Cape Breton Island


When Mark and I planned to return to Nova Scotia so soon after our last trip, we wanted to do something different and take a trip outside Halifax. While we did take a day trip last time up to Kentville, stopping in various towns along the way, this time we were thinking of an extended trip that would require a couple nights. I had never been to Cape Breton Island before and so we decided to drive the Cabot Trail and booked accommodation for two nights in Margaree Forks and Ingonish Beach, on the west and east sides, respectively, of the island’s upper peninsula. I am an islands person so I delighted in the idea of visiting this place rich in Gaelic culture and music. The scenery would be stunning, however we knew that the trees were still a few weeks away from their dazzling red-orange-yellow kaleidoscopic leaf show. On the way we stopped in Truro and visited the library, now housed in the old town hall building, and went to the local farmers market.

I could see Long Pond on Cape Breton as we drove across the western side of the Strait of Canso. I grew excited as we approached and then crossed the Canso Causeway. I’d finally made it to Cape Breton Island! We drove along the Ceilidh Trail, hugging the west coast. The roads were winding and the landscape was covered in valleys of trees. Frequent lookout points gave us the opportunity to take photos:

Mark at Inverness Beach
Sunny canopy over Mark along the MacIntosh Brook Trail, part of Cape Breton Highlands National Park
Mark approaching a waterfall along the MacIntosh Brook Trail
At Beulach Ban Falls along the Aspy Trail

Avian residents of Bay St. Lawrence, on the northern coast of Cape Breton Island. It was so windy and foggy up here.
Peering south towards Deadmans Pond in Bay St. Lawrence
This boat was found in Bay St. Lawrence. I took its picture because it could have been named after my twin aunts, Sheila and Sharon Rowland. I will have to show this photo to them.

We drove west to Capstick until the paved road ended. It was another 8 km on a dirt road to Meat Cove. By then it had started to rain and Mark didn’t feel confident about driving there and back, so we retraced our steps and headed to Neil’s Harbour.

We visited Neil’s Harbour and drove out to see the famous Chowder House. Although we didn’t plan to eat there, we were surprised to see that it closed at 6 p.m. (and we got there at 5:30). My first impression after reading this menu was that they didn’t even serve chowder, but Mark pointed it out to me on the top left.
Neil’s Harbour
The next day we hiked along Middle Head Trail, part of Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The weather during this hike was so variable: sometimes I needed my jacket and hat while at this point I was so hot I was tempted to go shirtless. You can see how red my face is.
Mark on Middle Head Trail
Rocky coast
Conveniently placed chair along Middle Head Trail, perfect for hikers to relax and gaze out over the ocean
Mark on Middle Head Trail
Mark at Keltic Lodge
Cape Breton and Nova Scotia flags outside Keltic Lodge

Some of the roads were very steep, especially at Cape Smokey, and with the abrupt turns drivers had to go slow. We were led downhill by a leader car and were at the end of an entourage. It felt a bit like the bus ride I had in the Swiss canton of Ticino. We drove down winding roads and stopped at a ridiculously overpriced chocolate shop in Indian Brook called Cabotto Chocolates. The store owner was an aggressive seller full of counterfeit enthusiasm. I was not interested and took a look around and gasped at the price of $7.95 for a bread-size slice of fruitcake. I headed right for the door and when the pressure selling was applied to Mark (since I had by then disappeared) I was ready to call on him to up and leave but he handled himself and tactfully excised his way outta there. We then headed for the Gaelic College in St. Ann’s. It took a while to get there; road signs announcing one’s arrival in St. Ann’s didn’t necessarily mean that the college would be around the next bend. We walked around the campus buildings and peered inside the gift shop. I had known in advance that the college was not open, however a trip to the gift shop would have been nice. We had our lunch in Baddeck. Always during our drives Mark would pull into a town or village and we would look at the homes and main streets. I would love to go back to Cape Breton and see more of the island, including the eastern part.

One Response

  1. Well written and a lovely story of your trip. Thanks for sharing, Craig. Next time buy me some chocolate, though! 🤪

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