Tattingstone Inn – Where Details Matter

Erika Banting began her love for the Annapolis Valley during a visit to the region with her husband over twenty years ago and was so struck by its authentic beauty and vibrant energy of the area that she eventually moved to Nova Scotia and acquired the elegant Tattingstone Inn in the university town of Wolfville.  During our conversation with Erika, we discussed her journey back to Nova Scotia as an innkeeper and her desire to create a unique experience for their guests at the elegant Tattingstone Inn.

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We thought it would be best to tell a little about the history of the Tattingstone InnThe Italianate-style home nestled in the middle of the town of Wolfville was originally known as Thompson House and was built in 1874 as a farmhouse.  It was home to an early Mayor of Wolfville, George Thompson, who served as Mayor from 1897-1902. However, this registered historic landmark property’s most noted occupant was Leslie R. Fairn, an outstanding Canadian architect who designed many public buildings in Nova Scotia and lived in the house for over 35 years. During his time in Wolfville, Fairn supervised the construction of Acadia’s University Hall, as well as many other buildings in the community such as McConnell Dining Hall, and Eastern Kings Memorial Hospital. He kept his office and workshop in the Carriage House and raised his family in the Main House.

In 1987 the property was purchased by a known Halifax restaurateur, Betsy Harwood.  Harwood spent a little over a year renovating the property, converting the home into an elegant ten-room Inn which was then sold in 2009 to the former owners.  The name Tattingstone was chosen in reference to a small village in England, where an ancestor from Harwood’s family tree had resided in the late fifteenth century.

Erika Banting purchasing the property was a journey that started some twenty years ago while her and her husband were visiting friends and family in Nova Scotia.  The couple were driving from one sister-in-law’s home in Yarmouth to another’s in Musquodoboit.  During their travels they stumbled upon the university and tourist town of Wolfville.  Erika recalled saying to her husband, “This place is absolutely beautiful I could live here.”  Little did she know that twenty years later that same sister-in-law would plant the seed that would see the couple make their way back to the small town in the Annapolis Valley and purchase the Tattingstone Inn, one of the amazing properties in the area, nestled in the middle of town right in the heart of the wine country. Wolfville and the Annapolis Valley has always been a tourist destination due to its views of Cape Blomidon, the Bay of Fundy and Gaspereau Valley, as well as being home to many local wineries, cideries, breweries, pubs, cafes and shops. 

Erika Banting is no stranger to the hospitality industry with over 20-years’ experience including running a Food and Beverage Department for a private golf course for eight years before purchasing a cottage resort in the Kawartha’s with her husband. Erika had plans to renovate a cottage at their lakeside retreat into their home on the 70-year-old property however, the town wouldn’t grandfather the original building codes for the build.  Setbacks for the cottage reno became frustrating and Erika decided that it was time to make a change.  Erika and her husband had fond memories of their travels in Nova Scotia and a desire to be closer to family so they decided that they would head East to Nova Scotia.  After doing some research and off the advice of family the clear choice for their new hospitality and accommodations venture pointed to the Annapolis Valley, but more specifically Wolfville. 

So, with the couple’s focus on Wolfville as the destination of choice, they hired a real estate agent, and began the search.  Knowing what the Bantings wanted in a potential property, their agent approached the previous owners of the Tattingstone Inn to see if they would be interested in selling the property.  It was not for sale at the time however, the agent still approached the owners and advised them of Bantings interest in the property and relocated to the area.  After visiting the owners themselves, the Bantings made an offer.  Unfortunately, at the time they, the previous owners, were not in a position to accept and sell the property at that time.  So, the Bantings, with no other prospects, went back to Ontario.  Surprisingly two weeks later they received a call that their offer was accepted to purchase the Inn.  On receiving the news, the Bantings put their cottage resort up for sale and moved to Wolfville in August of 2015, right in the middle of the tourist season.

Once the Bantings took ownership of the property, they began to complete extensive renovations that would see the couple’s vision for the Inn come to light and over the next six years as they transformed the property into the elegant Inn it is today.  The Carriage House was completely renovated, and the Inn now offers two amazing suites and twelve beautifully appointed rooms. 

From the beginning, the Bantings have had a vision for the Inn and saw the true potential for the property; however, being a Designated Historical Property, they have stayed true to the Inn’s story and have kept its traditional charm intact adding a covered veranda, match the Italianate-style, to the front of the property.  The Inn has a magnificent stone entrance that leads to the locally hand-crafted gold coast mahogany door (that is an exact replica of the original door) that greets guests and visitors alike along with the manicured gardens to enjoy during their stay at the Inn.

When speaking with Erika you get a true understanding of her passion for wanting to make people happy.  “We want to continue to evaluate our services to guests and to never stop improving the property or the guest’s experience, whether they are here for dinner or staying with us,” said Erika.  She goes on to say that “Listening to our guest’s feedback and requests have helped us with the rebranding of the Inn.” 

One of many additional offerings you will find at the Inn are their special packages like a Charcuterie Board for two with a bottle of wine or their Proscuitto Flatbread with cider.  Both of which can be enjoyed on their veranda. 

Erika says the vision is for the Inn to be a destination place for the Annapolis Valley so that people want to come and stay a few days to enjoy everything that the area and the Inn has to offer in all four seasons.

“When we first arrived, we found a number of our guests looking to do a wine tour, at the time there was only the wine tour company operating out of Wolfville,” said Erika.  There were two others, one out of Halifax and the other in Falmouth.  The problem that this created was it made it very difficult for guests to book last minute excursions especially in small groups of only two or four. Erika says, “We saw a need and wanted to offer our guests that experience.”  So, Randy purchased a tour vehicle and the couple started Wildgrape Tours which offered guests tours of the area when staying at the Inn.  These tours were eventually expanded to include non-guests as the demand grew.  

Currently Tattingstone Inn sister company, Wildgrape Tours, offers two tour packages in addition to private tours. 

Their “Grapes and Grains” tour allows you to relax and leave the driving to your guide as they happily share the history and culture of this wonderful region giving you a truly unique experience.  Your tour includes a visit to three locations including a Craft Brewery, a Winery and a Cidery where you will enjoy an interactive session learning the art and science of brewing craft beer, making fine Nova Scotia wine and distilling unique local cider. Your tour includes a walkabout at the Brewery, the Winery and the Cidery.  Plus, along the route you indulge your appetite with a stop for a gourmet lunch. 

Their “Escape Through the Vines Tour” is the tour for you if you are a true wine lover.  This tour offers stops at three of thirteen Vineyards nestled in the Valley.  Included in your tour are tastings of award-winning sparkling, Rose, one of the many distinctive varieties of Tidal Bay, or a delicious medium body Red.  Your tour also includes a gourmet lunch at a popular local eatery or a Vineyard, depending on the weather.  Our immensely popular wine tours are intimate and light-hearted, but don’t be too shy to test your guides knowledge of the Valley’s wines, history, and culture.

No stay is complete at the Tattingstone Inn without a dining experience.  Savouring a full gourmet breakfast in their sunroom made from the abundance of fresh ingredients the Annapolis Valley offers is truly an experience in itself. 

For guests not staying at the Inn but wanting to experience the dining at the Inn, the Bantings invite you every weekend to come enjoy their sunroom and savour a full gourmet brunch inspired by local ingredients with many in house-made items. Plus, during the summer months, you can take your experience to the next level and enjoy your brunch outdoors as you have the option of dining on the Inn’s back garden patio. 

If you truly want to take your dining experience to the next level then we recommend one of the Inn’s Supper Club Nights that are offered twice a month on Friday and Saturday.  These dining events are by reservation only and available for both staying and non-staying guests.   Each Supper Club series offers a delicious new six-course tasting menu, spotlighting the best of local Nova-Scotian ingredients and cuisine as you enjoy an exploration of flavours with Local Foraging Chef, Nelson Penner. Utilizing his organic farm, he brings you local, in-season ingredients. Each course has been thoughtfully paired with either a domestic or international wine should you choose to enjoy the wine pairings. This is something that you definitely do not want to miss, and we recommend that you check out their upcoming dates and menus on their website and get this experience on your foodie bucket list.

If you are looking to explore Nova Scotia and the Annapolis Valley, we recommend taking your experience to the next level in accommodations and dining.  Erika stated, “We are always looking for new ways to elevate our guest’s experience.”  Erika goes on to say, “The Tattingstone Inn brand is all about offering our guests something more.  We are dedicated to making their experience memorable, so they are looking forward to their next stay or dining experience with us.”

Erika says that they have been very welcomed as new Inn owners and that they are very happy to be part of the Annapolis Valley business community and to be promoting the area as a destination to have on your travel bucket list. 

For information on accommodations and dining please go to their website at tattingstoneinn.com.

by Ryan Myson