The Cabot Trail

The Cabot Trail, taking you round the edge of Cape Breton Island, is a well-travelled tourist trail, with plenty of variety in the activities available. None of that really mattered to me, because I just wanted to drive the car I’d hired, a Dodge Charger. But I managed to let my exploratory instincts take over, with just a short trip North to Baddeck, and the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site (or museum, if you want to save words).

Alexander Graham Bell museum
The picture is washed out, but you can see the building has great views out over the lake.

I spent a happy hour or so in the museum, with its exhibits from his time teaching, breeding sheep, inventing and helping, even revolutionising, deaf education.

I liked the story of his sheep breeding experiments. Failure is a necessary part of science, but this story still made me smile. It stands on its own. From a caption in the museum:

“Bell’s desire to help the local economy prompted him to experiment with sheep breeding. He attempted to develop a flock of sheep that would consistently bear twins. He believed that a relationship existed between the number of nipples on a sheep and the likelihood of multiple births. Over 30 years of research led Bell to conclude that no such relationship existed.

Bell was successful, however, in breeding a flock of multi-nippled sheep.”

As well as holding the exhibits, which paint a great picture of his interests, his life and that of his wider family, the museum has outside areas with great views over the Bras d’Or Lakes.

View over the lakes, with trees bathed in sunshine in the foreground
View from the roof of the museum.

The museum is great. I was itching to drive the car, though, and also to take a picture or two of it.

It was a beautiful, warm day; puffy white clouds scudding across a blue sky. And the landscape as you head round the Cabot Trail. Either way affords great views, but I went anti-clockwise; in a drive-on-the-right country, that puts the ocean right next to you in places.

View over still watch from close to a lake.
View over a lake. Plenty of lay-bys to stop at and explore briefly.
Hills overlook the road
Hills overlook the road. This sort of scenery will fill your eyes.

I headed North, stopping every time the scenery threatened to overwhelm my senses and make me a dangerous driver. I stopped often.

A bench in the foreground, with a house at the bottom of the hill. Lake stretching out into the distance
Lonely bench looks out over the water.

There is no shortage of sights, or places to stop, and I was happy to let serendipity guide me for most of the day, turning up coastal views, trees, water, rocks and a general feeling of peace. The map makes it quite obvious that the Cabot Trail just takes you round the edge of the peninsula, with most of it inaccessible – left wild to allow wildlife to flourish. It is possible, in places, to feel like you are being funnelled round the bit that’s open to visitors, rather than exploring it. But it is astonishingly beautiful.

Alongside the serendipity of just driving up and finding whatever was there, I had been told to turn off the main road in the Northeast, and head to Neils Harbour and White Point.

I stopped first at a short walk, the Jack Pine Trail.

Finally for this day, other than the pleasure of driving across the top of the island to HI Cabot Trail, I parked at White Point. I couldn’t work out (or remember) why this spot had been recommended to me, even though the conversation had only been a couple of days before. A small port, some farm buildings. Water.

A small port, looking out over water to land the other side
Parking at White Point, the reason isn’t obvious.

But take a walk up the only path available, marked as the trail head, and an incline up a rocky, hard-packed mud path is a nice little workout.

Then, as you crest, the view opens up.

I found time for one last walk, through forest, over a small bridge and to a waterfall. But White Point was the highlight of the day (if you’re thinking “but aren’t you going to bang on about the car one more time?” then yes, you are right, that too, and I would but you’ve stopped me, alright?).

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