The Great Northern Route

Midway between Pembroke and Renfrew, you can see the Ottawa River loop north around Cobden, a little town on Muskrat Lake. Renfrew, another of Ontario’s many Scots-founded towns, is now a center of high-tech industry.

Twenty-seven miles east of Renfrew, Hwy-17 approaches the banks of the Ottawa near Arnprior, founded in 1823 by Archibald McNab, a despotic Scottish lord who imported dozens of his countrymen and women to the settlement and ruthlessly exploited them. This reign of terror ended when the townsfolk banded together and drove him away. There’s a museum in the old stone post office building, and downtown boasts some moderately priced motels and, best of all, Wes’ Chips (198 Madawaska Blvd., 613/623-5492, Mar.-Oct.), an open-air chip stand selling the exquisite Canadian delicacy Americans call french fries. Worth planning your day around, for sure!

East of Arnprior, Hwy-17 continues its trek toward Ottawa with a 90-km/h (55-mph) maximum speed posted; occasional passing lanes help you get around the timber trucks. The highway curves gradually southward, away from the Ottawa River, through mostly flat woodlands and a few farms, then converts to freeway for the run into Ottawa.