Craigleith Manor brought an exciting change to our lives.
by C. O’Dea
Tucked away at the foot of the Niagara Escarpment, surrounded by trees and just a short distance from the beautiful shores of Georgian Bay, Craigleith Manor B&B is an exciting new addition to our area.
It is the creation of two very enterprising and interesting people, Guy Laporte and Craig Ashton.
Craigleith Manor is warm and inviting, with a combination of Victorian country charm on the outside and modern urban chic on the inside. As soon as you enter the house, you can feel the care and good taste that have gone into creating a warm retreat. The soothing colours and abundant light pouring in from the large windows overlooking the back gardens invite you to relax and leave all your daily cares at the door.
In talking with Guy and Craig, it becomes clear that this new venture is an important and exciting change in their lives. What interests me is their journey. What brought them from their former lives to the hospitality world of a bed and breakfast? It’s a fascinating story.
Craig comes from an operatic background. He has performed leading opera roles in the Canadian Opera Company, the Banff Festival, the Edmonton and Vancouver Operas, and many other productions in Canada and abroad. As well, he has worked in musical theatre. His most notable roles were in The Stratford Festival’s The Gondoliers and Harold Prince’s The Phantom of the Opera and Show Boat. Craig was also a member of the original Canadian Tenors.
“I was always happy doing the music,” says Craig. “I had a very nice career and it was hard to walk away from that.”
As it turns out, he didn’t have to leave the music behind. In February, he gave his local debut performance in Theatre Collingwood’s All You Need Is More Love. A benefit performance that Craig was proud to donate his time to. His dream to bring more musicals and opera to the Georgian Bay area is becoming a reality with a show planned for the Gayety Theatre in Collingwood on August 20.
For Guy the journey has been from professional fundraising to managing the business end of Craigleith Manor. For the last twenty years he worked as an executive in the non-profit sector, directing large fundraising projects. “It was stressful and hard work, but very rewarding,” he says. “I always believed in the charities that I worked for. They all made an important difference in the lives of Canadians.”
What sparked the dream for both of them was an East Coast trip they took a few years ago. “We found ourselves in the small Cape Breton village of Mabou, where the Rankin family lives,” Craig recounts, “and we got the last room in the only B&B. It felt very good being there.” This positive encounter confirmed Guy’s own experience of B&Bs, gained during his many ski trips to New England. “Vermont, New Hampshire, and upstate New York are full of lovely B&Bs and Inns. I loved them and they made a lasting impression on me.”
For both men, the dream lay dormant for the next few years, tucked away in the back of their minds ready to be ignited when the time was right.
Two summers ago, the timing was right. They checked out various communities in Ontario and settled on Collingwood. “I fell in love with Collingwood,” admits Craig. “The water, the mountains, and especially the vibrant arts scene. In the end that was the deciding factor.”
On December 31, 2014, they opened their B&B. Ninety days after their opening, Craigleith Manor was rated the #1 B&B/Inn in Collingwood on TripAdvisor. On May 28, 2015 at the annual Collingwood Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards, Craigleith Manor took home the Accommodation and Tourism Award as the outstanding accommodation and/or tourism business that has improved the allure of the community and for tourists who visit Collingwood. The B&B has a prestigious 4.5 star rating from the Federation of Ontario Bed & Breakfasts. I am sure that these are only the first of many awards and accolades for this accommodation and its owners.
Guy sums it up for both of them: “We like people. I think we’re very good at gauging what our guests need to make their visit to the region a very enjoyable and memorable one.”
Guy grew up in a sports family where his love of an active and healthy lifestyle was fostered.
For many years he played a critical role in operating the family’s sporting goods store. An avid cyclist, runner, and skier, Guy learned to ski at Blue Mountain over 30 years ago. He’s been travelling to the area ever since to enjoy all that the seasons have to offer.
The last 18 years have been spent working within the charitable sector where Guy directed the fundraising for a number of organizations. Over the course of his career, he has raised over one hundred million dollars.
Along with operating the Craigleith Manor, Guy is active locally in volunteering his time and expertise to raise funds for important area causes.
Ever the gracious host, Guy is also a fountain of information for the Georgian Triangle area. He continually tries new activities, attends local events and attractions, and spends considerable time building relationships with businesses from Collingwood to Meaford. If you’re looking for the best burger, most challenging hike, or local craft beer…ask Guy!
Craig has enjoyed a 25 year career as a professional opera and musical theatre performer.
Performing with the Canadian Opera Company, Edmonton Opera Company, and Vancouver Opera Company, as well as Stratford Festival, Phantom of the Opera, and Showboat, Craig has delighted audiences throughout North America. He also was a featured performer on cruise lines such as Celebrity, Cunard, and Costa.
While embracing his role as your host at the Craigleith Manor, Craig is also a Grade 6 teacher with the Toronto District School Board.
Craig, who grew up in the quaint country town of Fergus, quickly fell under the spell of the Collingwood area. Operating a bed and breakfast, ensuring that his guests fully enjoy their time away from the city, is extremely rewarding to Craig. He is a consummate entertainer who knows how to make people feel at home.