“I have travelled the globe. I have seen the Canadian and American Rockies, the Andes and the Alps and the highlands of Scotland, but for simple beauty, Cape Breton outrivals them all.” - Alexander Graham Bell
We spent three days in the northern part of Cape Breton where we rented a car and traversed the Cabot Trail. This is the furthest east we will be on our entire journey. On August 17 (our 29th wedding anniversary!), we arrived at the Baddeck Marina which is located in one of the more substantial towns on the Bras d’Or. We spent the day cleaning the boat and getting ready for the arrival of Lynn’s cousins, Cathy and Mark, who were joining us for a week. A bagpiper strolled along the public wharf piping traditional music the entire afternoon. It lent a very special air to this stop.
We had a truncated visit to the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site having arrived there just 30 minutes before closing time. It was a fitting and informative memorial to the unbelievable scope of Bell’s contributions to science and the modern world. After establishing himself as a world renounced inventor, Bell bought a home in Baddeck which was a special place for him because of his own Scottish heritage and because of the privacy and freedom that it provided to his family. We learned that he spent much time there on scientific experiments in areas such as sound transmission, medicine, aeronautics, marine engineering and space-frame construction.
That evening, we celebrated our anniversary at a local restaurant with a lobster supper, an institution in these parts. It included all you can eat chowder, mussels (delicious), and your choice of lobster, snow crab, salmon, etc. It was a fun and very filling dinner!
The morning after Cathy and Mark arrived we left on our drive along the Cabot Trail. This 185 mile road winds through many tiny towns along the coast as well as through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park where we saw old forests, grassy plains, waterfalls and huge rocky cliffs that plummeted down to the Gulf of the St. Lawrence.
There were scenic stops around every corner and hiking trails galore. We struggled to decide which ones we would hike. We stopped for lunch in the Ingonish area where we had another local specialty – grilled scallop burgers (scallop sandwiches). By the end of the day, we hiked an area called the Bog and another that ran along both sides of a merry stream to a lovely waterfall.
At one scenic outcropping we came across an array of blueberry bushes. The blueberries were delicious and we keep kicking ourselves that we forget to bring containers so we can bring our discoveries back to the boat.
One of Lynn’s favorite stops was in Neil’s Harbor, a very small fishing hamlet that we briefly explored and that yielded some interesting photo opportunities.
That evening we stayed in a motel in Cheticamp, one of the Acadian villages along the Cabot Trail. It was located just across the street from the water and we sat on the porch and had a drink and watched the sunset before walking to a local restaurant for dinner.
The next morning, we went back to the park to hike the Skyline Trail, one of the most dramatic of the trails. The day was unseasonably warm and sunny and we arrived in late morning. It was a 5.7 mile hike that we had not adequately prepared for (water and suntan lotion-wise). However, it was jaw-droppingly beautiful and we even saw a moose, which we had eagerly anticipated.
The Cabot Trail winds through many small communities that reflect the blend of Scottish, Irish, French-Acadian and English cultures that make up the history, population and traditions of the area. We stopped at a few local artisans’ shops to check out their unique wares. The area is known for its rug-hooking and Lynn was interested to find a contemporary rug hooking kit that she could buy. But everything we saw was very traditional though there were some beautiful pieces that had been created to commemorate historical events that were on display at a museum devoted to this craft.
By the time we arrived back at the boat later in the afternoon, we were pretty bushed but we had work to do to prepare to leave the next day. Lynn and Cathy went grocery shopping while Jonny set up the new grill we had ordered. Mark helped Jon and caught some of the refreshing breezes on the end of the dock where he set up a nice little reading area! We were too tired to cook on board so we found a place to eat dinner and retired early.
Along with the Bras d’Or in general, Cabot Trail and the Cape Breton National Highlands Park in particular are added to our list of most memorable places on this journey of a lifetime!