Monday, October 21, 2013

The Cabot Trail: Nova Scotia's Must See!

If you can only visit one place while on Cape Breton Island, it should most definitely be Cape Breton Highlands National Park (CBHNP) and the Cabot Trail. I read about this area a few months ago in a National Geographic Traveler magazine. After reading the article, I knew we must see this place if at all possible. Unfortunately, when selecting a campground, we had our primary goal of getting to Newfoundland in mind and chose one close to the ferry rather than the Cabot Trail. This is where conflicting goals and desires and too little time gets us in trouble.

The goal on our first full day in Canada was to get our internet situation figured out so that my husband could work during the week. After that, we wanted to go sight seeing. Well, it was mid-afternoon by the time we got on the Englishtown Ferry to the Cabot Trail (driving it nonstop takes 5 hours).

Englishtown Ferry, Nova Scotia
We enjoyed the view along the Cabot Trail: steep mountains, rocky coves, blue water. After stopping at several overlooks, we eventually made it to the other side of the CBHNP where we had our close encounter with a moose along the Skyline Trail. It was nearly midnight when we got back to the campground that evening.  Keep in mind just the day before we drove 565 miles from Bar Harbor, Maine to North Sydney, Nova Scotia, a journey that took us 16 hours. And that morning we moved the RV to a better site within the campground, searched for (stopped at the wrong place twice) and bought SIM cards, and ate lunch. See what I mean - we wear ourselves out trying to squeeze so much into a short period of time. Nevertheless, I'm glad we did it. It was a memorable day on all many levels. However, a half-day is not nearly enough time to take in the rugged heights and seaside views along the Cabot Trail and CBHNP. Assuming we get to visit the area again, I will plan on a week at the least.

Views from the Cabot Trail
There are many great cultural experiences along the Cabot Trail as well. The area around CBHNP was predominantly settled by Gaelic Scots and, ironically, the ancient mountain range that makes up this island is part of the very same that make up the Scottish Highlands. No wonder Scots migrated to this area given it's similarity to their homeland. If you have an interest in Scottish history and culture, this is a great place to visit. (The road signs are in English and Gaelic.) There are numerous Scottish heritage museums and craft stores including the Gaelic College of Celtic Arts and Crafts in St. Annes. On a visit there with just me and the kids, we sat in on a "great kilt" demonstration where we learned about the history, uses, and production of kilts. And we participated in a Gaelic milling frolic - a cultural tradition of singing/chanting in gaelic while you and numerous neighbors sit around and beat new fabric until it's soft.
Watching a Great Kilt Demonstration (the gentleman volunteered to be kilted)
Typical Jonah - posing in a Milling Frolic display
There is so much to see and do along the Cabot Trail. Here are a few others not mentioned above:
North Highlands Community Museum
Cabot Landing Provincial Park
Whale watching tour
Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site
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