Northern Soul – Cape Breton

Empty roads, dramatic landscapes – Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton is a driver’s dream. (Apart from the moose.)

I don’t ordinarily seek travel advice from my local dry cleaner, but at some point between a rudimentary exchange on jam removal and the weather, I mention I’m thinking of a trip to Nova Scotia. Ulla’s eyes light up as she tells me her son recently visited Cape Breton, its northernmost island, and drove for a day without seeing another car. “Not one. For 12 hours!”

Nothing speaks to me more powerfully of escape than an empty road, so I book my tickets the next day. The journey is the destination on this trip, and the end point is the Cabot Trail – 300km of (empty) road encircling Cape Breton.

Nova Scotia is a blustery outcrop on Canada’s wild Atlantic edge, joined to the rest of the country by just a neck of land across the Bay of Fundy – and Cape Breton is attached to the rest of Nova Scotia by a slender causeway.

Bay of Fundy – Nova Scotia

‘Remote’ doesn’t come close (the area was only opened up to cars in the ‘30s), which explains why the Trail’s richly forested Highland stretches, seat-grippingly dramatic oceanic sections and tenacious little settlements attract so few visitors – as I explained to my friend Wynn, to persuade him to join me.

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