From the lakes, hills and valleys of the southwest to the ripe, forested mountains of the north, CAPE BRETON ISLAND offers the most exquisite of landscapes, reaching its melodramatic conclusion along the fretted, rocky coast of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Encircling the park and some of the adjacent shore is the Cabot Trail, reckoned to be one of the most awe-inspiring drives on the continent. The Trail begins at Hwy-105 (Exit 7) before weaving its way on a scenic loop of 298km around the northern tip of the island, passing through Cape Breton Highlands and ending in Baddeck, back on Hwy-105 (see w cabottrail.com). Allow time also for a whale-watching cruise: these are big business hereabouts and they are available at almost every significant settlement from May to October when fin, pilot, humpback and minke whales congregate off the island.
Cape Breton Island is also a major locus for Scottish culture; it attracted thousands of Scottish Highlanders at the end of the eighteenth century, and many of the region’s settlements celebrate their Scots ancestry and Gaelic traditions in one way or another – museums, Highland Games and bagpipe-playing competitions.
Cape Breton’s weather is notoriously unpredictable, even in summer. The Cabot Trail is pretty miserable in mist and rain, so if possible you should build a bit of flexibility into your itinerary.