MOUNT STEWART, P.E.I. — Nestled on the side of a quiet road on Prince Edward Island is a tiny countryside escape for music lovers.
The Trailside Music Cafe and Inn brings world-class entertainment to the community of Mount Stewart, about 25 minutes outside Charlottetown along the Confederation Trail, and invites visitors of the inn to enjoy a stripped-down respite.
A hodgepodge of rustic charm and rock 'n' roll edge, the cafe is a cosy and inviting space that offers an intimate musical experience, as well as an eclectic range of dishes and specialty spirits.
"You're basically on stage with the performer," said Pat Deighan, who co-owns the Trailside with his wife, Meghann. "As soon as the music starts, you're immersed in it."
Notable East Coast artists like Matt Mays, Rose Cousins, J.P. Cormier and Grammy Award winner Gordie Sampson have all graced the small raised stage that sits in the front corner of the room, bordered on one side by large, paned windows that overlook Main Street.
But Deighan has also made a point of booking up-and-coming acts, including P.E.I. singer-songwriter Jenni and the Hummingbird and Nova Scotia folk group Villages.
"I try to keep my finger on the pulse of the East Coast music scene, and we try to support that," said Deighan, born and raised on the Island.
Knotty wood-panelled walls encompass much of the 70-seat dining room, embellished with a mix of folk art and concert posters and dotted with mismatching antique chairs and tables.
Patrons eat amongst women convicts from Australia: local artist Heather Millar donated several imposing portraits that are based on mug shots from the early 1900s, and which hang throughout the space.
A painted white barn door next to the cafe's washroom is scribbled with messages from past visitors, written in black and blue sharpie.
"Pure joy here," one message reads.
The restaurant serves up a more ambitious and elevated menu than its appearance may suggest, including a charcuterie board with local cheeses and meats, and oven-baked mac 'n' cheese made with Glasgow Glen Farm gouda and Island-cured bacon. Even the mayo is made in-house.
And those who have visited P.E.I. in summer would know how the "Mount Stewart Mosquito Mojito" got its name.
Above the all-ages music venue are four country-style rooms, each with a private entrance and bathroom, a curated selection of vinyl records and homemade quilts.
"Our first line of business was throwing out all the televisions in the inn and putting in record players, records and a small selection of books and board games — trying to make it a real getaway," said Deighan, adding that there's still Wi-Fi.
The 81-year-old building with cedar siding and deep red trim was originally built by community residents to house one of the first co-operative stores on P.E.I. Known by locals as "The Co-op", it operated as a general store, saw mill and potato warehouse until the 1970s.
Under threat of demolition, it was purchased by Doug Deacon and his family in 1996 and reborn as an inn, cafe and bicycle rental shop.
Pat and Meghann Deighan, music lovers who also own Back Alley Music in Charlottetown, took over in 2011.
"We went to one show and fell in love with the place," said Deighan, who credits his wife with the idea of purchasing the venue.
"Musically, I always had a vision of doing what Doug did, bringing in singer-songwriters, getting in newer artists and stripping back bands and rock guys who typically play bars."
The Trailside's hand-painted sign features a bicycle — an homage to the Deacon family and the area being a traditional stopping place for bike travellers.
Mount Stewart has a rich history dating back thousands of years.
Directly across from the Trailside is the Hillsborough River Eco-Centre, which highlights the culture and ecology of the nearby Hillsborough River — designated a Canadian heritage river in 1997.
The picturesque waterway, which spans 45 kilometres and empties into the Northumberland Strait near Charlottetown, was an important resource for the Mi’kmaq and was the main transportation route for Europeans who settled on the Island in the early 18th century.
The long, sandy beaches of the province's north shore are also just a short drive away from the Trailside, including Blooming Point Beach.
If you go...
The Trailside Music Cafe and Inn is located at 109 Main St. in Mount Stewart, P.E.I.
Shows run from May to November. Tickets can be purchased through the website www.trailside.ca, by calling (902) 394 3626 or at Back Alley Music in Charlottetown (257 Queen Street).
Inn rooms are available from May to October and cost $115 per night. To book, call (902) 628-7833 or email email@example.com.
Aly Thomson, The Canadian Press