I will use this tip to present the basics one needs to know to visit the Fortress at Louisbourg.
Location: The fortress is 1/2 an hour south of Sydney on Route 22 (or an hour on the Marconi Trail). If you are coming from the causeway, it is two hours via a couple of routes.
What's there: A reconstructed 1740's French fort with costumed interpreters. There are perhaps 100 buildings including town's homes and gardens, barracks, pubs, the Bastion, the fortifications, etc. etc. Thank goodness, they do provide modern plumbing however -- the guides told us that 18th century plumbing consisted of a trench making its way down the middle of the street into the sea.
Entry: The pass is fairly expensive (In 2004, $13.50 per adult per day), and to properly tour the Fortress takes all day, so come in the morning. We purchased a yearly historic parks pass which allows us entry to all such parks run by Parks Canada. The fortress is open May through October. July and August, the fortress closes at 7pm, the rest of the year at 5pm.
Other stuff: We spent a good part of two days there. The first day we arrived mid-day, so we hardly started before it closed at 5pm and we got shooed out. One other issue, the weather is not always good. The first day we were disappointed in the weather. It was constantly overcast, so I took no pictures. When we went back the second day, not only was it overcast, it rained most of the day. You can see from my picture, it was downright gloomy.
The Fortress of Louisbourg has been rebuilt to period when France controlled fort - 1744.
Each summer the Fortress comes to life. Many costumed staff live as they would have in 1744. They didn't have clocks then, so soldiers march through the town once an hour. When we were there, they paraded a thief through the streets, and locked him in a stock. The town includes period homes and exhibits. You are invited in to talk to maids, soldiers, merchants, the town engineer - even an English officer.
In the eighteenth century, war was more gentlemanly than it is now. The English officer was allowed to keep his sword and wander about the premises, and was on his honour not to escape. There would be French officers in similar "jail" in New England, and both knew that a prisoner exchange would be made. Of course the English officer was scoping out the fort - looking for its weak points, so he could report what he found to his commander. This actually may have lead to the fall of Louisbourg, as the English attacked it from its weak side - the land side.
The Fortress of Louisbourg recreates this French colonial town as it was in 1744. It is an accurate reconstruction—the foundations of all the buildings were still there, and everything else was documented.
It is North America’s largest historic reconstruction. There are 62 buildings on the map, and 150 costumed actors on site. In 1744 there would have been 8,000 people, civilians as well as soldiers, living within the walls.
Eighteen century soldiers were different in many ways. Then, the officers were career positions - passed on from father to son. The officers could own property in Fort Louisbourg, and run a side business (most likely trade) -- as Louisbourg was primarily a source of fish for Europe and the West Indies, and traded these raw goods for rum, sugar and spices from the West Indies, and finished goods (guns, kitchenware, etc.) from Europe. Cod fish was preserved by salting and drying. As France was Catholic, fish was an important foodstuff -- the only meat that could be eaten during the 40 days of Lent or on fast days (which were Wednesdays and Fridays in the 18th century).
We were told at times that there would be an armada of ships in the port -- war ships from France, and trade ships from the West Indies or France.
Louisbourg was reconstructed to what it was like just before it fell to the English. In 1744, Louisbourg was a town of approx. 3000 inhabitants. Louisbourg society differed from that of the French communities in Quebec City or Montreal. There, the goal was settlement. Louisbourg was built as a trading post/fortress -- there was no seigniorial regime and only a few of the soldiers brought their families here.
In the eighteenth century, all French were Catholics; however the church was not prevalent here. The town's people never built a church, instead used the chapel inside the King's Bastion for services.
The King's Bastion Barracks is the largest building on site and was used to house the governor and the officers. We spent a few hours touring the Bastion. Besides the chapel, governor's quarters and soldiers' quarters, it has displays of many of the artifacts that were unearthed during the archaeological digs.
We walked around in the village that is down below the King's Bastion, looking at some of the houses and were delighted to talk to 2 costumed people who were the ones who tended the gardens here. Baskets of all shapes and sizes were made by the women and were used both in the houses and the gardens. The woman on the ground is harvesting short stubby purple carrots. She said that this was the original carrot. It was purple on the outside but had a core of gold which she showed us by cutting one open. There were also onions,light colored beets with purple leaves as well as the purple beets and some rhubarb and marigolds for color. Turnips are also grown. Later we had a chance to eat some of these vegetables in the inn here in the fortress.
When it was noon time, we searched out a place to eat in Fortress Louisbourgh. The only place open this late in the season was the Hotel de la Marine which was a hotel above but a large tavern on the first floor. They served meals which were similar to ones the people ate here in 1744. We were seated at a large round table covered with a white cloth that had patches in it. Cloth was never wasted back then. The napkins were large and were tied around your neck. Our first course was a choice of vegetable or pea soup with a piece of "soldier's" bread. We each got a different soup. Both were a combination of carrots, turnips, and onions in stock with the addition of peas in one. We were only given one eating utensil which was a large spoon. We were told to use the spoon's handle to get the sugar from a bowl and you can tell in the photo that the sugar was a dark rough brown. The bread is heavy and brown. As a bread, it wasn't that good but I had the idea of putting brown sugar on it, and it was fairly good that way as a sort of pound cake. We ate on pewter dishes. Camilla got a rum punch which she said was more punch than rum. I drank tap water. Our main course was an Acadian speciality, a large piece of turkey pie made with turkey, carrots, turnips and onions in a pastry crust. It was really good. My bill for $16.23 included tip and the waitress said, "The Governor takes coins, Visa or American Express."
WE visited here on Aug. 16th 2004 but the first time on June 22nd 2000 . Arrived June 21st 4 pm. rented a cottage at Peck's Housekeeping Cottages for $ 59.00 ( A free video of your choice supplied free). We went for a walk along the restored board walk on the harbor front. This harbor was used during world war two to assemble the convoys of ships from U.S. and Canada carrying supplies and war material to England and Russia. It is a very big and deep harbor, (considered the best on the East coast but because there is no railway it never grew.) They had a submarine net across the entrance during the war. Plaques along the walk commemorate all the famous history and the stories of the fishermen who lost there livelihood when the fishing became poor and the huge Cannery for fish closed down.
In the evening we went to a concert given by the COAL MINER'S CHORAL GROUP.They have traveled all over the world ( mostly retired miner's from Nova Scotia) they often appeared on TV on Rita McNeil,s show out of Toronto Canada. After we returned to our cottage watched the free video movie THE GREEN MILE .
Next morning we drove to the Fortress which was next door and visited with the guided tour seeing all the interesting parts of the fort and learning the history. The soldiers also put on a show and fired off guns etc.
The Site is located south of Sydney on Route 22, just beyond the modern town of Louisbourg. Take Exit 8 near Sydney. Driving time is 30 minutes. An alternate route is the scenic and coastal Marconi Trail, Route 255, from Glace Bay. Driving time is one hour.
If you're driving from the Canso Causeway, take Route 4, the Fleur-de-Li's Trail, or TransCanada Highway 104 to Sydney. Or follow TransCanada Highway 105 through Baddeck to North Sydney and take Highway 125 to Sydney. Then take Exit 8 near Sydney to Route 22. Driving time for either route is 2.5 hours.
Our trip in Aug. 2004 was a sewniors bus tour. Many pictures follow
There are costumed guides through the historical site who tell you about their daily life as it would have been at Fortress Louisbourg . Behind this guard, who let me have my picture made with him, is the guardhouse which consists of a fireplace, small bed and a table. Across the way from this was one bunkhouse for other soldiers with a wooden shelf that held the thin mattress which was stuffed with corn shucks or hay. This bed was shared by 3 men who took turns being on guard duty. 2 slept in the bed at a time and one was on duty. Even though there was a bed in the guardhouse, it was used "just for resting", he told me.
Inside the King's Bastion there are soldier's barracks as well as rooms where the governor lived called the Governon's Apartments. On the first floor there is a lovely chapel. I took this photo of the front of this Catholic chapel where both the soldiers and members of the community came to worship. In the areas behind the chapel there are rooms for the priests and also rooms where they kept the sacrements.
In the King's Bastion we saw the barracks such as the one pictured here. This soldier had on leather shoes but there were wooden shoes on a shelf so I asked about them. It seems that the leather shoes are very expensive and soldiers must buy their own so they wear wooden shoes when they aren't on duty to preserve the leather ones. Soldiers had a hard life. They were given a thick bread called "soldier's bread" but had to cook their own food over the fire place. They had dried vegetables, salted pork and dried cod fish they were given to use but could also hunt their own food with a bit of extra ammunition. They made little money as a soldier but could make money building houses and walls here. They defended the fortress with cannons. We saw the Cannon School where they taught trajectory and the math associated with it. A 30 pound cannon could only fire about l 1/2 miles. Card playing was a popular recreation here.
As well as the fortress, Louisbourg has a lovely lighthouse, left before the harbor and follow the road out to the end. From there you can look across the harbor and see a different view of the Fortress. As I recall, the lighthouse is less than one half hour from town, if you want to walk. The Beach where the English landed is also a short drive from the Fortress and worth a quick visit, a picnic, or a dip of your toes..
If you have pets with you and want to go to the Fortress for the day, the lady at Spinning Wheel B&B provides reasonably priced doggie day care, while you tour the Fortress.
Of course you have the ruins.
But you also have a village that has been constructed on the site of the old village in order to demonstrate the lives of the soldiers and all.
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