Take Me To The Chapel

Several weeks ago another blogger, Rebel Girl, introduced me to a book called Top 150 Unusual Things to See in Ontario by Ron Brown.

I’ve been seduced in the past by the promise of similarly titled books, only to be disappointed by their mediocre content, but I was willing to give it a look.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised.

Even if I  never planned to actually visit any of these places, the book was an interesting read.  However, the accountant in me needed to know how many of them I had already visited, and more importantly, what was out there in my home province that I needed to put on my must-see list!

In answer to the first question, I’ve already been to 19 of the 150 places and things in the book.  Most of them I have blogged about at some point.  In fact, the West Montrose “Kissing Bridge” which I wrote about here is on the book’s cover.

However, there was one item in the book (#89 to be exact) that captured my attention because it was right in my own backyard – so to speak – and I had no idea it existed.  It was a particular rock formation on the Scarborough Bluffs which geologists have named The Dutch Chapel.

Now, I’ve taken literally hundreds of photos of the Bluffs over the past couple of years, and I have never seen anything that remotely resembled the photo in the book.

Nope – this isn’t it.  I need to be looking further west.

Intrigued, I HAD to check it out – but it wasn’t easy.

As some background, I think most people are familiar with the famous Toronto skyline … flattish, lots of glass and concrete …

I admit not my best photo.

… but what you might not know is that at the far east end of the city, about 18 km (11 miles) from downtown, are the Scarborough Bluffs.  It is a limestone escarpment about 15 km (9 miles) long, and at its highest point, it rises about 90 metres (300 feet) above the shoreline.


I love the Bluffs.  They are the closest thing to “mountains” in this area, and they have been a frequent backdrop in a lot of my local exploration.

… but pillars of stone?

After much trial and error – in the bitter cold – I finally found a view point from the top of the escarpment that overlooked the apparently famous pillars.  Unfortunately, because of the instability of the cliff, access to the edge of the Bluff is completely fenced off – often from several metres away.  Signs every few metres warn of the danger.

Dutch Cathedral

In addition, I don’t have a zoom lens for my camera, and this was the best view I could get of the Dutch Chapel … absolutely nothing like the spectacular photo in the book.

Dutch Cathedral 2

I went back home discouraged and half-frozen.

Armed with a new plan, I returned the next day, this time to approach the pillars from the bottom.

I don’t think my view of the Dutch Chapel improved by being at the bottom of the escarpment, and I’m still puzzling over the thought that this resembles the architecture found in medieval European chapels.  Personally, I don’t get it.

… and except for the spikes on top, I wouldn’t exactly call these ‘pillars’.  Perhaps the problem is that without being close enough, the perspective on size is completely lost.

Jan 2018 2

I did however, discover there is a small beach at the base of this rock formation that I never knew existed.  Perhaps I’ll get a better view in much warmer weather when I can actually access the beach without the risk of getting soaked in icy water – like the unfortunate stranger who attempted it ahead of me.

In the end, I got tantalizingly close, but was frustrated by my lack of a zoom.  Guess what piece of camera equipment is now on my wish list?

Jan 2018 3


If you’re anything like me, you’re wondering what the difference is between a cliff and a bluff.  Well, according to Mr Google, a bluff IS a cliff, but with a broad, curved face usually caused by erosion, and found along a river.

While a cliff has a steep vertical drop, bluffs have more of a slanted slope. That slope may be quite steep, but not as sharp as a cliff.

I learn something new every day.



  1. You are an explorer! This is a neat discovery and the images tell a great story along with your narrative. The bluff is beautiful and so is the formation.

    I hope you get the zoom lens. I’m looking forward to seeing the images from the next trip out there when it’s warmer.


  2. Love your photos and perseverance, Joanne. Here in New Mexico we have similar looking cliffs that are called the Tent Rocks…the entire area looks like a moonscape – the tent rocks are volcanic and created by erosion from wind and rain. What a fun adventure.


  3. Your photos are great. I like the idea of one book helping you find the best places to visit in your area. Adventuring with a guidebook in hand can sometimes be more fun than stumbling around aimlessly. And this admission from a known free spirit who does aimless quite well.


  4. Wow, Joanne! You really do work at your craft! I am amazed by the elements you have endured to get your photographs! I am new to the World of Purposeful Photography and struggle with landscapes and wide shots, and I marvel at how hard you work!!!


    • Thank you for the nice compliment 🙂 I consider myself a newbie and most days my camera still baffles me. I take more failed shots than ‘good’ ones – and I think those are more by accident than design.

      I like that term ‘purposeful photography’. Now that I think about it, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do. Sometimes I see the story right away, but often not.
      Thank you so much for visiting and commenting 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. They look lovely even if you didn’t get the view that you wanted. I know what you mean about the zoom! I don’t yet have one for this camera either. It’s definitely on my wish list.


  6. I’m grateful that you bother to take photos, Joanne (replying to a comment you made earlier in this stream). You are an excellent photographer, not because your shots are in focus (a low bar, I know but one I still have trouble with) but because you have a unique sensibility that you are able to capture and share through photography.
    If you’d like something different to do while you wait for spring, I read a great activity in one of my 21 Secrets art courses. It’s by a photographer named Catherine Anderson (www.creativepilgrimage.com). Basically the idea is to identify an emotion you’d like to communicate, take a photograph with that emotion in mind, and then edit the photo (she uses Snapseed which is fun and free) to fully communicate that emotion. An example she gives is a closed door. The before photo is just a door. The after photo definitely inspired a sort of haunting sadness.
    Just a thought, Joanne, for something you can do to keep your creativity alive and well on super cold days.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Karen – I checked out her website and the course with that workshop. It’s an interesting twist from how I normally approach a photo. Usually I absorb an emotion from a scene, rather than me overlaying my emotion on it. It would definitely be a challenge to try doing it the other way around.

      I’m so appreciative of people like you, and Deb from Widow Badass, for your encouragement to explore and develop my creative side 💕


  7. Interesting – I didn’t know what a bluff was either so you have been most educational! And you’ve reminded me that I bought a little book at Christmas called Nothing To See Here which does a similar thing for Scotland. So far it hasn’t been used, and it is nestling next to Look Up Glasgow, also not used, but someday they will provide nuggets for the blog. Maybe.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It does look a little cathedral-ish. And it is an unusual rock compared to the rest of the landscape. So not a total loss! And look at the blue-ish sky on the nice-ish day! And you got some fresh-ish air. Tee hee. Am I grasping at straws here? Ha ha.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t consider the venture a total waste. I learned a lot on these 2 outings.
      I’m sure I would have had a totally different post if it had been me who fell in the icy water trying to get to the beach. Suddenly it didn’t seem quite so important to get closer 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I know what you mean about those sorts of books. Often when you buy them you find that most places mentioned are not worth mentioning. And others that are impossible to find. Your Scarborough Bluffs have fascinated me – perhaps because I have known a couple of Scarboroughs, the main one being in Yorkshire and apparently the source of the name.

    “The wife of Lt-Governor John Graves Simcoe named them after England’s Scarborough cliffs.”

    I had to google the park and the Dutch Chapel name and found some astonishing photographs of the pillars and gullies along the park, some with people on top of the narrowest cliffs! Not sure if you can get up onto those now if they are suffering from erosion. And no explanation of the name Dutch Chapel. Can’t say I see any resemblance to a chapel myself, Dutch or otherwise. But certainly an extraordinary landscape.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember reading that about Lord Simcoe’s wife. I guess it’s not surprising that the early settlers would name places based on their experience back in the home country. Hence we have a lot of common names with Scotland and England.

      Not so long ago, we could walk right up to the edge of the Bluff and many daredevils would attempt climbing or descending the Bluff. Now there is a hefty fine – assuming of course you don’t get killed in the fall.

      I have one book in particular that is SO bad – it might even be worthy of a blog post one day. I do have to be a bit careful though – just because something makes my eyes roll, doesn’t mean that someone else wouldn’t consider it a great ‘bucket list’ thing to do.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. The Bluffs have also been one of our favourite while we lived in Toronto. Such a peaceful place to go to in order to get away from the intensity of the city. I have seen some of the formations you are showing but I didn’t realized that they were called that way.

    It is always interesting to see what is in our own backyard. I remember once reading about “bad lands” north of Toronto. I didn’t think such a thing existing outside of the Western part of Canada or the US but there they were in Cheltenham and though it is a small area they are very interesting. We visited both in summer and winter and both time it was great. (Suzanne)

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Cheltenham Badlands are also one of the unusual things to see outlined in this book. I had driven past them a couple of times in my travels and was absolutely enthralled with them. I finally made a trip out there a few years ago to photograph them. It wasn’t until I started to read about them that I learned how unusual they are in Ontario.
      It’s funny how we travel far and wide, but miss something interesting in our own territory.


  11. I think you have captured the beauty and the textures of the rock formation. I love picture taking although I lost my desire to pick up my camera for quite a bit. I think it is coming back. I hope you get your zoom lens and click away! As an amateur picture taker I would love to know what lens you are thinking about. I think the picture of the Toronto skyline is pretty pleasing to look at. I also love your view of the Dutch Chapel. Beautiful water and perky little evergreens. I learn something new every day thanks to blogs and people who share their words and clicks! Love to see this area in summer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your encouragement. I predict a trip to the camera store in my near future. I’m lucky (or unlucky, depending on how my husband looks at it 😉) that there is a really good camera store nearby. They are amazing at helping me figure out what I need, and the best options available to me. The advice and help they provide both before and after a sale is worth the small premium in price.

      I hope you get the camera bug back. I admit that sometimes I wonder why I bother, but then I suppress that negative little Nelly 🙂


    • There are actually several within relatively close proximity to each other about a 90 minute drive from home. For these I’m waiting until warmer weather in the spring. It’s likely I may get only one opportunity to visit them so I’d rather go when it’s nice outside.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. The main reason I am still smiling after reading this post, is because it is such a good illustration of your determined personality. Something I can relate to. I love that you went back the next day to try again and you are going to go back in the summer. It is definitely a surprise to see this landscape in Toronto ~ who knew?

    I too get frustrated at times without the good camera with the zoom. As one of my painting teachers used to say, “you are only as good as your tools”.. I had lots of good quality paintbrushes, but I have not brought myself to invest in a good camera, mostly because being on the road I just don’t want one more thing to be responsible for. But there clearly would be so many advantages… Do it!!


    Liked by 2 people

    • I too believe in good quality tools. I don’t think I’ve ever regretted buying the best I could afford. It hurts at the time, but worth it in the long run.
      I use 2 cameras now. I have the good camera I bought last year, and a small point and shoot I use when hiking and cycling … or doing anything where there is a risk my camera could be damaged. Replacing the point and shoot is a lot less painful 😉

      As you can probably tell, I’m really enjoying this stage of my life. It’s all about exploration and discovery. I wish now I hadn’t been so timid in my youth.


  13. You say you’re going to get closer, but I think you’re bluffing. (ba-da-boom!)

    Actually, I think that’s a beautiful piece of landscape, even with your far away perspective. I can see a cathedral-like resemblance, but I do have to stretch my imagination a bit.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Last year I finally invested in a zoom and it has literally changed my life. Seriously, you will never leave home without it! Even without the zoom, the photos are beautiful. How rare and intriguing. Can’t wait until you go back in warm weather.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I’d love to have a nice telephoto lens too… unfortunately, my birthday has come and gone already this year. I hope you have better luck from the b-day fairy than I did 🙃. There is a rock formation in the local backcountry called the “potato chip” that I have yet to visit. I hope to get out there this spring. So much to do, so little time…

    Liked by 2 people

    • I am notorious for indulging myself on my birthday. We have to take care of ourselves, right? 😉
      I thought that I was going to get myself a kayak, but now the zoom lens is starting to sneak up the priority list.

      I think you should make a trip to the potato chip. It may leave you scratching your head, but you’ll get an adventure out of it!

      Liked by 2 people

  16. Look how persistent you are. That’s impressive. That and the fact I’d never heard of these bluffs, either. I can’t wait until the summer when you get back there and share beach/bluff photos.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. I am always, always surprised and intrigued by what may be in ‘my own backyard’ and I see you’re the same. It’s beautiful, but really, not much different from your original photo nearby. Perhaps we are too accustomed to beauty? lol
    I like the idea of a well-hidden beach, but I’m sure it will be much more comfortable in June, hm? Lovely photos, Joanne 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  18. The beach is packed in the summer, so it must be a good one! I wish all those times we were there, we had an interest in photography! All those years! So glad you liked the book. I can’t wait for the nicer weather to visit some of them.
    I can see it is going to be a busy summer for us! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s going to be a very busy one 🙂 Thanks for sharing the info about this book. I’ve earmarked many pages!!

      The beach at Bluffers Park is on the east end past the marina. The smaller beach I found is west of the marina – which is why I’d never seen this rock formation. I had never ventured west.
      I talked to a woman who lives in the area and she called it the “private” beach because apparently so few people know about it.

      Liked by 2 people

  19. You are way more adventurous and determined than I would be, especially in the cold of January. The bluffs are very interesting, but I don’t get the chapel thing from a distance. Think I’ll wait until you get the zoom lens and return in summer before I judge any further…

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Hi, Joanne – I LOVE the Scarborough Bluffs. Although I lived in the area for many years, I learned a great deal from this post. I can’t wait to check out Brown’s book….and get back to Scarborough and check out the Bluffs again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Donna, I’m so embarrassed to admit I’ve lived in Scarborough for 25 years and had never seen the Bluffs until a couple of years ago. Now of course, I’m totally enamoured with them.


    • I know – it’s a little frightening isn’t it? 😉

      When I saw mountains for the first time, and then again on the Bruce Trail, I wished I had taken at least a little geology. I’m sure there is just soooo much I simply don’t get and would be blown away if I really understood what I was looking at.

      Liked by 1 person

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