Cape Breton in the footsteps of the Scots

Scottish Caps Road Trip Canada

Cape Breton in the footsteps of the Scots

The Cabot Trail is considered to be one of the most beautiful routes in Nova Scotia for a road trip Canada. He is named after John cabot, an explorer on behalf of the King of England. We explored it for two days on our road trip and were on the trail of the Scots who had settled Cape Breton from the 18th century. We take a little more time for this tour in order to get to know the people and their way of life a little bit along the way. In Cheticamp we are initially in an Acadian enclave, where the residents uphold their French heritage to this day. It was they who were the first European settlers to set foot on Canadian soil in Nova Scotia. In the turmoil of the colonial disputes between the French and the English for supremacy over the North American continent, they were defeated.


Cabot Trail Cape Smokey on the Cabot Trail
Cape Smokey on the Cabot Trail



The Acadians in Nova Scotia

Most of their ethnic group were displaced in 1755, and few managed to survive in remote areas such as the coast of Cape Breton Island. Even today, the northwest coast of Cape Breton Island, where the Cabot Trail runs along the coast, is only sparsely populated. On the one hand, it is because small groups of Acadians had settled in the section between Margaree Forks and Cheticamp. On the other hand, that the Cabot Trail runs from Cheticamp through the nature reserve of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park with its steep mountain slopes sloping down to the coast, which are densely overgrown with forest. Not until Pleasant Bay do we come across a small settlement where mostly fishermen live.


Neil's Harbor on the Cabot Trail
Neil's Harbor on the Cabot Trail


Fishing on the Cabot Trail

In general, fishing plays a big role in the small towns along the Cabot Trail. Pleasant Bay, White Point and Neils Harbor have lovely harbors where fishing boats dangle in the water. On land piled lobster traps, colorful buoys and fishing nets waiting for their repair. Shrieking seagulls watch us curiously from the quay walls and see if we have something edible for them. These places are silent retreats off the main route on the Cabot Trail and give a good idea of ​​how people's lives are going on here. During the short fishing season, when certain species of fish are allowed to be fished, their catch must be large enough for them to live for the rest of the year. If that is not enough, you have to earn something in tourism or in the city.


This has to be in the suitcase for hikes on the Cabot Trail


Pottery on the Cabot Trail
Pottery on the Cabot Trail


Crafts on the Cabot Trail

The same is true of the art galleries and pottery shops that we see on the way. The painters, sculptors and potters make their living during the summer tourist season. In the winter, they have to live on the earned money or look for another income. Not a simple life that guides people on the Cabot Trail!



Keltic Lodge on the Cabot Trail
Keltic Lodge on the Cabot Trail


Staying in a Scottish setting on the Cabot Trail: the Keltic Lodge

It gets Scottish when we get to the Keltic Lodge. The hotel, which stands in a beautiful spot on a peninsula with views stretching far down the coast, reminds us of a Scottish mansion in its decor. Red, green and blue tartans transport us to another world. As the name suggests, this hotel celebrates the influence of Scottish immigrants. That Hotel is located in the National Park and is one of the Nova Scotia Signature Resorts, which includes the Digby Pines Golf Resort heard that we met a few years ago. It is best to stay here for several days to enjoy the surroundings, the golf course, the beach and above all the view.



Cape Smokey on Cape Breton Island
Cape Smokey on Cape Breton Island Photo: Destination Cape Breton Association / Photographer: Adam Hill

With the cable car to Cape Smokey

The scenery is also reminiscent of Scotland with its bays, mountains plunging down to the sea and roads that make the Cabot Trail a drive that will take your breath away. On the other side of the bay you can take the cable car up to Cape Smokey. The gondola seats eight people and transports them from sea level to the top of Cape Smokey in four minutes. The difference in altitude is 320 meters. From the top you have a magnificent view of the Atlantic and the Ingonish Beach Peninsula with the Keltic Lodge. Take your time for the trip so that the ascent is worthwhile. Pack a picnic or grab a snack at Summit Shack. You can enjoy this at one of the three vantage points.

Cape Smokey
38696 Cabot Trail
Ingonish Beach
Nova Scotia, B0C 1L0


Ciad Mile Failte
Ciad Mile Failte


Get to know Gaelic culture at Gaelic College in St. Ann's

If you have the time, you can learn Gaelic at the Gaelic College in St. Ann's. If there is not enough time, the college's summer courses offer other opportunities to explore the culture of the Scots along the Cabot Trail. Lunchtime is served with Celtic music. Those who wish can practice Gaelic handicrafts. Of course you can find out about the history of the Scots, their way of life and their Celtic self-image.

The shop has fabrics in tartan. If you want, you can even have a kilt sewn for you. We prefer to browse the collection of Scottish Celtic music CDs recorded by local artists. With this musical accompaniment on our road trip through Cape Breton, the trip over the Cabot Trail will also be an experience with Scottish flair for us! But I also like the lace blankets. So I bring home a piece of Gaelic culture that now graces my living room.

The Gaelic College
51779 Cabot Trail,
St Ann's, Nova Scotia
B0C 1H0
(902) 295-3411


Scottish caps
Scottish caps


Our Travel on the Cabot Trail gave us an insight into the life of the Scots on Cape Breton Island. We recommend that you go in search of clues yourself and experience the Scottish in Nova Scotia.

Travel Arrangements:

Check in:

Arrival by plane, bus or train*. Air Canada, Condor and Icelandair fly from Germany to airports in eastern Canada. Of Halifax The best way to get to the Cabot Trail is by rental car or RV.

Car Rentals:

Cheap car hire - book quickly and easily!


Hotels along this route * and on Cape Breton Island * You can book through our partner


Do you like to travel by motorhome?

  • Do you want to rent a motorhome? Then you will find information and a selection in these  booking options.
  • Check our packing list for campers to see whether you have packed everything for your motorhome tour.
  • In the Cape Breton Highlands National Park you can do this Campgrounds stay.



Cape Breton Nova Scotia
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Source: On-site research. Thank you to Tourism Nova Scotia for supporting this trip.

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

Cape Breton in the footsteps of the Scots
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