The Beautiful Isle

[Original] Introduction

Beauty is clearly in the eye of the beholder, but there is wide agreement that Cape Breton Island is one of the world’s most beautiful places: ”[n]atural beauty and cultural integrity earned Canada’s Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia second place on the scorecard”¹ published in the March 2004 issue of National Geographic Traveler, coming behind only the Norwegian fjords and tying with New Zealand’s South Island and Chile’s Torres del Paine.

Shamrocks on the forest floor
along MacIsaacs Glen Brook
on the Trap à Mhathain (Bear Trap) Trail
in the Cape Mabou Highlands
Rose Bush
Rose bush on the hill
just below the court house
in Port Hood

The photos in this essay were all taken on my recent trip to Cape Breton Island and were selected to show some of the diverse kinds of beauty found there. My trip was mostly spent along the western coast of Inverness County from Chéticamp to Judique with an excursion to the Atlantic Coast and interior travel along the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 105) from Whycocomagh to Baddeck and along the many back roads in the area centred around Glencoe Mills. It took me to much less than half of Cape Breton Island and I failed to get photos at some of the places I did visit due to inclement weather; for example, I saw the beautiful area around Loch Lomond in the southeastern part of Cape Breton Island for the first time ever on this trip, but, alas, through a downpour that precluded any photography—I’ll certainly be heading back there on a better day! Even had I ranged more widely, the essay’s limit of twenty-five photos would have forced me to discard many of them due to space limitations anyway. So, be advised that Cape Breton Island has incredibly many places of beauty that this essay does not discuss—they are for you to discover. The previous essays in this series offer more depth on certain places than this essay can supply and present other parts of the Island neglected here, but even they do not cover many of the places of beauty on the Island. Indeed, if I am lucky enough to be able to continue this series for the next twenty years, I will still have done no more than to illustrate a very small part of all the beauty there is here to discover. Moreover, while looking at a photo can call to mind a wonderful memory and provide a hint of what one finds at a place, it is never a substitute for experiencing that place with all one’s senses, vastly more satisfying, real, and memorable.

Places are beautiful for many reasons: the ruggedness of a rocky coast; the stunning mountains and hills found everywhere in Cape Breton Island; the gorge carved by a persistent stream over the æons; a pleasing combination of sky, sea, and mountain; the steepness of a cliff falling into the ocean; clouds scraping the tops or sides of mountains; the quiet tranquillity of a babbling brook or a pretty river inexorably seeking the sea; the majesty of a great river; the birdsong that fills the air; the plants and flowers that, at certain times of the year, adorn a place, like those shown herewith: shamrocks found on the forest floor along MacIsaacs Glen Brook on the Bear Trap Trail in the Cape Mabou Highlands and the wild roses abloom on a huge bush on the hill just below the court house in Port Hood; the forests that cover the hills; the trees that change with the seasons: bare in winter, burgeoning foliage in spring, beautiful shades of green in summer, and a rainbow of colours in the fall; the undulating contours of the hills when viewed from above or from a distance; the inviting sand beaches; the constantly changing colours of fields and marshes; the birds and animals that share the trails with the hiker; the array of colours in a gorgeous sunset… Sometimes, one has to stop and take the measure of a place in order to discover what one would otherwise hurry past without really seeing and appreciating. One of the many joys of retirement is the added time it allows one to ”stop and smell the roses”.

I hope you will enjoy the photos I have chosen here and I encourage you to join me in exploring the cornucopia of riches that this beautiful Island offers so freely to both its visitors and its residents.

Victor Maurice Faubert
2007 July 15

¹ Quoted from this web site. The entire article was once available in PDF format on the National Geographic’s web site, but I can find it there no longer. However, a copy still exists in the Wayback Machine’s archives here.

Revision of 2012

Very little has changed in the intervening years, except for the damage to vast swathes of white spruce, already visible on a small scale in some photos in this essay, caused by the spruce bark beetle. The scenes shown in this essay still beckon, both to the traveller who has never seen them before and to the visitor who returns to them year after year. Cape Breton Island is indeed the Beautiful Isle!

Victor Maurice Faubert
2012 February 29

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Note 1: If you are unfamiliar with the place names mentioned in this essay, a list of map resources is given here. Of these, the best computer-readable map of Cape Breton Island that I currently know about is the Cape Breton Travel Map, produced by Destination Cape Breton and, thanks to their express written permission, available as a PDF file here; I strongly urge you to download it. This map scales nicely, allowing you to zoom in on an area of interest, has a very helpful place name index, and provides a level of detail, both of back roads and streams, that is quite good.

Note 2: See the description here for the notation I use for GPS (Global Positioning System) coördinates. I did not have a GPS device when I took the photos in this essay; the coördinates found here are those written down on later trips or computed from Google Maps; when no coördinate is given, I have been unable to reconstruct where I was exactly when the photo was taken.

Feedback on the photos and the accompanying commentary, including corrections, is always welcome; send it to the address in the footer below. All of the essays in this series are archived here.


To read this essay in sequence, click the “First” link in the footer below (or in the navigation bar at the top of the page) and the “Next” link in each subsequent page’s footer or navigation bar. Click the “Essay Index” link in the footer or navigation bar to see thumbnails of all of the photos appearing in the essay; you may click on any thumbnail to move directly to that page of the essay, perhaps resuming your reading where you left off on a previous visit or searching the essay for a particular topic or main photo. You may return to the introduction by clicking the essay title link in the navigation bar at the top of this or any subsequent page.