Cape Breton: Baddeck, Louisbourg and Iona
For our last few days in Cape Breton, we stayed in the Chanterelle Inn, near Baddeck. This was the only place we chose to stay which was not in a town or village – it had a beautiful setting and did evening meals, specialising in local food with good veggie options. Breakfast and dinner were eaten on a screened porch surrounded by hummingbirds. We had high expectations and they were fulfilled.
The scenery, though not as spectacular as parts of the National Park, was beautiful. It wasn’t far to St Ann’s Bay (below) and the Bras d’Or Lake which both sparkled blue in the sunlight.
We had intended to do a bit more hiking, but didn’t get round to it because we found three fascinating historical sites which took up all our time.
The first of these was Louisbourg Fortress – a recreation of how it was in 1743 built in the 1960s, after meticulous research, on the original foundations in order to provide employment after the closure of many Cape Breton coal mines. As with most of these places, there are costumed workers to tell you about their lives, and there’s also a 2.5km walk around some of the undeveloped ruins which takes you out along beautiful coastline. We spent most of a day there; it was wonderful. Particularly enjoyable was the re-enacted punishment scene where a young man was accused of theft and marched to the stocks, pursued by his sister shouting abuse for bringing disgrace on the family, and a sheep which he was supposed to have stolen. Said sheep caused great amusement by peeing throughout. It was also interesting to read about the Sisters of Notre Dame who had a mission in Louisbourg and founded the first formal school for girls on Cape Breton. This was the community founded by St Marguerite Bourgeoys whose church we visited in Montreal.
The second site was the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck, which is where he made his summer home. I found this fascinating too because although I knew he had invented the telephone, and that it had been an offshoot of his work in teaching deaf people to speak, I didn’t know of his role in developing flight in Canada and in the invention of hydrofoils. I also loved the family photographs, because they were all informal and full of action rather then the stiff portraits you usually associate with late Victorian and early twentieth century photography. There were good views of the water from the museum too, with sailing boats and the obligatory lighthouse.
We then moved further round the Bras d’Or, including a short ferry ride, to Iona and the Highland Village. This is another costumed affair with a journey through time, starting with a typical black house in Scotland at the time of the Highland Clearances and moving through the different stages of dwelling Scottish settlers might have inhabited in Nova Scotia up until the 1920s. The church was particularly interesting because it had been moved intact, apart from its spire which had been removed in the 1960s, from a village across the lake. One of the guides told us about seeing it floating across in 2003 when he was still at school. The Soay sheep were cute too!