Writer and photographer KIMBERLY DICKSON reports for The Irish Post on the beauty of her homeland of Nova Scotia, on the eastern coastal edge of Canada
“AND SHE cradles you softly like a warm gentle breeze. And wins your heart over with a feeling of peace.” These words by Cape Breton singer/songwriter the late Rita MacNeil in her hit She’s Called Nova Scotia describe my home perfectly. It’s a natural gem made for sea dreamers, stargazers, beachcombers, culture keepers, heritage explorers, foodies, music and art lovers and adventure seekers.
Holidaying in Nova Scotia feeds the soul — beauty abounds round every bend. Our seacoast, forests, fields, rivers, lakes, and trails offer charm, mystery, skylines as spectacular as the sea herself with dawns and dusks that etch into memories.
Historic inns, hotel chains, motels, campgrounds and Airbnbs suit every preference. At seaside cottages such as White Point Beach Resort’s, southwest Nova Scotia, the sound of the ocean lulls you to sleep and in summer wild roses greet you, yet you can fall in love with winter there.
Glamping is the latest trend where you can enjoy luxury but be one with nature.
Nova Scotia is the ancestral land of Mi’kmaq First Nation people. Celtic, Acadian French and African Nova Scotians represent settler heritages and a growing diversity continues to enrich the cultural fabric. The harbourside capital, Halifax is home to a vibrant music, arts, and theatre scene with a downtown woven with heritage architecture and eclectic restaurants.
Nova Scotia’s alluring beaches are endless. Melmerby, Northumberland Shore, has the warmest waters north of the Carolinas with golden dunes, sandbars and sunsets of soft pinks.
Fifteen minutes from the Merb is New Glasgow. A farmers market, a downtown with Scottish architecture, unique shops, cafes, and a scenic trail that runs along a river, kayaking, boat tours and lunch by the river all await you. The market has the best of NS: the catch of the day, strawberries, blueberries, maple syrup, honey, local vegetables, and wildflowers. There are baked goods to die for, such as Mrs. MacGregor’s shortbreads and millionaire squares and David’s lemon curd filling and yogurt bread
Pictou, the Birthplace of New Scotland is only a 15-minute drive and home to a replica of the Ship Hector, which landed in 1773 with 189 passengers, the first direct Scottish migration. This harbour town is home to Tabitha + Co, mindfully made leather bags, featured in British Vogue, galleries and shops as well as deCoste Centre for Arts & Creativity. The Green Thumb just minutes away specializes in local and has the best baking and makings for a perfect picnic on Green Hill Look-off.
Cape Breton’s magnificent Cabot Trail and Peggy’s Cove are unforgettable. The trail’s pristine beauty, where sea and sky meet, is reminiscent of both Scotland and Ireland. In autumn the hills are ablaze with crimson and gold. The island hosts Celtic Colours Festival in October, featuring home grown and world class talent.
Peggy’s Cove, 30 minutes from Halifax, offers ocean spray pounding the magnificent grey rocks and picturesque, working fishing craft. Its stately lighthouse is a beacon as the rugged cove reflects the magnificence and wrath of the sea. While watching boats sail by, you can eat fresh lobster at the Sou’Wester. Other favourite lighthouses include Sandy Point, Shelburne where you can walk out to it at low tide and the Cape George lighthouse along the “mini Cabot Trail”. Not far is Arisaig Provincial Park which has a waterfallbeach and fossils to explore. An enchanting university town, nearby Antigonish offers unique restaurants, Festival Antigonish Theatre and the oldest Highland Games in North America.
If you visit in spring, don’t miss the Annapolis Valley’s annual apple blossom festival or its picturesque towns. Lunenburg, home of Canada’s Bluenose II schooner, is an UNESCO heritage site with breathtaking architecture, dining, art and seafaring experiences.
Other spectacular beaches include Inverness, Cape Breton; Lawrencetown, Eastern Shore and Carter’s, South Shore. Inverness’ waves caress golden grains of sand that stretch forever. There are red cliffs as well as fjords that are fertile ground for sea glass. It is home to the world class Cabot Links golf course where golfers play atop panoramic ocean views. Lawrencetown Beach, just outside Dartmouth, is a surfing destination and Carter’s is paradise. There are great places to eat in the Inverness area, such as Route 19 and Glendora Inn & Distillery, and The Dancing Goat cafe in Margaree. The Goat’s homemade brunch including the lemon dream bar is divine as are the fish and chips at Glendora. Coconut curry chicken as well as the haddock and hot ginger cake with caramel sauce at Route 19 restaurant and brewery are glorious. Nearby is Mabou’s Red Shoe Pub, run by siblings of the musical Rankin Family - a céilí could break out at any minute.