Experiencing new countries, cultures, and adventures has become just as much a part of my life as family and friends. When National Geographic releases their “Best Trips” publication, I’m inspired to explore the possibilities. They brag, “Got wanderlust? We’ve got your ticket. The National Geographic Traveler editors present the new year’s 20 must-see places”, and I can’t stop dreaming about each picture, description, and location. This year, as I was imagining hopping on a plane and heading to the next place on the list, I saw it! I had no idea it was part of the list. A toothy smile was plastered on my face as I picked up the phone and dialed my mother. “Did you know that you’ve made the Best Trips 2013 – National Geographic list this year mom?” My family hotel, Highland Heights Inn, made the cut. We are part of the Best Trips 2013 – National Geographic!
Here’s the article:
Nova Scotia’s treasured island
During the 18th and 19th centuries, fishermen and settlers from France and Scotland came to Cape Breton Island, drawn by its rich fisheries, ample timber, and the chance of a better life. Originally settled by the ancient ancestors of the Micmac people, this island off Nova Scotia now lures visitors with its abundant wildlife, natural beauty, and assembly of French, Micmac, and Celtic cultures.
One-fifth of Cape Breton is preserved as a national park, laced by 25 hiking paths and looped by the Cabot Trail, a 186-mile driving route frequently ranked among the world’s most spectacular. “I have seen the Canadian and American Rockies, the Andes, the Alps, and the Highlands of Scotland,” said inventor Alexander Graham Bell, who spent 37 summers here. “But for simple beauty, Cape Breton outrivals them all.”
The mingling of cultures means you can seek a clan tartan at the craft shop at Gaelic College/Colaisde Na Gàidhlig in St. Anns, then explore the French-founded Fortress of Louisbourg on the east coast. In 1745 this garrison withstood a 48-day siege by New Englanders, backed by British naval support, before surrendering. In 2013, the reconstructed fortification celebrates the 300th anniversary of the founding of the French colony of Île Royale (present-day Cape Breton). —John Rosenthal
When to Go: May-October; Celtic Colours annual international music and cultural festival, early October
Where to Stay: Family-owned Highland Heights Inn combines homey rooms and home-cooked meals (try the traditional Nova Scotia fish cakes) with breathtaking views of the Bras d’Or Lakes. Spend a day immersed in Gaelic culture next door at the 40-acre Highland Village living history museum.
How to Get Around: Drive the Cabot Trail loop counterclockwise beginning in Baddeck.
Where to Eat or Drink: Rusty Anchor Restaurant in Pleasant Bay serves up fresh seafood chowder, fish and chips, and some of the Cabot Trail’s best lobster rolls (pure lump meat and a bit of butter). Watch the ocean, and maybe even a whale, from the outdoor patio. Open May-October.
What to Read Before You Go: Fall On Your Knees, by Ann-Marie MacDonald. This multigenerational tale set on early 20th-century Cape Breton was the Canadian playwright’s debut novel, earning her the 1997 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book.
Fun Fact: Most of Nova Scotia’s endangered Canada lynx live in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The mostly nocturnal cat is built for stealth. Its fur ear tufts act as hearing aids and its large, furry feet function as snowshoes.
Helpful Links: The Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia Tourism, Cape Breton Highlands National Park“
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