Cape Breton

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September 3rd 2015
Published: September 19th 2015
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We slept in our berth on the Port Au Basque ferry on the way to Nova Scotia last night. The night was a calm one so the ride was smooth as silk and we slept like babies.

In August, when we dropped into the bank in Charlottetown, PEI, we told the teller that we would be in Nova Scotia in September. She told us that we would regret it forever if we didn't drive the Cabot Trail around Cape Breton Island, so we decided to change our plans to include it.

Cape Breton Island is part of Nova Scotia. During the first half of the 19th century, Cape Breton experienced an influx of 50,000 Highland Scotts. Today, their descendants dominate Cape Breton Island's culture, particularly in rural communities. Gaelic is still the first language of a number of elderly Cape Bretoners. English media eroded the language, but in the 1950s, the provincial government started encouraging the use of Gaelic once again. The Gaelic language is now taught in schools. As we travelled Cape Breton, the first thing we noticed was that all of the road signs are in both English and Gaelic.

The Cabot Trail is named after John Cabot who landed in Atlantic Canada in 1497. It is 298 kms and completes a loop around the northern tip of the island, passing through the Cape Breton Highlands.

We stopped first at Ingonish Beach and walked over a wide swath of large cobblestones which line the beach. They are worn round and smooth from being ground against one another by the action of the waves. The beach itself is sandy and smooth. It's washed away each winter and re-deposited each spring by the action of the waves. We walked along the shore, sandals in hand, enjoying the warm sun. Alas, our time was short, so we moved on.

Next we stopped at Green Cove. From this rocky granite headland jutting out into the sea, we watched the ocean crash against the rocks. As we walked out onto the outcropping, we noticed that the rocks were lined with large veins of Quartz which zigzagged through the pink granite. It was fascinating and beautiful. It is thought that earthquakes deep below the earth's surface pull apart rocks so quickly that the high-pressure fluids they contain instantly vaporise. This process leaves behind residues rich in minerals including Quartz.

We continued on through the northern section of the Cabot Trail which passes through Cape Breton Highlands National Park. It covers about one-third of the trail and clings to steep cliffs and has stunning mountain views and deep river canyons. We pulled over many times at what Nova Scotians call "look offs". The name seemed funny to us at first as we call them "lookouts" in BC, but after looking "off" into the distance a few times, it made sense.
On we went into the western section, following the rugged, winding coastline. Here you see the most spectacular view of all, the one you see in the ads, with the long winding road ahead threading over cliffs and into valleys like a ribbon of black silk. Further on, we stopped at a rocky beach where the waves had carved the rocks into strange formations.

Finally we finished the loop. It had been an exhilarating, tiring day of driving on some not-so-great roads at times and wishing that we'd had two or three days to see all that we wanted to see. We passed many trails that begged to be hiked, museums and artists' shops that called our names and music that whispered our names but we just didn't have the time to explore them.

After driving all day and into the evening, we arrived at the Seawind Landing Country Inn, located on the Eastern Shore in the historic Acadian village of Charlos Cove. We had had a long day of driving, so when we pulled in at around 8 pm, we were so happy to finally stop the car. The owner, Anne Marie, was just what we needed with her easygoing manner and kind attentions. She gave us a deal on the room with a view of the sunrise from the bedroom window overlooking an ocean inlet. After a delicious meal prepared by her husband, we were so happy to lay our heads down.

Nova Scotia treated us today. Tomorrow we head for Halifax.

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