That's how the Scots lived in Nova Scotia

At the Highland Heritage Center in Iona

The Highland Heritage Center in Iona

We hear a dull rhythmic trampling when we visit the first bulkheads in Nova Scotia as we walk up the forest path. What is that? Nothing can be seen that provides an explanation. Our path therefore first leads us to a small stone cave that stands on the edge of the Iona museum village.

That's how the first Scots lived in Nova Scotia

In front of it stands a woman in a long dress with a headscarf and work apron. It looks out over the Barra Strait, which connects two arms of Bras d'Or Lake. She speaks to us in a distinctive Scottish dialect and tells us that her husband has just taken the boat out to fish. Then she asks us into her cottage, which consists of only one room. In the middle there is a fireplace over which cooking takes place. In one corner I also see a bed that is framed with wooden walls. In winter the icy wind certainly whistles through all the cracks. The Scots in Nova Scotia prefer to protect themselves against the cold with wooden walls and a thick curtain in front of the bed.



However, it is not particularly cozy in her hut. But that wasn’t it in the cottages in native Scotland either, where she and her family lived as landless day laborers on the land of their landlord and managed more badly than well above water. Nova Scotia, as they call their new home, promises the Scots a better life in Nova Scotia. The land on which her simple cottage stands also belongs to her family. There is no one who takes from them what they have earned with their hands. The future of the Scots in Nova Scotia looks better in their new home, even if the road ahead is difficult.


Kate of the Scots in Nova Scotia
Kate of the Scots in Nova Scotia
Weaver in Iona
Weaver in Iona - that's how the Scots lived in Nova Scotia


The history of the Scots in Nova Scotia

We are in the Iona open air museum Cape Breton Island. Here you can experience the history of the Scots in Nova Scotia up close in a village. We therefore walk from one house to another and go through time. In 1620, King James I of England declared the entire coastal region from Acadia down to Chesapeake Bay to be New England. In 1 the first Scots came to the British colony at the other end of the Atlantic. They ended up in Pictou on the Northumberland Strait. Most of them settled south of the Acadia, which was also claimed by the French.

It was not until after 1749, when Halifax was established as the seat of the Scots in Nova Scotia, that Scottish settlement increased in these regions. The first came from the American New England states. But even in Scotland itself, interest in the lands in Cape Breton and Acadia grew. After Expulsion of the acadians from Nova Scotia Finally farmers from the south moved to the fertile Annapolis valley. Ships like the "Hector"whose replica can be visited in Pictou brought Scots from Europe.


Working in the fields - that's how the Scots lived in Nova Scotia
Working in the fields - Scots in Nova Scotia
Working in the fields - that's how the Scots lived in Nova Scotia
Work in the field


From homesteader to farmer

Our walk through Iona shows that the life of the Scots in Nova Scotia was not easy. Most of them cleared land on which they grew what they needed to live. This is how villages like the one in which we are guests came into being. In the course of time, a certain amount of prosperity was introduced, due to more and more specialists and craftsmen settling in Nova Scotia. Trade relations with the mother country and the neighboring English colonies in the south also brought goods into the country, which made life easier: during our visit of houses from later times, we discover fine porcelain, pretty tablecloths and curtains, which make the living room more comfortable. The houses are better insulated, the number of rooms is increasing.

The simple camps on which the first Scots slept in Nova Scotia are disappearing. But there are bedrooms with comfortable beds, with cupboards and chests of drawers in which clothes hang, which are sewn from self-woven fabrics. Goods that are not made in the village are sold in the village shop. They come from the neighboring colonies in the south or from the mother country and offer the Scots a certain level of prosperity, which they can now afford through the strength of their work.


This has to be in the suitcase for a walk in the footsteps of the Scots in Nova Scotia

  • When hiking we wear solid hiking boots, They also stop on uneven paths.
  • On a hike you need one backpack, in which you put drinks, a jacket and small items.
  • Check our hiking checklistwhether you have packed everything you need for your hike.
  • Travel Guide* for information on the go


Life becomes easier
Life is getting easier for the Scots in Nova Scotia
In the good room
In the good room


In the forge of Iona

The blacksmith from Iona finally shows us how to make a spoon from a simple piece of metal. As a memento, he forges one of the rough nails with which some of the buildings in the village are held together. With him we finally learn what caused the dull trample that we noticed at the beginning of our visit to Iona: a massive cold-blooded horse gallops down the slope from the village church at full speed when he sees the blacksmith kicking out of his workshop. He just laughs and says: "He's waiting for his cuddles again."

He pulls a sugar cube out of his pocket and hands it to the impressive steed. "He has known me since he was a foal and he still behaves as if he is a small, clumsy horse. He is not even aware of his strength. ”Says it, and the man turns around contentedly and with a sugar lump and beats up the mountain again with dull hoofs.


Iona at Bras d'Or Lake
Iona at Bras d'Or Lake
That's love
That's love


It is a quiet world that we get to know here. We also meet her again and again on our travels through Nova Scotia. Follow us on our walk through Iona in Petar's video that captures local life:



Travel Arrangements:

Highland Village Museum in Iona
4119 Highway 223
Iona, NS, B2C 1A3
Phone (902) 725-2272
Tel. 1-866-442-3542

Hours: daily from June to October. The current data can be found under the link to the museum's website.

Accommodation options

We stayed in Baddeck. There are many Hotels, lodges, inns, B & Bs * to choose from, you can book at this link. The journey from Baddeck is about 1 hour driving time by car. You can also combine this excursion with a tour around this arm of the Bras d'Or Lake (about 2,5 hours' drive) and make the visit to the Scots in Nova Scotia at the Highland Village Museum a day trip.

Also near the Highland Village Museum in Iona is the Iona Heights Inn *.

Arrival Date:

Arrival by plane, bus or train*. Air Canada, Condor and Icelandair fly from Germany to various airports in eastern Canada.

Car Rentals:

Cheap car hire - book quickly and easily!


Hotels on Cape Breton Island * You can book through our partner


Iona Highland Village on Cape Breton
Click on the photo and make a note of “Iona Highland Village on Cape Breton” on Pinterest

Do you like to experience a historical ambience? Then you should take a look at these articles:

Find more Slow Travel Tips here.

Do you already know:

Source: own research on site. We would also like to thank Nova Scotia Tourism for the kind invitation to this trip. However, our opinion remains our own.

Text: © Copyright Monika Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline
Photos: © Copyright Monika Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline
Video: © Copyright Petar Fuchs, TravelWorldOnline

That's how the Scots lived in Nova Scotia
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