highways 104 and 215) and the village of Dunham (30 kilometres west along highways 104 and 202) if you fancy antiquing.
Fresh food for the weary traveller
Since the Eastern Townships remain notable for farming, the region offers many locally produced culinary specialties, from the indomitable poutine (for some reason, fries with curd cheese in gravy always tastes best at highway-side restos) to maple syrup, succulent vegetables, fruit, beef and duck.
The Townships are also well known for their many vineyards. One of the area's more notable vintages hails from Le Vignoble de L'Orpailleur in Dunham.
But if it's mountain vistas you want to drink in, grab a map and plot a loop that connects Knowlton, Sutton, Glen Sutton, Mansonville and South Bolton (in order: highways 104, 215, 139, 105 and 243). This rugged route allows you to bisect alpine ridges and traverse sharp valleys, while also hitting several picturesque towns and villages, in an afternoon's outing.
For more travel tips, visit caamagazine.ca.
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