Five Favourite Cape Breton Experiences

Despite my full rain gear, a steady cool drizzle and light Atlantic fog had me chilled to the bone after our golf round. Even a quick change of clothes and our rental car’s heated seats couldn’t stop the shivering. That’s how we ended up pulling in to the Wreck Cove General Store, on the famous Cabot Trail in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and happily stumbling on the best souvenir ever.

Not only did my new Lobster Socks keep me cozy, they proved to be a great conversation starter, garnering comments whenever I wore them.

It’s these little experiences that add flavour to any golf trip. To be sure, there’s great golf in Cape Breton. And with the opening of Cabot Links — Canada’s first true links — and its sister course, Cabot Cliffs, there’s even more reason to plan a trip to this popular destination Condé Nast Traveler magazine has called the world’s most scenic isle.  But discovering the island between golf rounds is more than half the fun. Here are a few of my favourite places and experiences along the way.


(Image: Nova Scotia Tourism)

The Cabot Trail

The ultimate road trip, this gorgeous drive circles the northern tip of Cape Breton, and features tight turns, steep climbs, thrilling vistas, and picturesque villages. You’ll be caught off guard by the island’s unique charms: the sound of bagpipes from across the bay, a row of folk art scarecrows fluttering in the breeze, the welcome of a down home church supper. This is when you realize that it’s not so much about the destination, but savouring the journey. Must-play courses on The Cabot Trail: Bell Bay Golf Club in Baddeck, Highlands Links in Ingonish, and Le Portage Golf Club in Cheticamp.

The Glenora Inn and Distillery

Now here’s the cure for what ails you — a wee dram of Glen Breton Rare, North America’s first single malt whisky. Tour the onsite distillery and take part in a tutored whisky tasting. Find local crafts and whisky-related products at the Gift Shop (Whisky Cake, anyone?). Stop for a bite in the Glenora pub and enjoy their daily ceilidh  — where local artists perform traditional Cape Breton music at lunch and dinner. Must-play course in the area: Cabot Links in nearby Inverness.

The Red Shoe Pub

Located less than 10 minutes down the road from The Glenora Inn and Distillery, in the picture postcard village of Mabou, The Red Shoe is renowned for its live local music and pub fare featuring Nova Scotia produce and seafood. Owned by the Rankin sisters — members of a hometown musical family who debuted at the top of the Canadian charts with their multi-platinum album Fare Thee Well Love — The Red Shoe is a highlight of any Cape Breton visit.

The Birches at Ben Eoin Country Inn

An easy 40-minute drive from the Sydney airport, The Birches at Ben Eoin (pronounced “ben yawn”) is a charming 12-room country inn with homemade quilts and antiques displayed in the lobby. In Malcolm’s Dining Room, ambitious and talented young chef Ron MacNeil showcases local seasonal ingredients with flare — be sure to try the Nova Scotia lamb done two ways or lobster tail and claws with truffle mashed potatoes and fiddleheads. Must-play courses in the area: The Lakes Golf Club right next door, or continue further southwest around the Bras D’or Lake for about 90 minutes to the Dundee Golf Club.

Celtic Colours International Festival

The fall golf weather can be a touch on the cool side, but there’s nothing warmer than the Celtic Colours International Festival, a Cape Breton-wide celebration of Celtic music and culture. If you’re planning an October trip to Cape Breton, don’t miss the opportunity to see these artists from around the world in intimate community venues — schools, churches, even a curling club — all over the island.

For more information: Nova Scotia Tourism