Views at the Port of Iona

One of the benefits of going to Cape Breton in mid-June is that it affords me the opportunity to travel to places on the Island that I would not otherwise be able to see because of the daily music going on all along the Cèilidh Trail in July and much of August. While there is plenty of music available during week-ends then, the music during the week tends to be rather sparse in mid-June. Accordingly, after a fantastic dance at Brook Village on Monday night, the first of the season, I headed off towards Louisbourg to spend a bit of time there. It was a generally nice day, but spoilt by haze. My first stop was at Iona, after a back country drive from Port Hood to Whycocomagh and across the ferry at Little Narrows to the Washabuck Peninsula, surrounded by water on all sides except for a narrow connecting strip of land near Estmere. Gorgeous views of both the Bras d’Or Lake and the Great Bras d’Or Lake are available in the Iona area; this day, I stopped to stretch my legs at the Port of Iona, adjacent to the Highway 223 bridge over the Barra Strait. The views on this page were taken from there.

The quai at the Port of Iona
[#1] Photo 234 of 464: The quai at the Port of Iona
ISO 180   22 mm   ƒ⁄25   1⁄80 sec
Taken 2013 June 25 in Iona from near the parking area at the Port of Iona
GPS 45°57.733′N 60°48.192′W

Photo #1 looks down the long quai at the Port of Iona. Through the haze at the far right right, one can make out a bit of the Christmas Island area; the Boisdale Hills are further away. The Great Bras d’Or Lake is directly off the quai to the northeast; the Lake runs to Kempt Head at the southern end of Boularderie Island, where it splits into the Great Bras d’Or Channel on the west and St Andrews Channel on the east. Both enter the Atlantic Ocean along the coast at the north end of Boularderie Island, Saint Andrews Channel exiting via the Little Bras d’Or Channel. I have been unable to learn anything from my Internet searches about the Port of Iona or how this grand pier came to be built; as best as I can tell from local signage, it is now mainly used for pleasure craft. Whatever the history, it is a wonderful place to stop on a clear day and a popular spot for local teens to enjoy a swim.

Photo #2 looks at the twin bridges across the north end of the Barra Strait, the nearer and newer one carrying Highway 223 from Iona to Grand Narrows on the other side and the further, partially obscured, much older one carrying the railroad tracks for the train between Sydney and Port Hastings. Before the construction of the newer bridge, road traffic crossed the Barra Strait on a ferry whose course ran between Iona and Grand Narrows to the south (on the far side) of the railway bridge.

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The bridges across the Barra Strait
[#2] Photo 235 of 464: The bridges across the Barra Strait
ISO 180   18 mm   ƒ⁄22   1⁄80 sec
Taken 2013 June 25 in Iona from the “elbow” on the quai
GPS 45°57.752′N 60°48.124′W
St Columba’s Church in Iona
[#3] Photo 236 of 464: St Columba’s Church in Iona
ISO 400   52 mm   ƒ⁄32   1⁄80 sec
Taken 2013 June 25 in Iona from beyond the “elbow” on the quai
GPS 45°57.760′N 60°48.133′W

Photo #3 shows the striking church in Iona, St Columba’s. Its large size testifies to the much larger population that once lived in the area; now, Iona has neither a gas station nor a convenience store, though it had both on my first trips here. Iona is now best known for the An Clachan Gàidhealach (Highland Village), a highly interesting museum dedicated to interpreting the life and culture of the Gaels who settled these parts beginning in the early 1800’s, and the site of the fine traditional Scottish music concert on Highland Village Day, held on its grounds.

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The shore by the quai
[#4] Photo 237 of 464: The shore by the quai
ISO 220   18 mm   ƒ⁄22   1⁄80 sec
Taken 2013 June 25 in Iona near the start of the quai
GPS 45°57.749′N 60°48.169′W

Photo #4 looks along the shore from the Port of Iona at Iona Beach, which can be seen stretching into the distance in a fine sandy arc. A provincial day park, MacCormack Provincial Park, sits above the beach in the forested area at the centre of the photo. Its picnic tables are located at various points in the softwood forest with views of the Great Bras d’Or Lake and it provides beach access.

Photo #5 is a telephoto view of the area known as Plaster Cove, a huge gypsum deposit that was once actively mined. I again regret I was unable to locate any information about the mine at Plaster Cove, though I do know that gypsum is still actively mined on the north side of the Washabuck Peninsula near Jubilee (east of Little Narrows). The Iona area also contains a mineral known as howlite; according to this web site, “[h]owlite has the appearance of white marble or porcelain with a sub-vitreous lustre“; “[r]are transparent howlite crystals have only been found in two places; Tick Canyon, California and Iona, Nova Scotia.”

Plaster Cove
[#5] Photo 238 of 464: Plaster Cove
ISO 360   105 mm   ƒ⁄36   1⁄80 sec
Taken 2013 June 25 in Iona from the end of the quai
GPS 45°57.798′N 60°48.127′W