This lovely view from the St Anns Look-Off on the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 105) shows only a small part of the marvellous panorama available from this wonderful vantage point on Kellys Mountain. The spit of land in the left centre separates St Anns Harbour at the left from St Anns Bay at the right. A cable ferry crosses the swift currents at the mouth of St Anns Harbour, making it possible for provincial Highway 312 (which can be seen crossing the spit of land and rising on the far shore) to link Englishtown to the Cabot Trail, which it joins near the mouth of the Barachois River between River Bennet and Indian Brook. The houses to the left of the spit of land on the far side of St Anns Harbour are in Jersey Cove, at the base of Murray Mountain, most of which is at the far left outside the scope of this photo. The houses on the near shore are those of Englishtown.
The beautiful Cape Breton Highlands rise above St Anns Bay on the far shore; they are the edge of the plateau which stretches across almost the entire width of the northwestern peninsula of Cape Breton Island from St Anns Bay to Belle-Côte and run from there to the northern end of the peninsula. The Cabot Trail runs at the base of much of this huge plateau and crosses over it at Cape Smokey, at North Mountain between Cape North village and Pleasant Bay, and again between MacKenzies Mountain and French Mountain between Pleasant Bay and Chéticamp. At every point it is a wild and beautiful place and the vast majority of it is entirely unpopulated.
St Anns Harbour was long France’s chief fishing and fur post on Cape Breton Island; the French eventually established Fort-Sainte-Anne near where the ferry crosses today around 1630. It was the site of a Jesuit mission until 1641. Simon, the brother of the explorer and entrepreneur Nicolas Denys, established one of the first farms on Cape Breton Island at St Anns in the 1650’s, planting apple trees that flourished many years thereafter. The small community continued in a mostly somnolescent state until it was dealt a serious blow in 1719 when the French chose Louisbourg over St Anns as the site of their fortress, primarily because Louisbourg was ice-free in the winter while access to St Anns was often impossible because of the massed sea ice, even though St Anns was generally believed to be defensively much the better site.¹
¹ See Robert J. Morgan’s Rise Again! The Story of Cape Breton Island, Book One, pages 23-27, and chapters three through six of Patterson’s History of Victoria County Cape Breton Nova Scotia for good descriptions of this period.↩