Visiting Cape Breton, Nova Scotia Part 1

Last June I went to view the beauty of Cape Breton with some family and friends. I had wanted to go for several years, but the timing was just never right. This past year marked Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation, and to celebrate, all national parks were free to visitors. This opened up the perfect opportunity as there were a few places in Cape Breton I wanted to visit that were operated by Parks Canada. We only had 3 days and there was so much to see and do, we unfortunately only saw the tip of the iceberg. (This just means we’ll need to go back another time!)

We rented a beautiful old farmhouse situated with stunning views of the Bras d’Or Lake. The house was off-the-grid, with the stove, hot water tank and fridge running on propane, and there was a generator and solar panels for some electrical use as well. The best part about it was it made everyone put away their phones and we played board games in the evenings. It had several book shelves scattered throughout, as well as knickknacks and interesting little items everywhere you looked. You were always finding something new you hadn’t noticed before.

Bras-d'or-lake-sailboat
View from the front porch
Hare
Snowshoe Hare – A little of the local wildlife on Cape Breton

On our first day we visited the Highland Village Museum near Iona. It told of the history of the Gaelic Scots who migrated and settled in Cape Breton in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. Knowing they would never own their own land in over-populated Scotland, families immigrated and resettled in hopes of a brighter future.  More tenant farmers were evicted during The Clearances, and they came to find their former fellow villagers and kin and settled on this island on the other side of the Atlantic.

Old-Scottish-Stone-House
They showed what their former homes in Scotland looked like – in this house, livestock had a space to the right side of the door, and beds built into cupboards and the cooking fire were to the left.

While some of their new land resembled the old life from the Hebrides – the highland qualities of Cape Breton along with it being an Atlantic island with the wind, salt spray, and cool temperatures – they were unfamiliar with the amount of great towering trees that seemed to cover every square inch of usable ground. They were often discouraged when they first arrived and realized they had to clear the land before they could even think of building a home and raising crops to feed themselves and livestock for the first few years.

First-temporary-shelter
Their first shelters after arriving. Spruce boughs and moss would make up the roof, and the inside space might only be 3 feet by 6 feet. And you think it’s bad when your family is cooped up inside during a rain storm…
New-Scotland-Log-House
For the first winter, the family would live with another family previously immigrated and established. Sometimes there would be a few families under the same roof until the weather improved enough for them to continue working their land and build their own log homes.
Processing-Flax
Every part of their existence was wrung out of the land. Here they are preparing flax fibers to be woven into linen.
Barn-Bras-d'Or-Lake
A barn with a beautiful view.
Highland-Village-House
As the decades passed, improvements were made and life became a little easier.
Highland-Village
The Village is laid out so you advance in time with each new building. The employees are very informative and friendly.

Highland-Village-Cape-Breton

Faith was a large part of the immigrant’s lives, and there were about equal amounts Roman Catholic and Presbyterians who settled throughout. Inside this church – a Presbyterian – it tells of Gaelic psalm singing led by a precentor, that can still occasionally be found today in heritage services. I was curious as to what it sounded like and thought I’d share this video clip I found from the Isle of Lewis in Scotland if you wish to hear it. (It also has some beautiful scenes from the Isle of Lewis.)

Weaving
Weaving
Rug-hooking
Rug Hooking
Hand-made-nail
The blacksmith made a nail for us while explaining the difference between different metal trades and how they worked.
Tatting
Tatting
General-Store
A few of the wares at the general store. We also visited the school.
Highland-Village-Parlour
Front parlour of one of the houses.

Their culture largely influenced the northern part of Nova Scotia (or New Scotland, when translated from Latin). The signs in Cape Breton today are often bilingual – English and Gaelic, and there are some of the older population for whom Gaelic is their first language.

After lunch, we toured around the town of Baddeck, and visited the Alexander Graham Bell Museum. I had known of his work with the telephone and that he was an inventor, but I was unaware of his work with the hearing impaired. In Scotland, his father and grandfather before him had worked with phonetics, and at age 21 Alec began teaching speech to deaf students. The family later moved to Canada, and Alec continued his teaching both here and in the US.
Alexander-Graham-Bell-Museum

Typewriting-for-teaching-deaf-to-speak
This typewriter could type the phonetic symbols to teach speech. Poems and prose could be typed out, first in English, then to show how they are spoken out loud.

Alec and his wife established a summer home in Cape Breton, and he continued to work on many ways to improve life, including areas such as air conditioning, distilling drinking water from sea water and from human breath, flying machines, as well as an interest in genetics. His wife was also interested in science, and looked for ways to improve food preservation and growing plants in the shade.

Baddeck-boats
Beautiful Baddeck, near where Alexander Graham Bell and his family spent their summers.

It was a warm day and we found a nice spot to go for a cool dip in the Bras d’Or Lake:

Swimming-at-Bras-d'Or-Lake

We returned to the farmhouse for our supper and enjoyed the view as the sun set on our first day.

Sunset-Cape-Breton

 

 

4 thoughts on “Visiting Cape Breton, Nova Scotia Part 1

  1. Oh I don’t know how I missed this post. I follow so many it didn’t come up in my feed. My home. I was in Highland village when I was a child left a fond memory. Bedeck is wonderful and glad you seemed to enjoy your trip Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have been finding it difficult to keep up with the blogs that I follow too – there are so many interesting ones out there, but sadly not enough time. I had a wonderful time in Cape Breton, there was so much beauty everywhere I looked and the only downside was having to leave! I hope to go back and explore some more one day.

      Like

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