We then headed north to the Cape Breton Highlands National Park (https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/ns/cbreton), where we had a reservation in one of their campgrounds, Broad Cove. Having been told that all of the campsites would be full for Canada Day, we had decided that this would be the perfect place to celebrate. Our site turned out to be huge with lots of trees. No services but that is not a problem for us and the Blue Cat liked the site a lot. (It’s all about the cat.)
The weather on the day after our arrival was stupendous. Sunny but cool and absolutely glorious for hiking. We took the Middle Head hike of about two hours on a headland surrounded on three sides by rocky cliffs and ocean.
It was quite beautiful with views of the ocean and the lobster boats out fishing. At the very end of the headland, was a rocky cliff covered in seabirds.
Quite spectacular. We stopped on our way out to make some enquiries about a KitchenFest ceilidh at the Keltic Lodge which we planned to attend that evening, and then had lunch on the cliff near the Keltic Lodge, overlooking Ingonish Cove.
The ceilidh was excellent and featured four musicians playing a variety of fiddle, guitar, piano and pipes.
We walked on two more trails while at Broad Cove; around Warren Lake and on the Clyburn Trail.
Both were enjoyable but the weather was foggier and gloomier and it did not inspire us to barbecue and eat outside. We did attend a free KitchenFest ceilidh at our Campground on the night before we left. It was quite wonderful with Anita MacDonald and Ben Miller and a guitarist, Zakk Cormier. (https://benandanita.com)
Because of the weather we were in a small activity center instead of a large open air theater and the atmosphere was electric. Great fun. A true informal ceilidh or gathering. Fred enjoyed the explanations of the lowland pipes and discussion of chord playing in DADGAD tuning.
We were in two minds whether it was worth heading up to the very tip of the island but the next day dawned sunny so we decided to go, which proved to be an excellent decision. We found the Meat Cove Campground (and Chowder Hut) perched on the mountain slopes at the very tip of the island. It was literally the end of the road! (http://meatcovecampground.ca)
The sites were not flat but we did not care. We could sit by our camper and stare at the ocean or watch the campers coming around each headland and descending each grade until they popped up in the campground.
We went down to the beach by the campground so Denise could dip her toes in the freezing water. Just to say she had! To be fair it was cold but only cold! The views were spectacular with ocean on all sides, it seemed, lots of lobster pots and fishing boats doing the rounds to check them. We decided to have dinner on the deck at the Chowder Hut, a very pleasant restaurant at the campground. Denise enjoyed another lobster and Fred had a mixed seafood platter he liked also! Terrible name for a very nice facility. We were joined by a young lady from Seattle, traveling in a Westfalia camper with her dog. She was taking time off from software engineering. By the time dinner finished the campground was full to the limit with a big Class C camped in the restaurant parking lot. (Good deal, probably the largest, flattest site there.)
The next morning it was time to finish the Cabot Trail and head south. We stopped at Pleasant Bay to visit the Whale Interpretative Center which was simple but most interesting. (https://www.novascotia.com/see-do/attractions/whale-interpretive-centre/1576) The harbor, industrial but pretty. A lot of the fishing harbors are not picturesque at all, but simply places of work. They can also be so touristy that they do not attract either.
We continued south around the curves and the ups and downs of the Trail towards Cheticamp. The grades are noticeable, in the 14% to 16% range for the most part, which Fred and the 917 found exciting at times. Let us say that Fred and the exhaust brake are good friends! Safely in Cheticamp, we headed for the Cape Breton Highlands National Park campground and checked in.
It turned out that there was another ceilidh at the Campground Visitor Center that night, so we walked over to enjoy that! The featured performer was a young lady on fiddle, accompanied by a pianist. Once again there was a subtle style shift, but not to the Francophone as we expected at an Acadian village.
Most Celtic musicians perform seated and, in lieu of a drum set, there is a lot of foot tapping, nay, stomping. This can get quite extreme, with musicians using resonant wooden foot panels, like those used by tap dancers, and, in some cases, wearing tap shoes. The guitarist at the Broad Cove campground did this, as did the fiddle player at Cheticamp. Indeed, she told us that she actually started as a step dancer and so it was completely natural. The sound, and sight, are quite remarkable and we found ourselves imagining a friend who plays for the McLean Symphony tearing up some Beethoven in tap shoes. The mind boggles!
Seriously, the beat is quite infectious. Much Celtic music uses exotic time signatures, but underlying it all is a steady 4/4 beat which makes it great for dancing. One musician told the legend that the seated foot tapping arose so that people could “dance” on Catholic holy days and a priest, looking in the window, would simply see people seated at the table. Don’t know if that is true, but a drummer might go hungry in this part of the world! Especially when people add jingle bells to their trousers. (Same idea as in Bolivia.) We feel fortunate to have visited during the Celtic music festival called KitchenFest that has made so many ceilidhs available at different places.