Northern Soul – Cape Breton

Within five minutes of meandering, another peasouper of a fog descends. Doubling back to where I think Wynn should be I can’t see a thing. A deep wet huffing sound comes to me just out of sight and, deciding that this could be my elusive moose, I approach the noise directly, smugly recalling from memory that lateral movement spooks them.

I’m crestfallen to find only Wynn dozing, emitting a deep raspberry snore. I jab him awake in case he is accidentally emulating a mating call. Back on the rollercoaster road, we push further into the highlands. We pass spiny ruffles of infinite firs while heavy, low clouds cast a shifting inky patchwork over the trees. Red barns flash by in the wing mirror.

For hours, we simply watch the world fly past. The bays are deserted and the beaches empty. The weather remains schizophrenic for the remainder of our trip (take plenty of layers).

At a folksy craftshop stop, the owner urges us to take a detour to Meat Cove – so uninvitingly named, but unquestionably the most memorable landscape of our trip. And finally, at the northernmost point of Cape Breton, we are entirely alone. We left the last car behind hours ago. Not a soul is to be seen. Green fields roll down to a sheer, rocky descent; white swells lace the coast. Pods of humpbacks and harbor porpoises can be seen from the clifftop. Bright stacks of lobster pots dot the grass.

View down on Meat Cove – Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

We taste the full force of the Atlantic wind, and the knowledge that there’s nothing between us and Greenland but a chunk of Newfoundland and the icy wastes of the Labrador Sea.

We have to be cautious on our slow drive back south. We’d come for solitude, but another flat tyre on the way back could leave us stranded for hours, possibly days. Wynn had for some time been using my surname as a collective noun for mistakes, and another ‘Doggett’ of wrong turns got us lost. There’s no-one around and the temperature dips discernibly.

Serendipity (or just me holding the map upsidedown) leads us to one of the last working lighthouses on the island.

The solitary stone octagon pulses a warning through the gloom. The verdigris skeleton of an old pier juts from the irritable sea, and reminds us of the terrible journey many immigrants had to make to their new home here.

We count our blessings, locate ourselves, and head for the airport. Suddenly some company doesn’t seem such a bad idea.

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