Visiting my studio

I welcome visitors to my studio in Mabou Harbour. In addition to fine art quilts, you'll find hand-dyed scarves, hand-dyed fabric for quilt makers, and more. I'm happy to give recommendations for hikes and live music performances.

1_my-house.jpg

I'm often in my studio Monday to Saturday from 10 to 5, but please call or email first before making a special trip. Definitely call first in the off-season (mid-October through mid-June). Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia is a wonderful place to visit. Scroll down this page for travel tips. 

Visiting Cape Breton Island

Many people have succumbed to the numerous charms of Cape Breton and visit again and again. My first strong impression of Cape Breton was its friendly people, like the man in the pickup truck who stops to make sure you notice the eagle sitting in the tree, the waitress who gives you directions to her favourite beach, or the person next to you at a concert who wants to know where you’re from and tells you stories about the performers.  

The beauty and variety of the landscape is stunning: mountains dropping down to the ocean, rolling meadows with wild iris and orchids, salmon rivers, waterfalls, nearly empty beaches, and a big sky.

9-hiking-Cape-Mabou.jpg

Then there’s the music, originally brought here by Scottish settlers—lively jigs, strathspeys, and reels played on fiddle and piano.  And did I mention the 90-year-old woman sitting at a concert whose feet are not just tapping, they’re dancing?      

 
 

Located in eastern Canada, Cape Breton Island is part of the province of Nova Scotia and is connected to the mainland by a causeway. Scottish ancestry is the most common here but there are other important groups. Mi’kmaq, Gaelic, and French are still spoken here. Outside of a few industrial areas, the main occupations are fishing, forestry, small-scale agriculture, and tourism, so as you can imagine visitors are welcome.

The small village of Mabou is on the western shores of Cape Breton, where you can watch the sun set over the water; here are a map and directions. Don't miss the Mabou Farmers Market on Sundays from 11 to 2, June to mid-October, with 60 vendors offering local food and crafts, plus live music. I’ve spoken to many visitors who wish they’d allowed more time for their travel to Cape Breton, so I’d recommend at least a week if possible; two weeks is even better!  

Cape Breton trails

Visitor information for Cape Breton is organized into scenic driving routes called trails.  The Cabot Trail is the most famous and winds through the gorgeous Cape Breton Highlands National Park.  Mabou, where I live, is on the Ceilidh Trail, so named because it is the part of the island most known for its music.  In Gaelic, ‘ceilidh’ (pronounced kay - lee) means “kitchen party” or informal gathering, always with music.

Cape Breton music and dance

5_fiddle-music-outdoors.jpg

Gregory Campbell plays the fiddle at the Mabou Coal Mines festival.

 

You can find live fiddle and piano music here all year round, along with square dances, guitar concerts, and songwriter circles, but in summer and fall the music scene just explodes. The Red Shoe Pub in Mabou has live music most evenings. There’s a ceilidh on Tuesday nights in the Mabou Hall, performances at Strathspey Place, and nearby festivals most weekends. The Glenora Distillery has live music every day from 1 to 3 and from 8 to 10. Almost every night square dances with live music pulse with energy and go until midnight.  To learn more about the local music and its history, visit the Celtic Music Interpretive Centre in Judique. The Celtic Colours International Festival is an amazing 10-day all-island music festival in October with local and international performers, plus workshops, art exhibits, community dinners, dances, and more.

6-Celtic-Music-Interpretive-Centre.jpg

A fiddler, piano player, and step dancer perform at the Celtic Music Interpretive Centre.

 

Outdoor fun in Cape Breton

Dozens of uncrowded saltwater beaches with warm water are great for swimming, building sandcastles, or searching for beach glass. Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs are new golf courses in Inverness with spectacular ocean views and they are getting rave reviews. There are many options for kayaking, cycling, sailing, whale watching, fishing, or hiking. Eagle Eye Outfitters offers equipment rentals and tours. The gorgeous Cape Mabou trails explore an undeveloped part of the coast and a trail map is available for sale at local businesses. West Mabou beach has a series of short hiking trails. The relatively flat Celtic Shores Coastal Trail is great for walking, bicycling, and ATVs. You’ll see eagles everywhere, and might also spot moose, deer, or black bears. Fish for salmon, pick wild strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries, and, if you know how to identify them, chanterelle mushrooms.

8_fishing.jpg

 
 

3_bikes-along-coast_013714.jpg

Cape Breton art and fine craft

In Cape Breton you can find work by many wonderful local artists and artisans, at these galleries:

Inverness County Centre for the Arts (ICCA), Inverness, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, open May-October, 902-258-2533. Monthly shows from May through October and an excellent shop. See photos below of its garden and the two main galleries.

10-ICCA-outside.jpg

11-ICCA-gallery.jpg

Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design, Sydney, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, open year round, 902-270-7491. This organization also published the wonderful guide Cape Breton Artisan Trail Map which lists dozens of artists who have studios open to the public.

Other favourite Cape Breton attractions

Aside from the famous Cabot Trail, which is well worth several days, here are two attractions in other parts of Cape Breton that I particularly recommend:

Take an underground tour at the Cape Breton Miner’s Museum informed by the personal story of a retired miner. If possible, attend an evening concert of The Men of the Deeps, an amazing choir of working and retired coal miners.

Fortress of Louisbourg, a reconstructed 18th-century French fortified town with costumed interpreters, restaurants with authentic traditional food, and more. The story of how the reconstruction was done by laid-off coal miners is fascinating too.

12_Louisbourg.jpg

Where to eat and sleep in or near Mabou

Some Cape Breton specialties are oat cakes, fresh lobster or crab, fish cakes, strawberry shortcake, and a good cup of tea.

The Red Shoe Pub is famous for live music, good food, and a fun atmosphere. 

The Glenora Distillery, North America’s only single-malt whiskey distillery, has an excellent restaurant with local produce, a pub with traditional music afternoons and evenings, and an inn.

13_Red-Shoe.jpg

Nighttime music at the Red Shoe Pub.

14-Glenora-Distillery.jpg

Glenora Distillery’s reflecting pool.

 

Laurel's Bed and Breakfast is in a beautifully renovated farmhouse with beautiful antiques and Laurel serves a hearty vegetarian breakfast.

The Inn at Glendyer has received top ratings from TripAdvisor.com and has a hot tub.

Mabou River Inn is a friendly place, with a restaurant known for great home cooking including an amazing seafood chowder and good pizza, and is a short walk into the village.

Planning your trip to Cape Breton

The most popular time to visit is June through mid-October. The official Nova Scotia tourism site has lots of information. Find out what music and other events will be happening during your visit at Music Cape Breton. When you arrive, the weekly Inverness Oran newspaper has articles and ads about local events.

15_rocky-coast-with-hikers.jpg

A coastline worth exploring by land or by sea.

These photos—bikers enjoying the view, the Celtic Music Interpretive Centre, the beach, fishing for salmon, hiking in Cape Mabou, the ICCA, Louisbourg, the Glenora Distillery, and hikers exploring the coastline —are all courtesy of Nova Scotia Tourism, Culture and Heritage.