This view shows the middle portion of the Barra Strait and the hills which rise above it; note the size of the buildings to gauge the height of the hills.
Although travelling to the Highland Village is justified solely for the superb views it offers, there is another equally compelling reason to pay it a visit: it is a ”living history museum and cultural centre that celebrates the Gaelic experience in Nova Scotia” (from the museum’s web site, which I recommend you visit for a full description of all the facilities available). It reproduces a Gaelic-speaking Scottish community from the 19th century, with buildings and furnishings that reflect such a community, including barns with animals, a school, a general store, a carding mill, and a blacksmith shop. One of the most interesting buildings to me is a replica of a ”blackhouse”, a primitive stone dwelling with a sod roof combining home and barn in which many Highland Gaels lived before emigrating to Nova Scotia (see this web site for extensive information about blackhouses and why they are now so called). It is also possible to follow the evolution of the settlers’ dwellings as they evolved from the initial log homes into the grander houses that followed them as the inhabitants became established and prosperous. The most recent addition to the village is a church that was moved by barge from Malagawatch (near the mouth of West Bay) to Iona and then up the hill to its present siting. A team of very friendly interpreters in period dress patiently answers the questions put to them and the depth of their knowledge allows them to give very full replies that lead in interesting directions. In addition to the Highland Village community itself, the museum also offers special education programs and learning vacations. many targeted to children, and often presents special cultural events, including concerts, candlelight storytelling tours, and codfish suppers. Its bookstore is an excellent source of otherwise hard-to-find books on Cape Breton, Gaelic, and Scottish culture and music and offers CDs and souvenirs as well. Plan on spending the better part of a day; there is a lot to do and you will leave with a much better feeling of the lives of the early Scottish settlers in Cape Breton, as well as having picked up a word or two of Gaelic. Highland Village is definitely a ”must-see”!