Pictou - The first Scots in Nova Scotia

The Hector shipyard in Pictou

The "Hector" in Pictou Nova Scotia

We had never heard of Pictou before our visit. We also did not associate the place with developments in Canadian history. The place played a role in the history of the Atlantic provinces in Canada, which changed them. This is where the first immigrants from Scotland came ashore at the end of the 18th century. While everyone in the United States is talking about the Mayflower and the Pilgrim Fathers, the Scots in Nova Scotia, which is ultimately named after them, don't seem to play that big a role. Maybe it's because of the expulsion of the Acadians a few years earlier? I dont know.

The "Hector" in Pictou
Pictou Nova Scotia - The first large group of Scottish immigrants came to Nova Scotia on board this ship



In any case, the history of the Scots in the Atlantic provinces is a subject that we rarely encountered on our travels through Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Reason enough for us to take a closer look at it. If you try, you can definitely find traces of the Scots in this province. We even discovered several in Pictou.

The first Scots in Pictou Nova Scotia on board the "Hector"

The port of Pictou in Nova Scotia is commonly considered to be the place where the first group of immigrants from Scotland arrived in the Atlantic provinces. In 1755 the British had forcibly deported the Acadians (French) from the region. Only a few of them had managed to flee to the forests off the coast. The colonial power Great Britain then wanted to strengthen its presence in this area and advertised, especially in Scotland, to mobilize immigrants. The first group of Scots reached the port of Pictou in 1773 on board the "Hector". In the meantime, the sailing ship with which they crossed the Atlantic has been reconstructed. You can visit it today. There is also a visitor center that presents the passage of the Scots on board the sailor.


The Hector shipyard in Pictou
The Hector shipyard in Pictou


Looking at the dense forests that cover parts of Nova Scotia away from the villages, I realize that the beginning in these regions could not have been easy. The Scots were already not favored by fate in Europe. They had many reasons to make a living in the New World. They were hardworking people who were used to "biting through". So they set out to make Nova Scotia what it is today. A land of fishermen, farmers and artisans who made their life out of the wilderness.

Information on the "Hector" and the first Scots can be found here

The McCulloch House in Pictou NS

An immigrant from Scotland, Reverend Thomas McCulloch, left his mark on Pictou. He set out for Canada in 1803, a few years after the arrival of the "Hector". Originally, he and his family had planned to continue on to Prince Edward Island. There he wanted to work as a priest in a congregation of Presbyterians. However, the people of Pictou quickly realized that he was a learned man. They convinced him to stay in their place. McCulloch spent the rest of his life in Pictou.


The McCulloch House in Pictou
Pictou was the first school in Nova Scotia


He was a priest, educator and reformer, and liked to assert his modern views against the resistance of the power apparatus. McCulloch built a house in Pictou where he and his wife Isabella raised their family. To give his children and the children of Pictou an education, he set up a school in his house. This was soon too small. A school house was built to accommodate the number of students.

This burned down and was rebuilt. In 1816 the Pictou Academy opened its doors, the first non-denominational college in Nova Scotia. Classes also took place here in a private house until the academy got its own building in 1818.


The garden pond of McCulloch House
The garden pond of the McCulloch House in Pictou


Thomas McCulloch was a well-read man, interested in natural history and ornithology. We can see part of his bird collection in his home. There we also learn that he was friends with John James Audubon, the ornithologist.

Information about McCulloch House can be found here

The Northumberland Fisheries Museum in Pictou

This time we are visiting the Northumberland Fisheries Museum because we still have some time in the city. We are very interested in fishing on the Atlantic coast. The museum can be visited in three parts at the moment: the main part of the collection that we viewed is located in the local railway building. Another part of the collection is in the lighthouse at the harbor and in a fish farm. It is planned to accommodate all exhibits in a new building to be built at the port.


Are you traveling with a 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.
  • There are several campsites in the Pictou area. One is Harbor Light Campground, 2881 Three Brooks Rd, Pictou, NS B0K 1H0, Canada. This is only minutes away from the ferry to Prince Edward Island.


The museum offers a glimpse into fishing on the Northumberland coast: we see lobster traps, models of ships and boats used to catch fish and marine species. Below is a huge lobster claw that must have come from a lobster that was over a hundred years old. There is a fisherman's hut, lobster buoys, a swordfish on the museum wall that teaches us fear, and a shell collection that shows us the types of mussels in comparison. The exhibition makes it clear that not only the life of the Scots on land was difficult. Life at sea was and is much more than that.


Ship models in the Northumberland Fisheries Museum
Ship models in the Northumberland Fisheries Museum
Fisherman's hut on the Northumberland coast
Fisherman's hut on the Northumberland coast


Scary, right?
Scary, right?
lobster traps
lobster traps


Information about the Northumberland Fisheries Museum is available here


These attractions are open from May to the end of September


In any case, the Scots in Nova Scotia did not find it easy to live in their new home. Even so, it was better than what they had as tenants in their home country: control by the landlord, no real estate and being driven out of their stone cottages in which they lived all year round. Freedom is a seductive good when you don't have it. And if you also have your own land, the incentive to venture into a new world increases. The Scots in Nova Scotia built their world according to their own ideas, including hard life and freedom.

That has to be in the  suitcase for a trip to Pictou


Travel Arrangements:

The Pictou Lodge * You can easily book through our partner booking.com. hotels in Pictou you can find here.

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Pictou Nova Scotia
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Source: On-site research with support from Tourism Nova Scotia

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

Pictou - The first Scots in Nova Scotia

Monika Fuchs

Monika Fuchs and Petar Fuchs are the authors and publishers of the Food and Slow Travel blog  TravelWorldOnline. They have been publishing this blog since 2005. TravelWorldOnline has been online since 2001. Their topics are trips to Savor, wine tourism worldwide and slow travel. During her studies Monika Fuchs spent some time in North America, where she - partly together with Petar Fuchs - traveled to the USA and Canada and spent a research year in British Columbia. This intensified her thirst for knowledge, which she satisfied for 6 years as an adventure guide for Rotel Tours and then for 11 years as a tour guide for Studiosus Reisen around the world. She was constantly expanding her travel regions, but curiosity still gnawed at her: "What's beyond the horizon? What else is there to discover in this city? Which people are interesting here? What do they eat in this region?" As a freelance travel journalist (her articles have appeared in DIE ZEIT, 360° Canada, 360° USA, etc.), she is now looking for answers to these questions as a travel writer and travel blogger in many countries around the world. Petar Fuchs produces the videos on this blog as well as on YouTube. Monika Fuchs from TravelWorldOnline is among Germany's top 50 bloggers in 2021. Find more Information about Monika and Petar Fuchs here.