If it's along your travel route and you are vacationing in the fall (Octoberish) then you NEED to take a week-end and 'do' the Cabot Trail. Beautiful scenery along winding roads with many places to pull over and have a 'Kodak moment'. Even us Haligonians try to make a point to get away to do this so if you are a tourist and can squeeze it in...it's a must.
This is a road that circles the northern peninsula of Cape Breton Island and is really worth driving around. The scenery is stunning and the drive a little hair raising at times - especially if you go round anti clockwise as we did. its recommended that you go clockwise (I think I've got that right!!). At certain times it is possible to see whales around the coastline.
As mentioned earlier, the Cabot Trail is a must. While at the far eastern end, we spent an afternoon at Cabot's Landing Provincial Park languishing on the beach with a bottle of wine. It was a very relaxing time watching the occasional sail boat (we even saw one of the Tall Ships from Halifax far out on the horizon) and chatting to a couple from Boston that we met. The park has a memorial to John Cabot, the explorer who touched here in 1497 while in the service of the British Crown. Photo taken from the beach.
While on the short mid-afternoon drive to the Park from our B&B at North Harbour, we were very surprised to see a Canada Lynx amble across the road in front of our car - easily recognized by its ear tufts and bob tail. The first time that I had ever seen one of these rare creatures.
Drive the Cabot Trail and visit the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
The northern part of the Cape Breton Island is encircled by the spectacular and winding Cabot Trail. This name perhaps leads one to believe a link with the discoverer John Cabot alias Giovanni Caboto (sailing under the English flag), but historians doubt if he set foot on land here during his voyage of discovery in 1497. The first colonists were French, who under Samuel de Champlain, built Port-Royal (today’s Annapolis Royal) and called the area Arcadia. Then in the 1720’s the Scots immigrated to the area and they called it Nova Scotia. The closeness of these two groups was the source of continuing British – French conflict. The unhappy highlight of the British-French conflict was in 1755 when the majority of the Arcadians were deported. Many went to Louisiana where their French-speaking descendants still live in the Cajun country (Cajuns = Acadians). Almost for one day to the other there were no French-speaking people in Nova Scotia. It is said the poet Longfellow told the story of the exodus of the French speakers in his ballad “Evangeline”. In Cheticamp there is the “Artisanale de Cheticamp” with a museum about the Acadian culture. Once out of Cheticamp the countryside becomes desolate and mountainous and you are in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. There is an information centre at the entrance, which gives good information about the fauna and flora of the area. There is also a souvenir shop with a good selection of books and cassettes etc about Atlantic Canada. The Cabot Trail follows the steep coast of the St. Lawrence and the views are marvellous. If you are lucky you can see whales on a clear day.
Visit Fort Louisburg in the north of Nova Scotia.
In 1713 under the treaty of Utrecht the French gave its Arcadian colonies to England, they only kept “île Royale” or Cape Breton Island. This was really in a difficult position between the British colonies of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. So to protect their North American colonies against invasion and to keep the Gulf of the St. Lawrence free the French built a fort. In was started in 1719 and was known as Louisbourg. This windy and misty fort played a very important role in the French speaking Canada for many years. When the fort was nearly finished it was of course a thorn in the English peoples eye. In 1745 the English with the help of the troops from New England captured the fort. Three years later under the Peace treaty of Aken the fort was once again given to the French, but was again taken by the English in 1758. The English feared a takeover by the French and decided to destroy the fort. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that historians, archaeologists and many volunteers started to restore the fort to its old glory. Since then a quarter of the original fort has been restored in one of Canada’s biggest historical restoration projects. The houses, gardens, squares and depots show the character of the fort in the 18th century. The carefully reconstructed area gives a very good idea of the former prestige and commercial power of the fort.
In the “Maison Duhaget” a film about the troops “ Compagnies Franches de la Marine” is shown. The position of Louisbourg as capitol of the île Royale is explained in the “Maison de la Plagne”.
You can eat in the “Hotel de la Marine” a former inn. Here the waitresses, dressed in period costume, serve the traditional dishes of the 18th century. The table manners are also 18th century – you get a spoon but share bread and knife with your table partner.
You could choose to have a cup of chocolate and a cake in the “ Maison Destouches” as we did.
Fort Louisburg on Cape Breton Island. One of those places where you can see the old buildings as they would have been in the past with guided tours and people in costumes of the time.
The scenery along the Cabot Trail is gorgeous. The people are friendly and the gaelic culture is fantastic.
Drive the Cabot Trail around the Cape Breton Highlands National Park to see some spectacular scenery. You are likely to see a moose or two as well.
If you get up to Cape Breton you should try to see the Fortress of Louisbourg. It has been restored to an incredible level and in great detail.