Track 3: Ingonish

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Cape Breton writer Paul MacDougall chats with Farley Mowat, another long-time fan of the island

Adapted and abridged from the Cabot Trail Companion.

You can tell a true Cape Bretoner because they'll always refer to Ingonish and the Highlands as down north, rather than up north. This curious expression likely dates back to when it was easier to get around the island by sea than by land: if you were travelling north by boat, the wind and currents would carry you there swiftly, but heading south, upstream and into the wind, you'd have a harder time of it. This theory is supported by another local saying, "to go UP to Halifax" — Halifax, of course, being several hours south of here.

Amongst the most prominent features of the land down north is the Keltic Lodge resort and spa — the pride of Cape Breton. Ranked amongst the very best hotels in North America, this is where millionaires and movie stars head when visiting the island.

St Peter's Church, Ingonish You can't miss the Keltic Lodge, standing on Middle Head, a rocky dagger splitting North and South Bay. The original lodge was built early last century by the American industrialist Henry Corson. He felt the clean sea air would be beneficial for his ailing wife Julia. His plan must have worked, because ultimately, it was Julia Corson who outlived her husband. But her health too began to wane with age, and eventually the lodge fell into disuse, till it was bought by the province in 1938 and later rebuilt.

The classic complement to the high life at the Keltic Lodge is the prestigious Highland Links golf course just next door. And as you'll discover, the Cabot Trail actually winds its way between some of the course's fairways.

Mike Crimp in his sea kayakWhen locals talk of Ingonish, they usually mean a whole group of villages which, like the Margarees, all bear similar names: Ingonish Beach, Ingonish Ferry and so on. There's also Ingonish Island, often called Whale Island because of its humpback shape. Archaeological remains show that it was inhabited by early man as far back as ten thousand years ago — which pre-dates even the Mi'kmaq people on Cape Breton.

Nowadays, the attraction of mountains and ocean, plus camping, skiing and other activities, has made Ingonish a real destination for outdoor types. One unforgettable way to see wildlife at close quarters is to join one of the sea-kayaking tours dotted around the trail. Qualified instructor Mike Crimp runs his from a rustic shack on the marshes at Ingonish Harbour, and his company, Seacoast Adventures, lets him mix his passion for storytelling with his love of Ingonish and enthusiasm for outdoors pursuits.


If you'd like more information on this section of the tour, the following links may be of interest. Because we have no control over external sites, if you find a dead link please let us know!

Kayaking in South Ingonish Harbour

Victoria County's tourism website website

Accommodations & other businesses along the way

* = Featured on the Cabot Trail Companion

NB: For more kayaking tours around the Cabot Trail, please see:
Pleasant Bay and Aspy Bay.

Broad Cove Campground Accommodation ($)
North of Ingonish, Highlands National Park. TF: 1-888-773-8888; (902) 224-2306;
Ingonish Campground Accommodation ($)
(902) 224-2306

Cape Breton Highlands National Park
37639 Cabot Trail, Ingonish Beach. TF: 1-888-773-8888; (902) 285-2691;

*Cape Breton Seacoast Adventures (kayaking)
Ingonish Harbour (“where the Ingonish River meets the sea”). TF: 1-877-929-2800;

Castle Rock Country Inn Accommodation ($$)
39339 Cabot Trail, Ingonish Ferry. TF: 1-888-884-7625;

Dino’s Convenience & Camping Accommodation ($)
35597 Cabot Trail, North Ingonish. T: (902) 285-2614

Driftwood Lodge Accommodation ($–$$)
36139 Cabot Trail, Ingonish. TF: 1-877-285-2558;

Glenghorm Beach Resort Accommodation ($$–$$$)
36743 Cabot Trail, Ingonish. TF: 1-800-565-5660;

*Highlands Links Golf Course
Ingonish Beach. TF: 1-800-441-1118; (902) 285-2600;

Ingonish C@P Centre & Public Library
36243 Cabot Trail, Ingonish. T: (902) 285-2544;

Ingonish Chalets Accommodation ($$)
36784 Cabot Trail, Ingonish Beach. TF: 1-888-505-0552;

Island Inn Accommodation ($–$$)
Ingonish Beach. TF: 1-800-533-7015;

Keltic Express Zodiac Adventures
Fisherman’s Wharf, Ingonish. TF: 1-866-688-2424;

*Keltic Lodge Resort & Spa Accommodation ($$–$$$)
Ingonish Beach. TF: 1-800-565-0444;

Knotty Pine Cottages Accommodation ($–$$)
39123 Cabot Trail, Ingonish Ferry. TF: 1-800-455-2058;

Lantern Hill & Hollow Accommodation ($$$; suites & cottages)
36845 Cabot Trail, Ingonish Beach. TF: 1-888-663-0225;

Lynn’s Craft Shop & Art Gallery
36084 Cabot Trail, Ingonish. T: (902) 285-2735;

Millbrook Cottage Accommodation ($$$)
38059 Cabot Trail, Ingonish Harbour. T: (902) 567-2832;

Point Cottages by the Sea Accommodation ($$–$$$)
2 Point Cottages Lane, Ingonish. T: (902) 285-2804;

Rocky Bay Cottages Accommodation ($–$$)
33 Milton’s Lane, Ingonish. TF: 1-888-658-4455;

Sea Breeze Cottages & Motel Accommodation ($$)
36104 Ingonish. TF: 1-888-743-4443;

Seascape Coastal Retreat Accommodation ($$$)
36083 Cabot Trail, Ingonish. TF: 1-866-385-3003;

SeaVisions Whale Watch
South Ingonish Harbour. T: (902) 285-2628 or 285-2684;

Shoreline Suite Accommodation ($$)
39123 Cabot Trail, Ingonish Ferry. T (902) 285-2684;

Sleepy Hollow Cottages Accommodation ($$–$$$)
Snow Rd, Ingonish. TF: 1-888-832-1112; (902) 285-2585;

Theatre on the Hill
37890 Cabot Trail, Ingonish. T: (902) 285-1018
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