Nova Scotia: Cape Breton Island

Self-Guided Walking Tour, Canada: Nova ScotiaSelf-Guided Walking Tour, Canada: Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia

Cape Breton Island

overview

NEW! Below the windswept headlands of Cape Breton Island, the iconic Cabot Trail hugs Nova Scotia’s coast in a scrollwork of switchbacks and swooping curves. Beyond it, the Gulf of St. Lawrence is a wash of vivid blue dotted with fishing boats and the occasional breaching whale. This is the Nova Scotia you’ve always imagined: a land of bald eagles, wild blueberries, foraging moose, and 350-year-old sugar maples. Here, you can experience sleepy villages steeped in Scottish and Acadian history: savoring traditional fiddlers, crofters’ cottages, and historic distilleries. With the freedom to set your own schedule—and your own vehicle to take you from place to place—you can experience unforgettable walks in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, soak in the view from the top of Burnt Mountain, and perhaps even go for a refreshing swim in Bras d’Or Lake. Along the way, spot rare songbirds in prime birding locations, enjoy an optional whale watch, unwind at a spa, or explore the coast via kayak. At night, savor quaint and comfortable lodgings in timber frame lodges, clapboard inns, and a grand ocean-view resort.

PLEASE NOTE: Unlike other Country Walkers tours, this trip requires guests to drive from destination to destination. We will reserve a car rental on your behalf.

2014 Downloadable Itinerary

2015 Downloadable Itinerary

Activity Level
Easy to
Moderate; 3-7
miles daily
Meet
Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada
Depart
Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada
Reading List
Recommended
pre-trip reading
Self-Guided Walking 
7 days, 6 nights Trip Includes 

Trip Includes

  • All breakfasts and two dinners (days 2 and 5); beverages not included
  • All accommodations while on tour
  • Car rental reservation service; please note, rental fee not included
  • Distillery tour and tasting
  • Detailed route notes and maps
  • 24-hour emergency service
  • Orientation with CW Adventures representative
  • The unbeatable and cumulative experience of the Country Walkers staff
Compare Dates & Prices
Prices Starting From...
Season 2+ travelers Single Supplement Solo Surcharge
2014
June 15 - Oct 15
$1,998
$950
$450
2015
June 15 - Oct 15
$1,998
$950
$450

*Price is based on per person, double occupancy.

Number of Travelers
Total in your party
Price From
per person double occupancy

Car rental fee not included

Call 800.234.6900 to book this trip.

REQUEST RESERVATION

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Itinerary and Accommodations

Days
Destination
1
Baddeck
View on map
2
Glenville
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3
Cheticamp
View on map
4
Cheticamp
View on map
5
Ingonish Beach
View on map
6
Ingonish Beach
View on map
7
Ingonish Beach
View on map
Day 1

Baddeck

Arrival in Sydney. Drive to Baddeck: 1 hour

Your destination today is the lovely town of Baddeck. In the heart of Cape Breton Island, it is the official starting and ending point of the Cabot Trail, the coastal road around the island completed in 1932, and named for the English explorer John Cabot, who first sighted the island in 1497, staking England’s claim in North America. Baddeck is ideally situated on the northern shore of 60-mile-long Bras d’Or Lake. Alexander Graham Bell maintained his cherished summer home here for 37 years, and the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site houses a museum commemorating his work. Upon arrival, you can explore the town and its historical properties and shops, or relax at your charming inn.

Dunlop Inn

Baddeck, Nova Scotia

A gracious small inn, this is Baddeck’s only waterfront accommodation with a waterside deck with perfect views of Baddeck lighthouse. Spacious guest rooms have elegant English-country and coastal décor, with muted colors and fabric accents. The harbor-view sunroom overlooks Bras d’Or Lake, and a spacious living room with television and self-serve kitchen are also available. The shops, restaurant, and sites of historical Baddeck are within walking distance, as well as outdoor activities such as sailing, kayaking, and the Bell Bay 18-hole golf course.

Day 2

Glenville

Baddeck River Trail and Uisge Ban Falls; 4.5 miles, easy to moderate, 650-ft. elevation gain and loss. Total driving time: 2 hours

This morning, a walk just outside Baddeck takes you to Uisge Ban Falls (the name is Gaelic for “white water”). The trail winds through hardwood forest and open fields to the Falls Brook, where the deep stream valley leads to the base of the dramatic 500-foot granite gorge and 50-foot waterfall. Returning to your car at the park entrance, you can meander through the Margaree River Valley, with opportunities to visit its high-quality crafters, stunning coastline and deserted beaches, eat lobster for lunch, or try fly-fishing. Scottish tenant farmers, or crofters, came to Cape Breton Island in the early 1800s, cast out of their highland homes by the English, and brought many of their traditions. Your destination for the evening is North America’s only single-malt whiskey distillery and inn in the small town of Mabou, where you partake in a tour and tasting. The on-site pub offers a daily ceilidh of Cape Breton music and musicians.

The Glenora Inn and Distillery

Glenville, Nova Scotia

The Glenora Inn and Distillery is a charming country inn—with a single-malt whiskey distillery on site—in Glenville, a small fishing and farming community. Spacious guest rooms, with classic décor and colors, overlook a lovingly tended courtyard garden and back patios. Walking trails lead from the inn to nearby MacLellan Brook and grounds. Conceived and developed by local businessmen using equipment and know-how from Scotland, the distillery has been in operation since 1989. The restaurant serves locally sourced and inspired fare, and the cozy pub offers a wide selection of single malts in addition to their own.

Day 3

Cheticamp

Acadian Trail; 6 miles, moderate, 980-ft. elevation gain and loss, with some steep sections. Afternoon option: Salmon Pools Trail; 8 miles, easy to moderate, 330-ft. elevation gain and loss. Total driving time: 1 hour

Today you enter the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, a truly stunning portion of the winding Cabot Trail. The Acadian Trail begins near the Cheticamp Visitor Center and rises almost 1,000 feet above the Cheticamp River, with panoramic views along the Acadian Coastline, the river valley, and the park’s highland interior. It eventually winds to the top of Burnt Mountain. Among the many blueberry bushes, you may see evidence of bear and moose. After a picnic lunch, you can enjoy an easier walk along the Salmon Pools Trail, which, as its name indicates, follows the cascading Cheticamp River that features a series of still pools in which Atlantic salmon hover in the deepest spots. In the later afternoon, walking along the valley floor, with cliffs towering above, you may hear the “who cooks for you” of the barred owl. Your home for the next two nights is the fishing village of Cheticamp, originally settled by exiled Acadians in the 1760s when Acadia, the French territory further south, was surrendered to the English in the Seven Years War.  In this vibrant community that has maintained its cultural roots, you can browse small shops exhibiting the exquisite hooked rugs and crafts of this area. You may also be able to catch a Celtic musical performance.

Auberge Bay Wind Suites

Cheticamp, Nova Scotia

Located directly on the water in Cheticamp, the center of Acadian culture on Cape Breton Island, this simple, family-run all-suite property offers spacious rooms with harbor views, each with either a balcony or access to the boardwalk. Vibrant Acadian art and weavings accent hardwood floors and muted contemporary décor. Dining out at the inn’s restaurant, or elsewhere in Cheticamp, is highlighted by lobster, maritime salmon, local crab, and Acadian-style baked cod.

Day 4

Cheticamp

Skyline Trail; 5.5 miles, easy to moderate, 380-ft. elevation gain and loss. Afternoon option: Corney Brook; 5 miles, easy to moderate, 250-ft elevation gain and loss or whale watching excursion; 2 hours (at your own expense). Total driving time: 1 hour

This morning’s walking route is the famous Skyline Trail, with its spectacular views from 1,000 feet above sea level. You begin at about 950 feet and reach a maximum of 1,300 feet, so you are not climbing all the way to that elevation. From the dramatic headland cliff, you can trace the Cabot Trail around the mountainsides and, on a very clear day, you may be able to see the French archipelago of Les Iles de la Madeleine in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It is not uncommon to sight whales in the water far below, and, along the trail, moose and eagles. After a picnic lunch, you may choose to set off an exciting whale-watching boat tour out of Cheticamp—humpback, minke, pilot, and fin whales are common in this Gulf corridor called the Cape Breton Trough. Alternatively, the Corney Brook trail follows a meandering brook through mixed hardwood forest to a small waterfall—again keep an eye out for moose, birds, and snowshoe hare.

Auberge Bay Wind Suites

Cheticamp, Nova Scotia

Located directly on the water in Cheticamp, the center of Acadian culture on Cape Breton Island, this simple, family-run all-suite property offers spacious rooms with harbor views, each with either a balcony or access to the boardwalk. Vibrant Acadian art and weavings accent hardwood floors and muted contemporary décor. Dining out at the inn’s restaurant, or elsewhere in Cheticamp, is highlighted by lobster, maritime salmon, local crab, and Acadian-style baked cod.

Day 5

Ingonish Beach

Lone Shieling Trail; 0.5 miles, easy. White Point Trail; 4.8 miles, easy. Middle Head trail; 2.5 miles, easy. Total driving time: 2 hours

An easy and very short warm-up walk this morning on the Lone Shieling trail takes you through one of the largest old-growth forests in the Maritimes, dominated by 350-year-old sugar maple trees. Continuing your drive along the northernmost part of the Cabot Trail, the next stop is the White Point Trail, which provides the most dramatic coastal scenery in Cape Breton. Overlooking Aspy Bay at the end of this windswept grassy point is a cemetery that dates back to the settlement of this area as a French fishing village in the late 1700s. You continue to your day’s destination, the award-winning Keltic Lodge Resort & Spa, stunningly located on a peninsula jutting into the Atlantic, with a backdrop view of Cape Smokey. You may choose, upon arrival, to walk from the hotel on the Middle Head Trail that snakes out on the cliff-bound peninsula that divides Ingonish Bay.

Keltic Lodge

Ingonish Beach, Nova Scotia

An elegant resort and spa, in operation since 1940, perched on a headland overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and boasting extensive grounds, recreational facilities, and amenities. Main lodge guest rooms have been updated with contemporary furnishings and colors, hardwood floors, and luxurious linens. Set amidst the manicured grounds are a heated pool, beaches, a tennis court, a full-service spa (advance reservations required for treatments), and an 18-hole links golf course. On site are both fine-dining and casual restaurants and an inviting lobby bar, all offering locally inspired and sourced cuisine, with an emphasis on seafood. In the nearby town of Ingonish, numerous activities are available, such as hiking trails, wildlife and bird viewing, artisanal craft shopping, and freshwater fishing.

Day 6

Ingonish Beach

Franey Mountain; 4.6 miles, 1,150-ft. elevation gain and loss, moderate. Warren Lake; 3 miles, easy. Total driving time: 1 hour

This morning, you may opt for the exhilarating walk up Franey Mountain, which includes a steep and steady ascent into the Acadian forest through a stand of hardwoods. Rising from sea level, the surroundings change to balsam fir, with trailing arbutus and pipsisawa underfoot. At the peak, you are rewarded with a panoramic view of the open sea, with Middle Head and Cape Smokey to the east, Money Point to the south, and the Clyburn Valley below. Another walk available today (either instead of, or in addition to your morning outing), is the path around Warren Lake. This walk provides a chance to spot some of the astonishing variety of birds native to the area: boreal chickadees, warblers, ruby-crowned kinglets, Canada jays, hermit thrushes, Swainson’s thrushes, and nesting loons, to name a few. The easy walk ends at the sandy banks of cool, clear Warren Lake, a good place for a swim, depending on the season. Returning to your resort, you may opt for a dip in the heated outdoor pool or enjoy the spa facilities.

Keltic Lodge

Ingonish Beach, Nova Scotia

An elegant resort and spa, in operation since 1940, perched on a headland overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and boasting extensive grounds, recreational facilities, and amenities. Main lodge guest rooms have been updated with contemporary furnishings and colors, hardwood floors, and luxurious linens. Set amidst the manicured grounds are a heated pool, beaches, a tennis court, a full-service spa (advance reservations required for treatments), and an 18-hole links golf course. On site are both fine-dining and casual restaurants and an inviting lobby bar, all offering locally inspired and sourced cuisine, with an emphasis on seafood. In the nearby town of Ingonish, numerous activities are available, such as hiking trails, wildlife and bird viewing, artisanal craft shopping, and freshwater fishing.

Day 7

Ingonish Beach

Departure from Ingonish Beach. Drive to Sydney: 2½ hours

This morning, options include a relaxed stroll on the pink granite stones of Ingonish Beach, or perhaps a round of golf at the renowned Highland Links course, or indulging in the spa’s offerings before driving back to Sydney for onward travels. (Golf and spa fees are not included in tour price, advance reservations required.)

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