The location is extraordinary, a gateway to the wilder north, but the hotel itself has a conference-centre vibe beneath the tartanry. We still haven’t found the serious seclusion we came for, so we head on into the Highlands National Park.
A third of the Cabot Trail passes through it, and for most of that time ours is the only car on the road, alone among vast banks of conifers and nodding wildflowers – although somewhere out there are such creatures as Bicknell’s thrush and the Gaspé shrew. (‘They sound more like wrestling moves than animals,’ says Wynn.)Cabot Trail – Highlands National Park, Nova Scotia
We park up at the Skyline Trail, one of many hiking options, and utter peace greets us. We get stuck into the 7km track, hopeful for some true solitude at last. We trek through dozens of tiny microclimates, still and humid one minute, cool streams of air the next.
When the mist is low and visibility poor, the absolute silence is a little unnerving. I keep a lookout for moose, but we don’t see a living thing until we emerge from the forest onto a series of clifftop wooden platforms overlooking the Atlantic.
Disappointingly, there are several groups of cagoules clowning for the camera. We decide to try to wait out the weather to catch the view. The other hikers eventually leave but we are not alone: the mosquitoes here are as relentless as their Scottish cousins. Wynn tells me with a wince he has been bitten on the behind.
I pull my hood tight and wander off, leaving him to do whatever he needs to relieve his discomfort. Weaving through a barcode of trunks, and leaves fluttering their eyelashes at me, I’m a little sad that moose have so far eluded us. I had carefully observed all the public information showing you how to judge a moose’s mood, and felt well-equipped to deal with all eventualities.