- Highway 19 comprises the bulk of the Cèilidh Trail, the provincially designated scenic driving trail.
- Google Maps Name
- Highway 19, Cèilidh Trail
- Local Usage
- Highway 19, Cèilidh Trail, Trunk 19
- South to North
- Start Point
- 45°38.804′N 61°24.237′W, on the round-about at Port Hastings
- End Point
- 46°19.973′N 61°05.758′W, at its junction with the Cabot Trail in Margaree Forks
- 106.7 km (66.3 mi)
- Trunk Highway
- Varies: much of the road is in excellent condition; some of the southern sections have paved shoulders, a rarity for a trunk highway. A few of the sections are in need of attention and one is in the process of being repaved in July, 2015.
- Route Description
Port Hastings to Judique
From its start at the round-about in Port Hastings, the Cèilidh Trail heads up a hill and into Newtown. It crosses Mill Brook at the 3 km (1⅞ mi); in evening sunlight, look on your right just past the bridge for one of the walls of an old mill that will be glowing golden. The road continues inland of the coast through Troy and Creignish, home to some of Cape Breton’s most celebrated musicians. At the 5.9 km (3⅔ mi) mark, 1.5 km (0.9 mi) north of the convenience store in Troy, on your left you will reach the second of the access roads to the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail (the first is in the Canso Canal Park in Port Hastings); drive out to the parking area there and enjoy the views of the Strait of Canso and even stretch your legs by taking a walk along the world class trail. You will have ample opportunities to connect with this trail, which runs along the path of the former railway from Port Hastings to Inverness. The Creignish Recreation Centre across from the Stella Maris Church in Creignish at the 10.9 km (6¾ mi) mark offers another access point to the trail; on alternate Thursdays, the Centre offers Celtic jam sessions to which musicians with an instrument are welcomed free. From Creignish through Craigmore, the road is on the side of Creignish Mountain at your right and fine views of St Georges Bay are on your left. Be sure to stop at Christy’s Look-Off in Craigmore at the 17.2 km (10.7 mi) mark for views across St Georges Bay, reaching from Low Point on Cape Breton to Cape George on the mainland; it, too, offers easy access to the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail, which is directly below the Look-Off. The road turns inland again as it passes through Long Point on its way to Judique; the Chisholm, Centennial, Walkers Cove, and Baxters Cove Roads are along this stretch, the first two offering back country drives and the second two views of St Georges Bay, access to the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail, and, for Baxters Cove, a fishing port with fine views of the coast to the north. When you pass over the Graham River Bridge at the 25.8 km (16 mi) mark, you are on the southern edge of Judique (pronounced [ˈʤu.dɪk]). Immediately after you pass River Denys Mountain Road in Judique, at the 27.5 km (17.1 mi) mark, look on your left just before St Andrews Church for the Celtic Music Interpretive Centre, where you will find guided tours of the facility that are the best introduction to Cape Breton music and musicians available anywhere; daily lunchtime cèilidhs (lunch is available and the food is excellent) in the summer; knowledgeable folks who can answer your questions about the music, culture, and area and can provide access to the Centre’s extensive recorded musical archives; a gift shop and book store; Wednesday pub nights; and Sunday afternoon cèilidhs the year round featuring Cape Breton’s best traditional musicians. The Judique Community Centre, an important Celtic Colours International Festival venue and site of numerous community events year round, is adjacent to the Celtic Music Interpretive Centre.
Judique to Port Hood
1 km (⅝ mi) north of the Celtic Music Interpretive Centre in Judique North is the Storytellers Gallery, where storytelling, another of the Gaelic arts, can be heard on some summer nights. At the 30.6 km (19 mi) mark, you will reach Michael’s Landing, another of the access points to the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail; stop and admire the fine views of the dunes at Indian Point and the lagoon of Indian Point Pond as well as the memorial cairn to Michael MacDonald, a Scottish sea captain and poet of Uist, who spent the winter of 1775 there (and recounted the tale in the first Scots Gaelic song composed in North America, O, Is Àlainn an t-Àite (O, Fair is the Place)); frequently landed and explored the coast there in following years; and settled there permanently in 1787. The Shore Road is 290 m (⅙ mi) north of Michael’s Landing; it leads to Little Judique Harbour and Harbourview and is worth a drive on its own. At the 32 km (19.9 mi) mark, you will reach the Rear Intervale Road (also known as the Judique Intervale Road), a fine back country drive through the Creignish Hills leading to the Southwest Mabou River, Glencoe, and Glencoe Mills, the latter long associated with world-famous Judique fiddler Buddy MacMaster (one of his recordings is entitled Glencoe Hall) and still the site of square dances Thursday evenings in the summer and on Sunday evenings when the following Monday is a holiday. Just north of the junction, you will cross the bridge over the Judique Intervale Brook, whose outlet is at Michael’s Landing. The Cèilidh Trail continues north, bordered by forests and fields, through beautiful country, reaching the Beaton and Maryville Station Roads in Little Judique at the 35.7 km (22⅙ mi) mark; the Maryville Station Road leads to Pigs Cove, another picturesque fishing harbour at Maryville Harbour, with excellent views of the coast, while the Beaton Road crosses the beautiful back country to Glencoe Station, home of John Allan Cameron, who did so much to popularize Celtic music. North of Little Judique, as you pass the Joe Effie Road and the Colin L Drive, you will again have views of St Georges Bay, this time with Henry Island offshore. At the 39.9 km (24⅘ mi) mark, you reach Hawthorne Road on your right just before the (bumpy) bridge across Captain’s Brook; Hawthorne Road is another fine backcountry drive with views to the north of Rocky Ridge, leading to the Beaton Road and on to the Mabou Road in St Ninian. At the 41 km (25½ mi) mark, you will arrive at the Chestico Museum, a local museum concentrating on the history and heritage of the Port Hood area offering excellent genealogical resources and also the site of summer cèilidhs on Thursday evenings; it is well worth a stop. The northern end of the Shore Road is reached at 41.9 km (26 mi) in Harbourview; at that corner, you will find Sandeannies, serving excellent breakfasts and lunches. 130 m (430 ft) further north, the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail first crosses Highway 19. As you continue north through Harbourview, you will have good views to your left of Port Hood Island and Port Hood Harbour. At 43.9 km (27¼ mi), Port Hood Day Park will be at your left and a road just before it on your right leads up to another access point to the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail. The Day Park, once the centre of the local coal mining activity, has a lovely long sand beach extending from the highway out to and around Shipping Point and then south for another great stretch of sand; the boardwalk leads from the parking area out to just south of Shipping Point across dunes and bogs that are home to many birds, offering superb views of the harbour and Port Hood Island as well. 270 m (⅙ mi) past the Day Park, you cross the bridge over Mill Creek and 190 m (⅛ mi) more brings you to the flashing yellow light where, at the 44.4 km (27⅗ mi) mark, Main Street and Company Road (another remembrance of the days when Port Hood was an active coal-mining town) intersect with Highway 19; you are now in Port Hood. The main village of Port Hood lies to your left, down Main Street; it is larger than any of the communities you have passed through so far and offers several more beaches and additional fine vantage points from which to view the Harbour and Port Hood Island.
Port Hood to Mabou
From the flashing yellow light, you turn definitively away from the St Georges Bay coast and head inland. New building along the Cèilidh Trail in Port Hood has added in recent years a new hardware store and a restaurant, moving facilities that used to be in the village out to the more heavily travelled highway: until recently, there wasn’t much else along the Cèilidh Trail in Port Hood besides a gift shop and the Bayview Education Centre, the area’s grades P-8 elementary school, on your right before you reach Dunmore Road. If you turn left at Dunmore Road, you will be on High Road, the other access point to the village of Port Hood; turning right onto Dunmore Road will lead you southeast on a pretty drive through the back country, crossing the Beaton Road and ending at the Mabou Road southeast of Glencoe Station. Beyond East Street, you are back in the country again, as the road passes by residences, reaching on your right at the 46.9 km (29⅛ mi) mark the scenic Upper Southwest Mabou Road, which leads to Glencoe Station, Upper Southwest Mabou, and Glencoe. You next pass by three roads on your left, which all lead up Rocky Ridge, a prominent, forested ridge extending from Port Hood to West Mabou: the Rocky Ridge Road, Justin Road, and Hunters Road, the latter leading to Glengarry and West Mabou and offering some of the very best scenic views in the area. Beyond Hunters Road, the highway begins a gentle decline, reaching at the 50.5 km (31⅜ mi) mark the edge of the valley carved by the Southwest Mabou River and the northern end of the somewhat misleadingly named Mabou Road, which connects Southwest Mabou to Glencoe Station and Judique North. The Celtic Shores Coastal trail crosses Highway 19 for the second time as you now descend on a steep hill with a curve (pay attention here!) to the bridge crossing the river at the 51 km (31⅔ mi) mark; just past the bridge on your right is the Alpine Ridge Road, another beautiful back-country drive with excellent views across the Southwest Mabou River valley of Rocky Ridge and Glengarry and, further along, of the valley of the Mull River. The highway then climbs sharply back up out of the valley and continues through hilly, mostly forested land past the MacKillop Road on the right and Meadows Road on the left, until it starts its descent into West Mabou, where fields reäppear and the Cape Mabou Highlands and Mabou Mountain in the distance grab your eye. At the 56 km (34⅘ mi) mark, you arrive at the West Mabou Road where you will find a kiosk and parking area for the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail at the corner of the Cèilidh Trail and West Mabou Road; make sure to stop there and admire the fine views of the mouth of the Southwest Mabou River, Big Cove, and the Cape Mabou Highlands across the Mabou River, one of the most stunningly beautiful scenes on Cape Breton Island, especially beautiful at sunset. The West Mabou Road leads to the West Mabou Hall, site of fine Saturday night square dances the year around (weather permitting) and on to West Mabou Beach Provincial Park and beautiful Colindale. Not far past West Mabou Road, at the 56.6 km (35⅕ mi) mark, you will see on your right Dalbrae Academy, the region’s high school and the site of the Strathspey Place, a fine, modern theatre with seating for 488 and one of the major venues of the Celtic Colours International Festival. Beyond Dalbrae, you are in Mabou Station, as the area on the south bank of the Mabou River is known, and pass by residences, a boat repair shop, a gift shop, and the fire hall. The Southwest Ridge Road, also known as the Mabou Ridge Road, meets the Cèilidh Trail there shortly before the bridge over the Mabou River, at the 57.7 km (35⅚ mi) mark; it is another gorgeous drive with fine views of Mabou Mountain and the Mabou River valley and, from higher up on the ridge, of the Cape Mabou Highlands. The Celtic Shores Coastal Trail crosses the Cèilidh Trail for the third time just before the bridge; a new small parking area there allows access to the trail and to the bridge, from which fine views of the Mabou River are available. At the 58 km (36 mi) mark, you cross the short bridge over the Mabou River and enter the village of Mabou proper.
Mabou to Inverness
Picturesque Mabou village is laid out along the the Cèilidh Trail as it climbs up from the north bank of the Mabou River along the side of Mabou Mountain. The marina area adjacent to the bridge on the north side of the road is worth a stop for its fine views of the Mabou River stretching out to Mabou Harbour; cross the road to the other side for views of the Mabou River upstream. Just past the Marina, the scenic Mabou Harbour Road passes St Marys Church, seen in most photos of Mabou from its hillside above the river; the Mabou Athletic Centre, site of hockey games in the winter and a large farmers’ market in the summer; and leads out to Green Point on the Gulf, offering beautiful vistas of the Cape Mabou Highlands, Mabou River, and West Mabou along the way; in Mabou Harbour, the Mabou Coal Mines road leads to the gorgeously scenic Mabou Mines, Finlay Point, and MacDonalds Glen area, ending at one of the trail heads of the Cape Mabou Trail Club system. The Shining Waters Bakery, open for breakfast and lunch, is on the north side of the road just before the corner with Mabou Harbour Road. The An Drochaid (The Bridge) Museum, just up the road from the Shining Waters Bakery, “serves as a centre for research and local music, Gaelic language activities, local artefacts, as well as genealogical and historical records”; it “hosts a series of ceilidh concerts, storytelling and a Gaelic conversation group” throughout the year. 90 m (300 ft) further brings you to the world-famous Red Shoe Pub, run by the Rankin Family, and a fine spot to dine and listen to local music from June to October. Across from it is the Mabou Community Hall, site of excellent cèilidhs on Tuesday evenings during the summer, as well as of parish concerts and community dinners and other local events at various times during the year; it offers a good-sized parking lot where you can leave your car and explore the village on foot. The post office is across from the Community Hall. Residences line both sides of the road as it proceeds north, soon arriving at the commercial hub of town, featuring a gas station, the Freshmart grocery store, and a branch of the East Coast Credit Union. Across the street is the superb Mull Café and Deli, offering a great selection of fine dishes for lunch and dinner. After passing by more residences on the northern end of the village, at the 59.5 km (36.9 mi) mark, you reach the junction with Highway 252 on your right, a very beautiful route connecting Mabou and Whycocomagh that is well worth exploring (Brook Village, along that route, is the site of very popular Monday night dances in the summer). You now climb the side of Mabou Mountain to Hawleys Hill (going south here offers fine views of the area as you descend into the village); near the top, you will see Murphys Hill Road, which offers a pretty, though short, drive down the mountain to Glendyer. When you reach the crest at Hawleys Hill, you will have a glorious view to the left of the eastern side of the Cape Mabou Highlands; on your right are very pretty views of the Glendyer/Smithville area and the highlands behind (easier seen when proceeding south than north). Around a curve, the Northeast Mabou Road reaches the Cèilidh Trail at the 61.8 km (38⅖ mi) mark; it too offers excellent views of the southeastern side of the Cape Mabou Highlands. The road now descends fairly briskly, passing fields that provide fine open views here, and around curves, reaching the Glenora Falls Road at the 64.1 km (39⅘ mi) mark; this road leads up to the top of the Cape Mabou Highlands Plateau and another of the trail heads of the Cape Mabou Trail System. The road continues north along the eastern side of the Cape Mabou Highlands through fields and forest, reaching Riverville and the MacLennan Road at the 66.6 km (41⅓ mi) mark and the Blackstone Road at the 67.8 km (42.1 mi) mark; the former is a short, pretty drive into a glen at the base of Cape Mabou and the latter leads off through beautiful back country to Lake Ainslie southwest of Loch Ban. From the Blackstone Road junction, the highway climbs up a hill and then descends around a very sharp corner (be prudent!), climbs up again, and descends into Glenville, where you will find at the 69.7 km (43.3 mi) mark the Glenora Inn and Distillery, open for tours of its single malt whiskey distillery during the day and for fine dining in the evening; its pub offers daily cèilidhs in the summer both afternoons and evenings along with a fine selection of pub fare. Open fields and forests continue to alternate as you proceed north, with the Cape Mabou Highlands on your left. At the 73.6 km (45.7 mi) mark, you arrive at Church Road, which offers a picturesque church and cemetery near the highway. A short distance later, at the 74.3 km (46⅙ mi) mark, North Highlands Road will be at your left—it is worth turning off there for the excellent views of the eastern edge of the Cape Mabou Highlands that stretch off into the distance (past the bridge over the tiny Broad Cove River, walk down into a field for the best vantage point, as the trees beside the road otherwise mask the views); North Highlands Road soon leads to a Y with Foot Cape Road on the right fork, which offers a pretty trip up the Highlands and to Broad Cove Banks, just outside of Inverness on the Sight Point Road, at the end of which in Sight Point is the third of the Cape Mabou Trail Club trail heads. Continuing north through Strathlorne, at the 75.7 km (47 mi) mark, you arrive at the very scenic Strathlorne-Scotsville Road, leading off to Loch Ban, Lake Ainslie, and Scotsville. Past the junction and across the bridge over the Broad Cove River, now somewhat wider, you find the Strathlorne Forest Nursery. Beyond the Highway Department facilities further north along the road, you pass by residences on the outskirts of Inverness, arriving at the Broad Cove Banks Road at the 79.3 km (49¼ mi) mark; you are now in Inverness.
Inverness to Dunvegan
Inverness is easily the largest community along Highway 19. Like Port Hood and Mabou Mines, Inverness was once a mining town and suffered a long economic decline after many of the mines closed following World War II (the last one closed in the early 1990’s following a fire). The former mining sites have been remediated and restored and a new golf course, Cabot Links, and a companion resort have been constructed over them, bringing new life to the village. A second golf course, Cabot Cliffs, is to the north of Cabot Links; it is still in the process of completion and is expected to open officially in 2016. Among other amenities, the community offers a hospital, a pharmacy, two museums, a credit union, a bank, a horse racing track, two gas stations, and opportunities for shopping and dining along Central Avenue, as Highway 19 is known through the village. From the Broad Cove Banks Road, you ascend past the Gables Motel up a hill, across which the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail crosses for the last time part way up. At the 79.9 km (49⅔ mi) mark, you will reach the junction with Beach Road Number 1, on your left travelling north, which leads to the harbour area and the beloved Inverness Beach and its justly celebrated boardwalk above and parallel to the beach. Numerous side streets on both sides of the highway lead to residences, some of which also line Central Avenue; both churches are on Church Street, a street that runs parallel to and east of Central Avenue. The Fire Hall in the middle of town is the site of fine Thursday night cèilidhs in the summer run by Alice Freeman. Beyond the Cabot Links complex, you will reach on your left at the 81.3 km (50½ mi) mark on the outer edge of town, the Inverness Beach Village Road, which leads out to the Inverness Beach Village, a complex of 41 housekeeping cottages at the north end of the beach, very popular with summer visitors. Just beyond it on the right is the long driveway into the Inverness County Centre for the Arts, an art gallery and performance space. Beyond that driveway, you are outside Inverness. The highway makes a sharp turn to the east and descends to the bridge over the Broad Cove River and climbs up the other side of the valley; from this point north, you should keep a very sharp eye out for moose at night, as they are regularly encountered along the rest of this road in all seasons (they may occasionally also be found further to the south as well, but not commonly during the summer). Passing Pipers Lane on the right, you then traverse the small hamlet of Inverside and reach, at the 83.8 km (52.1 mi) mark, the Deepdale Road, a popular way to bypass the summer traffic in Inverness village (though it is said to be in very bad shape in the spring of 2015). The highway climbs over a ridge and descends a short ways to the Broad Cove Marsh Road, on the left at the 84.8 km (52⅔ mi) mark; that road leads through Broad Cove Chapel to the St Margaret of Scotland Church, site of the annual Broad Cove Scottish Concert, and beyond to Broad Cove Marsh, a very scenic road along the coast with great views along its length. The highway continues its descent, passing the Campbellton Road, and crossing a bridge over Smiths Brook at the bottom of the hill. It then turns to the east avoiding Gillis Mountain, made famous by a Rankin Family song in its honour, and soon crosses the bridge over Beatons Brook. The road rises again and continues into Dunvegan. At the 91.5 km (56⅞ mi) mark, you reach the northern end of Broad Cove Marsh Road on the left and Victoria Road on the right just after passing a sharp curve that does not allow much advance visibility of the busy junction. This end of the Broad Cove Marsh Road is used by visitors to access the MacLeod Beach and Campsite, a popular destination for RV’s and campers. Just past the junction, you cross the bridge over MacLeods Brook and are immediately at the junction with Highway 219, also known as the Shore Road, at the 91.7 km (56.9 mi) mark. The Cèilidh Trail heads left up Highway 219 towards Margaree Harbour; Highway 19 continues straight towards Margaree Forks.
Dunvegan to Margaree Forks
From its junction with Highway 219, Highway 19 continues on the north side of and above MacLeods Brook and turns to the southeast along a straightaway to its junction with Victoria Road at the 93.8 km (58.3 mi) mark. It then turns to the northeast and follows along the valley carved by Collins Brook as it wends its way between highlands on either side. It turns southeast once again, passing Farquhar Road at the 96.2 km (59¾ mi) mark, and continues on a fairly straight course until it approaches Southwest Margaree, where it turns abruptly to the northeast, meeting Highway 395 and Coady Road at the 98.8 km (61⅖ mi) mark. In 625 m (⅖ mi), it crosses over the Southwest Margaree River and reaches the Southwest Margaree Parish Hall, site of Friday night dances during the summer and Celtic Colours. The church and several residences lie east of the highway on side streets that more or less parallel the highway. The highway then climbs a hill and begins a long section I call the “Red Stretch” for its amazingly glorious red leaves in the fall, a section which doesn’t end until one is almost in Margaree Forks. Be very careful in this area, frequented by moose, especially after dark. The course of the road is mostly through forest and to the northeast, with a couple of curves. Good views of the Margaree Highlands are had across Coadys Swamp. A couple more curves and one is at the top of the hill descending into Margaree Forks, where Highway 19 ends on the Cabot Trail at the 106.7 km (66.3 mi) mark.
- Vic’s Scenic Rating
- This is a beautiful route from start to finish and one I have come to know very well, as I drive it nearly every day when I am in Cape Breton. It passes through the heart of the southwest and western portions of Cape Breton Island, through scenic wonderlands and the heart of the Gaelic communities located along its route. That part of it that is designated as the Cèilidh Trail is well-named indeed and the part of it that is not these days has a better claim to the title than the historically designated route. Don’t rush on your way to the Cabot Trail: plan on spending time to really savour this area’s splendid scenery, culture, and people. The Cabot Trail is indeed a scenic wonder, but so is the Cèilidh Trail—and a cultural wonder to boot.