Sunday, September 20, 2009

SEPT 19 & 20 - CAPE BRETON ISLAND, NS

Drove Sept 19 to Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. It was very cloudy and we drove through many squalls which gave our first view of Canada's own celtic area a "Scottish Highlands" feel. We passed signs with Gaelic translations over winding, narrow roads. Aside from Scotland and Ireland, Cape Breton is the only region in the world where Gaelic is still in everyday use. The island is sparsely populated and tourism season was winding down. This is the view from our campsite.
This photo is taken from the bridge looking back towards our campsite, our trailers are front row on the left. The pink cliff is granite and is a spectacular backdrop. The granite is very pretty but breaks apart very easily. Glad they don't have earthquakes in this area!
September 20 - Visited the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site located in the cute village of Baddeck overlooking the Bras d'Or Lakes, a saltwater land sea. This is the view in front of the site.
There is a very large collection of Bell's artifacts and inventions - phone, hydrofoil craft, the "Silver Dart" which made the first aircraft flight in Canada on Feb 23, 1909, over the ice of Bras d'Or. Bell and his wife built their estate "Beinn Breagh" (Gaelic for beautiful mountain) as he loved the beauty of Cape Breton and continuously worked on many inventions until his death in 1922 at age 75.
Picture of phone through which sounds were first transmitted in 1875. Interesting note is that he gave all his Bell Telephone shares, except for 10, to his wife who he adored. He had been her teacher at a deaf school when she was 15 and they married when she was 18. He also taught Hellen Keller. He devoted himself throughout his life to finding ways to improve communication for the deaf.
We drove part of the Ceilidh Trail (ceilidh means a gathering of music, food and drink to have a good time) and found the Glenora Distillery in the hills of Glenville. It's North America's sole single malt distillery which began production in 1990 and just won its 9 year court battle with Scotland's distillers association to market its whisky internationally.
The water for the distillery runs through the property and this location was selected as Maclellan's Brook has the purest water on Cape Breton Island. This water is kept in the holding pond that you can see in the previous photo above.
The whiskey made here is still produced by traditional copper pots using only 3 ingredients - barley, yeast and water.
This is where it is distilled then put into oak barrels, which can only be used once. They produce 1,500 barrels every year and have a master distiller and 3 workers to do this. They can only produce the whiskey in winter months as the building has no air conditioning and it would be too warm for the processing. The whiskey must then be aged a minimum of 10 years before it is bottled. At the end of the tour, we got to sample their signature Glen Breton Rare Canadian Single Malt Whiskey. The Gaels, who are reputed to having invented whiskey, call it "Uisge Beatha" (the water of life).
Continued on to Mabou to go to a ceilidh at the Red Shoe Pub which is owned by members of the Rankin family. Lana felt right at home in the Red Shoe Pub and got a tee shirt with the logo which says "I'm a red shoe-aholic" - how fitting was that! We enjoyed their own "Red Shoe" beer and a delicious dinner while we listened to the entertainment. We were fortunate that Andrea Beaton (cousin to Natalie McMaster) was performing. Andrea is an amazing fiddler and her mom accompanied her on piano.
This was a definite highlight of Cape Breton for us - enjoying authentic Celtic music. Andrea is very talented and played the fiddle and stomped her bare feet in time. She and her mom did not need sheet music, it was all played by memory. Loved it so much, I took a video - just click on it below and you and enjoy it too!
video

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