Baile nan Gaidheal--Highland Village
Iona, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Cape Breton has a strong heritage of Scottish roots, with Gaelic language, music and dance an important part of the Cape Breton culture.
Iona, named after a community in Scotland, was settled by Gaelic speaking immigrants from the Isle of Barra in 1802. Highland Village tells the story of that settlement starting at the black house, a stone house in Scotland. Walk the village and see the economic and cultural development of Gaelic settlers on Cape Breton, covering the period starting 1770 to 1920’s.
The Village is located in a very peaceful and beautiful spot overlooking and surrounded by the Bras d’Or Lakes.
If you love history and museums, you will enjoy watching history unfold with the help of the interpreters, dressed in costume and proud of their Gaelic background. My favourite parts were the views, all the goods in the General Store, the way time and history unfolded as we wound our way along the paths of the Village.
The Fundy Shore Ecotour, a scenic drive which encircles the Bay of Fundy, starting in Brooklyn Hants County to Amherst and follows the shores of Chegnecto Bay, Minas Basin and Cobequid Bay. We only covered a small portion but there was so much to see it took us the day! Any of the places we visited could have been a day themselves if we had more time to explore.
Our first stop was Fox Point Lookout. There is a short hike, but we didn’t take it but did find a spot for a great shot of the Digby Split across the water.
The Age of Sail Heritage Center Museum located along Highway 209, Port Greville, is a must see, operated by the Greville Bay Shipbuilding Museum Society. The society is a charitable organization dedicated to the preservation and conservation of the lumbering and shipbuilding history of the Parrsboro Shore.
The Museum building itself and the history of the non-profit organization is an interesting story. There is a lot to see, helpful and friendly volunteers and we didn’t give ourselves enough time to really do the museum justice. The site includes cafe/gift shop, a boat shed, a blacksmith shop and a band saw shed. Several walking trails lead from the museum to historic and natural features along the river and home to the Lighthouse. Inside the centre are artifacts, exhibits and photos of the era.
Further off the beaten path is Spencer’s Island, located at the western end of Greville Bay on the Bay of Fundy. With a history of important shipbuilding, the island now includes Old Shipyard Beach Campground, café, beautiful beach and a historic lighthouse dating to 1904 recently been granted permission by the Canadian Coast Guard to turn the light back on.
The Spencer’s Island Lighthouse had a central role in the sea-faring history of Cumberland County, and is an important community landmark. The rugged terrain in this part of Nova Scotia made land travel difficult. Communities in this are relied heavily on shipbuilding and shipping for its economic growth. The Spencer’s Island Lighthouse is a “secondary lighthouse:” its light beam was used in conjunction with the beam of another lighthouse to signal the proper route to incoming ships.
We ended our tour with Cape d’Or Scenic Area, a rugged coastline with sea and wind where Bay of Fundy runs into the Minas Channel. Another spot along the Fundy Shore Ecotour where you could easily spend the day with views of the sea and hiking.
Where you find treacherous seas and riptides, you find a lighthouse. Cape d’Or lighthouse built in 1922, was destaffed in 1989. The Advocate District Development Association preserved the site and its structures in 1995. This organization repaired and converted the lightkeeper’s houses into Lightkeeper's Kitchen Restaurant where you can watch the Bay of Fundy tides. Even spend the night at The Guesthouse, a converted lighthouse keeper's residence.
There is something very awe inspiring about going as far as you can to a tip of land to the sea and North Cape is awesome in the truest sense of the word. The Northumberland Strait meets the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the result is spectacular. The longest rock reef in North America is located here and if you time it right and the tide is out you can walk the reef and view seals, seabirds, and other forms of marine life.
If the tide is in, the rush of the waters is breath-taking. Also taking your breath away is the wind created on this exposed site making it home to The Wind Energy Institute of Canada, where they do research on the development of wind energy.
Although controversial, there are huge windmills here and the grace of the windmill farm blends into the physical environment around it.
There is a lot to do here including visiting the Wind Energy Interpretive Centre, walk the Black Marsh nature trail and view the North Cape Lighthouse.
The Lighthouse, in service since 1866, is an octagonal shape and still a working lighthouse but not open to the public. An interesting fact about the lighthouse is that it has been moved six times since its construction due to erosion of North Cape.
The wind Energy Interpretive Centre is worth the visit, well laid out with information which explains some basic concepts of wind energy for those like me who now have some understanding after visiting. They also have some great personifications of wind.
As you walk the trail, look to the beach and visitors have built small cairns and they dot the rocky beach, hard to spot as they blend in and of course don’t lead anyone anywhere-too may of them haphazardly laid out to find a path.
North Cape truly is a special place. The photos give you only a hint of the magic. To truly “see” it you must hear the sea and feel the wind.
The opening panel in the wind Energy Interpretive center, marrying science with poetry is fittingly the famous poem by poet Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)
Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.
Being a lover of historic villages, I was interested in Orwell Corner and was pleased we took the time to visit. This used to be a busy agricultural village on the cross road to Charlottetown. It was founded in the early 19th century by Scots and settled by families from the Isle of Skye, Ireland.
Many of the people living in Orwell are descendants of the original settlers and in 1970 the Provincial Centennial Commission combined with community volunteers, restored numerous buildings on their original site back to what they were, representing life in 1895. The site opened in 1973 and is now administered by the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation partnered with community volunteers of the Orwell Corner Pioneer Village Corporation.
The entrance building provides a lot of historical information including the written stories told on a serious of boards complete with photos of people who lived the life of the village as well as examples of actual machinery of the era. This leads to the village complete with a school, church, well stocked general store, dressmakers shop, working forge and livestock barn complete with horses, lambs, hens, pigs and cats among other buildings.