Spirit Rock Conservation Area

Location: Wiarton, Ontario
Region: Southwestern
Character: Historic, Senic
Length/Size: 87 hectares

Spirit Rock Conservation Area
By Grey Sauble Conservation

The name Spirit Rock is derived from a legend involving an Indian maiden who threw herself over a cliff after being disowned by her tribe. She was guilty of falling in love with a chief from an enemy tribe and her family turned against her. Today, when the lighting and angles are just right, the face of the maiden can be seen in the cliffs from below.

Spirit Rock Conservation Area draws people from afar for its local history, legends and remarkable view of Colpoy's Bay. Encompassing 87 hectares, the site features historical ruins, an impressive view from the top of the Niagara Escarpment, a spiral staircase to the water's edge, and access to the Bruce Trail.

In 1881, this site became home for Alexander McNeill who developed the land into beautiful garden, manicured lawns and productive orchards. The heart of the estate was the Corran, a 17-room mansion lavished with oriental carvings, ancient weapons, tapestries and book-lined walls. McNeill's mansion was modeled and named after his childhood home in Northern Ireland. The Gaelic meaning for Corran is 'point of land running into the sea'.

From 1881 - 1901, McNeill was the Federal Member of Parliament for the North Bruce Riding. He was a supporter of Britain and its empire and one of the 'Noble 13' who opposed Sir John A. Macdonald on a number of issues.

McNeill was a quiet man, fond of reading and a lover of flowers. He lived on the estate with his wife Hester and their son Malcolm. Hester died quite young, before the estate was completely finished. Unfortunately, after McNeill died, Malcolm was more interested in parties than managing the estate, and the family fortune dwindled away.

Following Malcolm's death, the housekeeper, who had been willed the estate, sold it in 1960 to a Toronto resident. Without fulltime occupancy at the mansion, vandals victimized the site. The property was sold in 1976 to the Conservation Authority. Shortly after, a fire destroyed the mansion, leaving only a stone shell, which is still visible today.