WILD RIDE'S A WINTER WONDER; Neil Murray Catches a Dog Sled Tour of Snowy Northern Ontario, Canada
My much-anticipated sled journey through one of Canada's stunning forests got off to a 'ruff' start.
The four Siberian huskies pulling my wooden harness were mischievous mutts, particularly the lead two, Bob and Muck. They were desperate to get going and strained hard at their harnesses while barking their heads off as I desperately tried to listen to the guide's instructions on how to control them and the route we were taking.
It was chaotic - but well worth it. My trip through some of the snow-laden trails of North Ontario's 60,000 acre Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve was an amazing adventure.
Myself and a group of other sledding novices raced through silent, snow-clad, unspoiled forest trails of breathtaking beauty. By the end of my two-hour session, I was gliding along like a pro.
You get a similar sense of exhiliration from snowmobiling, which also takes place at Haliburton.
I loved racing at top speed across the inviting, snow-covered expanse that is frozen Macdonald Lake. Brilliant.
My welcoming base for my sporting exertions was the superb, friendly, Sir Sam's Inn, which was originally the country estate of Sir Samuel Hughes, a controversial Canadian Minister of Militia during World War I.
Near Sir Sam's is Lanark County - the maple syrup capital of Ontario - which boasts towns such as Renfrew and Perth as well as a Clyde River.
Unsurprisingly, the area owes it links to Scots immigrants. I learned about three brothers who emigrated to Canada from Aberdeen in the 1840s, the Fultons. Their descendents still run their maple syrup firm, Fulton's Pancake House and Sugar Bush.
Here you can taste maple syrup in its many forms, including fruit jam, chilli sauce and green tea.
There was more tasting to be done in Ottawa, the Canadian capital, at the Winterlude Stew Cook-off. Twenty local restaurants, cafes, bars and bistros offer stews you taste and vote on. I loved the Cassoulet of Duck and Three-Mile Chilli.
The cook-off is one of many events of Winterlude, an annual festival that runs over three weekends in February.
Sadly, the first weekend this year was unseasonably mild with lots of rain, so I didn't have the chance to skate along the frozen Rideau Canal (all four and a half miles of it) or visit the Snowflake Kingdom, a snow-and-ice equivalent of a water fun park. But the weather didn't stop ice carvers taking part in the One-Block Challenge, where they have two hours to sculpt a masterpiece out of a 360lb block of ice. Subjects ranged from Mahatma Gandhi to the Eiffel Tower, Snoopy and the Simpsons.
Ottawa is also home to the Canadian Parliament Buildings, known as Parliament Hill, and a tour gives a fascinating insight into its workings.
Just as impressive is the magnificent Canadian Museum of Civilisation. The majestic Grand Hall has a collection of Pacific Coast Indian houses and totem poles, while Canada Hall details the development of the country via a series of brilliantly-constructed recreations.
The excellent National Gallery of Canada is home to the world's largest collection of Canadian art, while the riveting Canadian War Museum documents the country's involvement in conflicts, from the Battle of Batoche in 1885 to the present day. …