Cape Breton: Mabou and the Ceilidh Trail


The last week of our trip is on Cape Breton Island – named in 2011 by Travel and Leisure magazine as one of the world’s best islands to visit, although it’s not quite an island because you get on to it by a causeway. It’s a fairly small area, 3981 sq mi and only Canada’s 18th largest island, but with very distinctive regions. We wanted to spend the first couple of days on the Ceilidh Trail for obvious reasons – up the west coast where many Scots settled, and all the signs are in English and Gaelic. So much seemed the same as home – the scenery, the music, the whisky and, for part of the time, the weather.

We stayed in Mabou because it had a good place to eat, drink and listen to music. This is the Red Shoe (above), owned by the Rankin family – award winning Canadian musicians. We ate there both nights, sampled their own beer (of course) and enjoyed the food – good veggie choices I’m happy to say, including possibly the best hummus ever. We were too late for the music the second night, but the first night we listened to Maggie Beaton on the fiddle (only 14 or 15 but a very good player) and a young man, whose name I didn’t catch, on piano.

There are some good trails in the Cape Mabou Highlands created and maintained by the local Trail Club, all volunteers. We bought their map at the post office and set off. Of course, “Highlands” is relative but the route we chose took us over two hills of around 1000 feet so you could say we had done two-thirds of a Munro. It’s very peaceful – in fact the only other people we met were members of the Cape Mabou Trail Club out scouting the trails to check all was well. They do an excellent job. It was a wet day, but the rain was fairly gentle and it was still quite warm so it didn’t affect our enjoyment or the views:


After our walk, we had time to catch a tour at the Glenora Distillery, home of Glen Breton, Canada’s only single malt whisky. It’s a very pretty place which also has rooms, a bar and a restaurant so, if we ever come back, that might be another good place to stay. There was a sample of the ten-year old on the tour and we had one as a digestif in the pub that night. It’s quite light, both in colouring and in flavour, and slipped down well.


As always, the Pinterest board has a few more pictures.