Le Chateau Montebello Entrance. Photo: Fairmont Hotel & Resorts
By Lori Sweet
Driving down the tree lined driveway, the largest log structure you’ve likely ever seen comes into sight. As you manoeuvre your vehicle under the front portico, a bellman dressed in a long dark wool overcoat, hat, gloves and a smile, greets you.
Le Chateau Montebello Lobby Fireplace Photo: Fairmont Hotel & Resorts
Walking through the front door, one is transported back to a simpler time. The lobby is warm, quiet and cozy despite its size. In the middle of this impressive room is a 6-sided fireplace. Dependent on the weather outside, any number of the 6 fireplaces may be lit. This is no gas fireplace, but in fact a full wood burning one as evidenced by the crackling of the wood and the smell of wood smoke.
Welcome to the rugged luxury of the Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello. You will find the world’s largest log cabin nestled in the trees along the bank of the Ottawa River, in the Outaouais region of Quebec, Canada. This impressive structure was started in the early 1930’s. The original 10,000 red-cedar logs, of the resort’s three main buildings, were all cut and set by hand. The army of 3500 labourers, working overlapping shifts around the clock, completed the project in four months. The grand opening was July 1, 1930.
It was started as an exclusive club known as the Seigniory Club. Over the ensuing years, it has changed ownership a number of times. Canadian Pacific Hotels purchased the club in 1970, reopening it to the public as a resort renamed Chateau Montebello. It was then sold to Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, who still manage it under their banner.
Upper Balcony at Montebello Photo: Lori Sweet
A leisurely walk around the pet friendly, main lodge, will find you looking at walls that are lined with photos of many of their famous guests from past years. Royalty, celebrities and politicians have been amongst the storied guests. The 1981 G7 Summit and 1983 meeting of NATO were both held here.
A Place to Lay Your Head
Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello has 211 luxury hotel rooms spread across 4 wings. Each wing is open to the main lobby and fireplace. For a special occasion, splurge and indulge in one of the six Jacuzzi rooms. There is a room to suit every need, whether you are a couple, a family or a group of friends.
Jacuzzi Room at Montebello Photo: Lori Sweet
All rooms have a coffeemaker, kettle and mini-refrigerator, so stop at the nearby village before your check-in and stock up on some snacks and treats.
Outdoor seasonal activities abound. In the winter, your resort fee ($25+Tax per room per night) covers many activities. There are cross-country skis and equipment to use on the 42km of groomed cross-country ski trails, 2 outdoor skating rinks with skates available, hockey sticks and pucks, curling clinics for beginners and snowshoes to borrow.
Snoweshoeing at Montebello Photo: Fairmont Hotel & Resorts
For an additional fee, at select times, there is tubing, curling, sleigh rides, ice fishing, and snowsuit rental. For the more adventurous amongst you, there are all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles for rent.
For a unique experience, dog sledding is available. There is an additional charge and it is on a first come first served basis. While waiting, warm yourself by the bonfire and wrap yourself in one of the provided blankets. Listen for the baying of the dogs as they enthusiastically pull the sled through the 4.1 km forest trail. You hear them long before you see them. As you are getting settled on the sled and wrapped up warmly, the dogs can often be seen looking expectantly at the musher in anticipation. After the requisite picture with your camera, the musher just needs to give the word and you are off in a flurry of snow and excitement.
Dogsledding at Montebello Photo: Fairmont Hotel & Resorts
Swimming Pool and Hot Tub
Many people access the pool by walking through the main lobby in their swimsuits and provided bathrobes. The atmosphere is that relaxed. The Sports Centre that houses the indoor pool, spa, squash and tennis can be reached by a pedestrian tunnel from the main lodge. No matter what the weather, you are sheltered. You don’t actually feel like you are in a tunnel because there are strategically placed windows facing the river.
Indoor swimming pool at Montebello Photo: Fairmont Hotel & Resorts
Lay back and float in the heated pool. The rustic elegance of the architecture of the ceiling and the beautiful windows overlooking the gardens will take you back to a more luxurious era. During the winter months, relaxing in the pool or hot tub while watching the snow quietly falling, will make any worries seem far away.
Aux Chantignoles Dining Room Photo: Lori Sweet
There are several dining options available in the winter months when the outside dining is closed for the season. Everything from the elegant Aux Chantignoles restaurant, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, where chefs serve dishes using an array of local products, to the more laid-back Bistro La Seigneurie, that is open for dinner and late into the evening.
Afternoon snack from The Bar Le Foyer Photo: Lori Sweet
The Bar Le Foyer is located in the lobby and is open from mid-morning until 10:30pm. Not only do they serve a variety of hot and cold drinks, but a well curated snack is available. Grab a cappuccino and a delicious cheese or charcuterie board mid-afternoon and enjoy the ambiance of the fireplace and comfortable chairs and couches. As always, room service is available. There is also nothing preventing you from bringing your own items to eat and drink in the comfort of your own room.
After a wonderful day relaxing or taking in the outside activities, and enjoying an onsite dinner, why not borrow a deck of cards or a game board like Scrabble, from the front desk? Order a Montebello speciality coffee from the lobby bar and head up to the second-floor balcony that overlooks the lobby and fireplace. There are several nooks with tables and chairs where you can enjoy the rest of the evening. Games not your thing? There are lots of comfortable places to curl up with a good book.
Games and a night cap. Photo: Lori Sweet
No matter what season you visit Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello, whether for business or leisure, you will find something to please everyone. Surrounded by nature, excellent accommodations and food, what more could you ask for?
When You Go
Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello
392 Notre Dame
Ottawa: 80 km/50 miles
Montreal:139 km/86 miles
Kingston: 291 km/181 miles
Lori is a freelance travel writer and travel photographer based in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. She has had a life-long passion for travel and for learning about other cultures, while travelling on and off the beaten path. Taking detours along the way has enriched her experiences immeasurably. Lori enjoys writing and photography, so it was a natural fit to combine this with her love of travel.
Lori was in education for 30 years. She was able to combine that with 14 years of part-time work as a Tour Director for a travel company that provides motor coach trips across North America. Upon retirement from teaching, she moved into the tour company office as a tour planner. She now spends her time working on other interests. She has kept a travel journal for over 30 years!
Lori has taken online and live travel writing and photography workshops and is a member of the International Travel Writers and Photographers Alliance (ITWPA).