Cape Breton Island’s Cabot Trail Loop


           The trail was named for the explorer, John Cabot who landed in Cape Breton in 1497; it is one of the most beautiful in the eastern part of North America.   The one-hundred eighty seven mile loop traverses tranquil farmland, then scenic views of the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and rugged mountains, rocky inlets, magnificent headlands and thick forests.  Reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands, the ancestral home of the island’s early inhabitants, the area is rich in Gaelic culture.   

            Chéticamp is the first large town as you travel along the trail via the clockwise direction.  This is the recommended route so as to be on the inside road when driving the curvy coastline roads.  This fishing community is an enclave of Acadian culture that has an outstanding sheltered harbor and an inordinately large stone church, which was built in 1890 and is dedicated to St. Peter.    We also had lunch in an Acadian restaurant ...chicken fricot, a specialty, where the servers were all dressed in authentic costumes of the period.   

            From Chéticamp, the Cabot Trail continues through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, where it borders on the relatively calm waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the west while the Atlantic Ocean pounds the bare rocks on the east.  And, all along this magnificent trip the mountains, which are heavily forested and boggy, leads us by the edge of the coastline.  While in the park, we did a bog walk...along a boardwalk that lead us over a wet, spongy surface which is a substrate composed chiefly of a sphagnum moss and peat.  (Didn’t think I would know that, eh?)  Growing in the bog are shrubs, herbs and some trees. 

            Completing the drive around the Cabot Trail is definitely an all day affair...preferably a two day event.  The trail works its way in and out of the park through local villages as it traverses parklands with hiking trails up into the mountains, but the best of the park is the spectacular coastline.   At one point we detoured to a little village called Dingwall, a particularly charming village on the shores of the Aspy Bay.   We passed Black Brook Cove which overlooks a sandy beach...where people were swimming (brrrr!)...and drove by pink cliffs that rose out of the water, with green forests covering the land beyond.   

            We drove, yet, to another of the many little bays and coves...Green Cove, maybe the loveliest because of its shoreline of huge blocks of pink granite worn smooth by the pounding surf of the open sea.  A little further along, the Cabot Trail once again exits the park area and enters the Ingonish resort area.  It is actually the Ingonishs that I am referring to for it includes Ingonish Centre, Ingonish Beach, Ingonish Harbor...well you get the is an area popular for fishing, boating, swimming, golf, tennis and even winter skiing.   Cruise ships often come to the harbor and the area is home to Keltic Lodge, one of Canada’s best known resort hotels.   

            The Cabot Trail continues over Cape Smokey and then around the peninsular providing excellent views of the bays and the ocean beyond.   The Gaelic College is located toward the end of the Cabot Trail in Cape the only school on the continent that teaches the language, as well as Highland arts and crafts.   If you wanted to learn bagpipe music, hand weaving, highland dancing including step dancing and sword dances, well this would be the only place you could learn these Gaelic specialties. 

            We continued on the trail back to Baddeck, it was an exciting day and probably we should have planned a one night stop along the trail so we would have had yet more time to immerse ourselves in this unique part of Nova Scotia. 


Clockwise from the upper left:

Cape Breton Gulf Shore, Cape Breton Bog Trail and the Cape Breton Ocean Coast