Mabou, Nova Scotia, on the Ceilidh Trail

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As you make your way up or down Cape Breton’s western coast, you’ll pass through several picturesque small towns, as you drive over the Ceilidh Trail.  This area is rich in Celtic/Gaelic history, and it would be perfectly appropriate to tune into some traditional folk music to accompany the scenery.

Location

The Ceilidh Trail mostly follows Trunk Route 19 from the Canso Causeway north through Judique, Port Hood, Mabou, and Inverness.

My Visit

When you need to cover 500 kilometers in a day, you don’t have the proper time to stop and appreciate everything that’s great along your route.  That was the case for me on the Ceilidh Trail.  I had spent part of the morning hiking in Cape Breton National Park, and then made a few scenic stops along the Cabot Trail and Route 219 (which is also part of the Ceilidh Trail).  Once I got to Trunk Route 19, I knew I’d better make up some time, so I drove through Inverness without stopping, but I did spend some time exploring the next town, Mabou.

If you’re wondering how the heck to pronounce Ceilidh, here’s the answer: Key-lee.  In Gaelic, Ceilidh means a traditional Scottish party, complete with folk music and dancing. 

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Mabou’s most notable feature is St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, located just off the main road.  As you can see from the picture at the top of the page, that white steeple rises dramatically from the surrounding trees, making it the most noticeable building in town.

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Mabou’s business district is just a couple of blocks long, and it’s all lined up along Trunk 19.  Mabou is located on the inland side of Mabou Harbour.  If you wanted to see the coast in this area, you could take roads that run out to the Northumberland Strait, that follow both the north and south sides of the harbour.  Take Little Mabou Road on the south side of the harbour, and you’ll end up at West Mabou Beach.  This might be a good place for some coastal scenery, but I didn’t have time to properly explore the area.

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I snapped a photo of the Ceilidh Trail sign and kept driving south.  Route 19 stays inland until you reach Port Hood, then briefly touches the coast before swinging inland again.  I drove through Port Hood without stopping, but you can get a good look at it in the Drivelapse video, below.

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In Judique, I decided that my previous picture of the Ceilidh Trail sign might not be good enough, so I stopped and took another one.  South of Judique, Trunk 19 stays close to the coast, all the way to the Canso Causeway — but I didn’t have enough time to stop and properly enjoy the views.

If you’re interested in the area’s rich Gaelic culture — and specifically the music — you’ll want to plan on spending some time in Judique.  The town is home to the Celtic Music Interpretive Centre, which looks at the music and culture of Cape Breton Island.  Expect to hear some fiddles.  

Drivelapse Video

Here’s a look at the drive from Chéticamp to Margaree Harbour…

… Margaree Harbour to Dunvegan…

… Dunvegan to Mabou…

… and Mabou to the Canso Causeway:

The Bottom Line

The Ceilidh Trail provided a nice drive, but it wasn’t quite as scenic as I had hoped for.  Of course, I was in a hurry, and didn’t have time to explore the side-roads that lead out to the coast.  You might have a better experience if you have some extra time.

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