Near the entrance to the Cabot Trail, an absolute must for any visitor to Cape Breton, is the picturesque village of Baddeck. (Local Baddeck Info). It is located on Bras d’Or Lake and because of its setting and facilities for sailing and other water sports is a favourite with vacationers. A sail on the lake aboard 67 foot schooner or a tour by boat to Bird Island to see the puffins are excellent ways to spend a summer day as is a swim on the beach at Baddeck.
The best known resident of Baddeck was Alexander Graham Bell who in 1886 built a summer home he called Beinn Breagh across the bay from the town. The Bell homestead, still used as a vacation residence by the family and thus not open to the public, faces the lake where in 1909 Bell’s Silver Dart took off from the frozen surface. It was the first airplane flight in the British Empire. Alexander Graham Bell who had, by the time he came to Beddeck, already invented the telephone, set another record here with one of his inventions. His H.D. 4 hydrofoil set a water speed record on Bras d’Or Lake in 1919.
The amazing career of Canada’s most famous inventor is celebrated at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site in Beddeck. The interpretive centre has plenty of hands-on activities and interactive exhibits that can be enjoyed by the entire family. The centre is surrounded by attractive grounds with picnic facilities and great views of Bras d’Or Lake.
Don’t miss the several shops in Baddeck that offer an interesting selection of Cape Breton crafts and Celtic souvenirs. The tradition of knitting is alive and well on the island as you can see by a visit to the popular Baddeck Yarns. The owners are particularly helpful in demonstrating the characteristics of various yarns and suggesting stylish projects geared to various levels of skill.
To learn about the rich Gaelic culture of Cape Breton Island visit the Gaelic College of Celtic Arts and Crafts located in beautiful grounds just outside of Baddeck. This remarkable institution preserves the island traditions of music and language. The gift shop has an incredible variety of Celtic gifts including tartans and music. And, in the summer, the college hosts weekly Ceilidhs and a foot-tapping Festival of Cape Breton Fiddling in mid-August.
To complete your immersion in Cape Breton culture visit Highland Village Museum/An Clachain Gaidhealach in Iona very near Baddeck. The historic buildings on the 40 acre site include a blacksmith’s shop, farm buildings and homes where costumed guides explain traditional spinning, weaving, wool-dying and highland cooking as well as the care and rearing of farm animals. Ask one of the residents of the village to teach you a few words of Gaelic then try them out on islanders you meet them in towns along the Cabot Trail. You might be pleasantly surprised at the response.
Among the many festivals and events of Cape Breton Island the most popular is the Celtic Colours International Festival that is an island wide celebration of dance, music and storytelling. It is held in annually in October when the fall colours on the highland hills are at their best.