Louisbourg and Baddeck, Nova Scotia

Sep 16, 2017 - National Geographic Explorer

Early this morning, as we made our approach to the small dock at Louisbourg, the sun peeked out, for just a moment, from behind minimal clouds to sparkle as a crimson streak on the steel-gray water of the bay. A seaward blowing breeze carried the faint scent of autumnal decay, the seasonal change announced by the tannin tinted foliage of deciduous trees peppering the coastal fringe framing the small settlement.

A short drive on motor coaches and we had arrived at the Fortress of Louisbourg, on Cape Breton Island. Established initially by the French in 1713 as a small fishing community to exploit the rich cod resources in the waters just off-shore, the settlement subsequently developed into a pivotally important power base for King Louis XV, after whom the fortress was named. He funded the construction of the impressive walled citadel that guarded French commercial and political interests in Canada. Impressive as it was, it fell to the British in 1758.

The fortress is a national heritage site of Canada. Around one-quarter of the original fortified settlement has been reconstructed. As soon as we arrived we were welcomed by a number of on-site staff. Dressed in period costumes, they led each group to a number of locations where actors gave accounts of different aspects of daily 18th century life in the fortress. Life was difficult, with danger and pestilence as constant companions. A gardener explained about the ways in which fresh vegetables were grown, a house-maid of the Royal Engineer (who was responsible for the construction of the fort), detailed her various chores which included preparing a hot chocolate drink for her master. We sampled this delicious brew, a heritage chocolate, before we headed up to the King’s Bastion to view the reconstructed fortifications and garrison chapel. A soldier expounded on the reality of living in the garrison and demonstrated the firing of a flint-lock rifle. A splendid show all round.

Following an hour long drive we arrived at the picturesque town of Baddeck and had lunch at the Inverary Resort. A mouth-watering array of soup, sandwiches, wraps, baps, and pastries had been prepared for us. Two musicians, who possessed consummate skill on their individual instruments, showcased an array of Irish-influenced tunes as we enjoyed our food. In the afternoon we visited the Alexander Graham Bell Museum. This Scottish inventor of international fame made his home here with his devoted wife Mabel. Much loved and respected, they became closely intertwined with the local community. To cap off a wonderful day of exploration we spent an hour aboard a small boat called the Amoeba sailing in Baddeck Bay where, to our delight, a couple of bald eagles swooped down to catch food on the water surface. 

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About the Author

Vincent Butler


Vincent is a professional archaeologist and lecturer who received his B.A. in geography and archaeology and master’s Degree in environmental archaeology from University College, Dublin. Vincent is also nearing completion on his doctorate — his dissertation is concentrated on the utilization of mammals in the Anglo-Norman period in Ireland.

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