Just got back from a fabulous road trip to Nova Scotia and Cape Breton in particular. There is a lot to tell but I’ll try to cover just the highlights.
We landed in Halifax and rented a car (a Ford Edge – loaded). After the much-needed 15 minutes to figure out how this magnificent vehicle worked (lots of buttons and options), we headed for St. Peter’s, Cape Breton Island where we stayed at The Bras D’Or Lakes Inn for 2 nites. Did you know that Bras D’Or Lake is the largest salt water lake in the world?????
I would highly recommend the Bras D’Or Lakes Inn – the owners went out of their way to be friendly, the service was excellent, the beds extremely comfortable and the food was absolutely yummy. We roamed upwards to Sydney and stopped at Rita MacNeil’s Tea House in Big Pond – where, to our surprise, coffee, tea and oatcakes were “on the house”.
Our next stop was the Glenora Inn & Distillery having driven up the beautiful Ceilidh Trail, and stopping at The Red Shoe Pub in Mabou (owned by The Rankin family). This is the ONLY distillery of single malt whiskey in Canada. We learned that they had single-handedly (i.e. no help from the Canadian whiskey folks) won a 9-year law suit launched against them by the Scottish Whiskey Distillers Association against their use of the word “Glen” in the name of their Whiskey. It does mean dale or valley and the Distillery is in Glenora. The Inn has 9 guest rooms and some cottages – the grounds are absolutely lovely and the rooms very comfortable. The pub (dining room not yet open for the season) was just OK in terms of food but we did have music to dine by – a fiddler and a piano player whose foot stomped to such an extent I wondered if he would be rendered incapable of playing if his foot was tied down!
On up the Cabot Trail (breathtaking scenery), through Cheticamp to Pleasant Bay where we had a date with Captain Mark to go whale watching IN A ZODIAK. We were poured into (and I mean with assistance) floatation suits. We felt like astronauts – we even walked as if we were on the moon – and waited for our craft to return with a previous group. Man oh Man – it was SMALL. Seven of us went off with Captain Gilles (as it turned out Captain Mark was busy lobster fishing). Who would have thunk we’d have 3 gentlemen from Ottawa seated behind us??? After an hour or more of pounding across waves and enjoying fabulous rock formations on shore and some intriguing sea caves, we returned to the area we started from having seen not a single whale. A radio call to Captain Mark (who was now back on shore) to go up on the hill and look for whales resulted in instruction to “head straight out”. We did – and there was a whole pod of pilot whales and one minke whale. What an adventure. The minke whale (the larger of the 2 species) glided back and forth under the rubber boat about 10 ft down – you could see it clearly, only surfacing once in a while and seen only by those who happened to be looking in the right direction when it did so. The pilot whales seemed to be simply frolicking and enjoying putting on a show for us. There were 7 or 8 of them and they ventured quite close (approx 20 ft ) to the boat. We happily floated out there with the whales for nearly an hour before heading back to shore – a happy group.
A special of fresh lobster and crab was on the menu for this evening – a messy but most enjoyable treat at The Rusty Anchor in Pleasant Bay. Our hotel was The Midtrail Motel – all pink and blue with views of the ocean!
The next day we continued on the Cabot Trail through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park (we were alerted to watch carefully for moose and bear – we saw neither) – beautiful in its own way – dense forest – every shade of green imaginable and on through Ingonish and Ingonish Beach to Baddeck where we stayed at The Inverary Resort – a beautiful and quite large resort with a good restaurant overlooking the water – more fresh lobster and a banana split that involved a banaba crepe thing and all sorts of ice-cream. Good thing we were sharing!!
Back on the mainland we headed for Pictou, Nova Scotia. Our “hotel” here was a delightful B&B called The Evening Sail – well worth a double mention. We headed down to the harbourfront area and ran into none other than Peter McKay (our Minister of Defence) who was there to announce funding for a special project. We managed a photo opp with himself. You never know who you are going to run into when “out and about”. Our dinner that night – more lobster, of course – was at the Pictou Lodge – a very old lodge once owned by the CN Railway – sort of a Nova Scotia cousin to Montebello.
Our last stop was in Wolfville – but I’m going to save that one for a separate blog involving my trip back in family history. All I will note here is that the wineries in the Wolfville area are plentiful – we managed to stop at two of them!!
Speaking of wine, along the way we consistently ran into a Nova Scotia winery called JOST. Although we never got to Amherst to visit the winery itself, their excellent wines ended up at our daily happy hours or on the dinner table more than once during our journey.
I have decided I will miss the keyless start on our rental car and I will really miss the back-up camera – loved that feature!!
If you’ve never been to Cape Breton – GO SOON! It is just as everyone says it is – breathtakingly beautiful, friendly, welcoming, and restful. They say you can drive the Cabot Trail in 5 hours – but I would highly recommend doing both the Ceilidh and Cabot Trails and more – and taking your time. Every “look-off” as they call them provides a view that just has to be admired and not rushed, the food is incredible, the artists’ studios plentiful, the beaches calling to be walked on…..etc. etc. etc.