Cape Breton's Heritage Coast

Fleur-de-Lis Trail

From Port Hawkesbury, turn onto Route 104. The first community on this route is River Inhabitants. Although a direct translation of the French, Rivière des Habitants, most of the early settlers on Lower River Inhabitants were Irish. They began arriving around the year 1824, some from Ireland, some as loyalists from the United States, and some via Newfoundland. They married mainly the local French, as both the Irish and French were Catholic. Very little of the Irish traditions survived to the present, but some Irish surnames are still found, among them McNamara, McCarthy, Hayes, White, Scanlan, and Morgan.

Louisdale

Louisdale is an Acadian village located just off the Fleur-de-Lis Trail near the entrance to Isle Madame. Sample Acadian cuisine, or take part in Barachois Days, the first festival of the summer season on CAPE BRETON’S HERITAGE COAST.

Isle Madame

Look-offs, picnic parks, museums, beaches, wharves, and lighthouses are among the delights of Isle Madame. Dine on delicious seafood, discover Acadian language and traditions, and relish in the warm hospitality of our people.

Isle Madame is about 7 miles wide and 10 miles long and has 12 fresh-water lakes. It was named in honor of Madame de Maintenon, the second wife of Louis XIV of France.  Shortly after 1492, French, Basque and English fisherman used Isle Madame as a summer base for their fishing, whaling and walrus expeditions.  In the waters around Isle Madame in the early 1500’s, walrus were slaughtered by the hundreds of thousands for their ivory tusks and the oil rendered from their fat.

The fishing boats are now pleasure boats as the fishery has greatly declined. Isle Madame remains an amazing place to live and a breathtaking location to come home to with its rich heritage, pride of name and place and its positive outlook to the future. 
 

West Arichat

West Arichat, originally called Acadiaville, was founded in 1863. It contributed to the seafaring history of the island through its shipbuilding, coastal trading and local sea captains.

Arichat, the shire town of Richmond County, is the most historic community on Isle Madame. During the American War of Independence in 1775, John Paul Jones destroyed its largest fish establishment. Arichat had world standing as a port as well as an educational and religious centre.
 

Petit de Grat

Petit de Grat, on the south side of Isle Madame, owes its name to the fishery: “grat” is a word of Basque origin meaning “fishing station”. Petit de Grat is the oldest fishing village in the area. Rugged and unchanged, this community is an artist’s paradise of weather-beaten sheds, stacked lobster traps and nets, with boats anchored in small inlets. The Acadian language and culture is still very much alive in Petit-de-Grat.

D’Escousse

D’Escousse, on the northern coast of Isle Madame, was settled in the early 1700s by fishermen. Today, relics of the past can be seen at Martinique’s Provincial Park, where there is a lighthouse the guided many ships into the harbour. Home to great dining stunning views from a kayak or canoe, and the Lennox Passage Yacht Club. D’Escousse was home for many years and inspiration for many stories by acclaimed author Silver Donald Cameron.

Poulamon

Look offs, picnic parks, museums, beaches, wharves, and lighthouses are among the delights of Isle Madame. Dine on delicious seafood. Discover our colorful language and traditions, and relish in the warm hospitality of our people.

In 1715, about 100 people lived along the coast of River Bourgeois, St. Peter’s, and L’Ardoise. They lived near the harbour during the fishing season, and in late fall moved to log cabins in the forests. Fishing and barrel-making were important, giving way after World War I to farming and lumbering. From the early 1900s, several sawmills operated.
 

River Bourgeois

River Bourgeois was founded by fishermen in the 1700s by workers seeking clay for construction at the Fortress Louisbourg. River Bourgeois is the summer home of Farley Mowat, author of The Boat that Wouldn’t Float and many other Canadian Classics.

The Fleur-de-Lis trail continues on to the village of St. Peter’s, truly a crossroads of heritage and culture both yesterday and today. St. Peter’s is one of the oldest settlements on Cape Breton Island. In 1521, Portuguese fishermen had a station on the isthmus where St. Peter’s Canal is now. They fished on a seasonal basis until the late 1520s when they abandoned the station because the winters were too cold. They referred to the area as “San Pedro”. In later years, the area was settled by the French and Irish, and was known as “St. Pierre” and finally “St. Peter’s”. It was a source of supply for Louisburg, joined to it by the “French Road”. It was also the first line of defense to the fort.

The St. Peter’s Canal is a Parks Canada National Historic Site. In 1854, construction began on the St. Peter’s Canal, which was officially opened in 1869. The canal brought prosperity to the area, and the village grew to almost its present size. A railway line from St. Peter’s to Point Tupper was built in 1903, followed by a fish plant which operated for a decade. Other industries followed. In the mid 1960s, Battery Provincial Park was constructed on the east side of the canal.

St. Peter’s today serves as a service centre for the region. The Nicolas Denys museum stands as a memorial to the village’s founder, and another honours a famous resident, photographer Wallace R. MacAskill. St. Peter’s is also home to a marina, and the canal is a popular attraction for those who like shops, The canal is the gateway to the beautiful Bras d’Or Lakes, so there is something for swimmers, sailors, photographers, or those who just prefer to picnic on the banks of the canal.

The vibrant Acadian villages of Grand Greve and L’Ardoise were once called Maglakachk (the place of the geese) by the Mi’kmaq. It became known as L’Ardoise, French for slate rock, after the French settled there. Slate from this area was used in the construction of the Fortress Louisbourg.

From L’Ardoise, the Fleur-de-Lis Trail passes through the Grand River and L’Archeveque, a photogenic fishing village on a dramatic curve of coastline. Further along, you will come up on the village of Fourchu, a small fishing port with a narrow harbour. Continuing on the trail you will find the lovely village of Marion Bridge, made famous in the folk song “Out on the Mira”. The Mira is a favourite spot for boating, fishing, and camping.

Off-trail, the community of Loch Lomond is located on the eastern side of the beautiful lake for which it is named, northeast of St. Peter’s. It was settled by Scots in 1827, and grew to become a thriving farming community with blacksmiths, stores, and saw and carding mills. In 1881, the population was 437. Today, the population is significantly less; if your pleasure is hiking, hunting, or fishing, you will appreciate the serenity and relative isolation of Loch Lomond.

The Fleur-de-Lis Trail ends in Louisbourg, home of the recreated 18th century French fortress.
 

Historical Sites

Arichat
Notre Dame de l’Assomption Cathedral Heritage Building, Arichat
Built in 1837 for the predominantly Acadian and Irish parish of Arichat, this Catholic Church officially became a cathedral in 1844 when Arichat became the seat of a new diocese incorporating most of eastern Nova Scotia. The well-kept church, designated a provincial heritage building, remains a focal point of architecture in the community.   

LeNoir Forge, Arichat
Brothers Thomas and Simon LeNoir sailed from France to Arichat at the turn of the nineteenth century. Masters at their trades, by 1811 they had set up a blacksmith and locksmith business. They built the Forge with stone blocks transported from Port Hood.

The ‘Old Forge” as it has been known, with its deepwater wharf and slip, serviced many vessels that came into the harbour, fitting and refitting them with chains and anchors. The Forge has gone through many transitions in its almost two centuries of existence; a trade school, a bonded warehouse, a coal shed, and an ice house. It was restored as a museum in 1967 and is operated by the Isle Madame Historical Society.

St. Peter’s
Some would argue, what is known, as St. Peter’s today is believed to be one of the most historically rich sites in North America. In the 1500’s and 1600’s (pre-Louisbourg) the portage at St. Peter’s served as a gateway for commerce between the Mi’kmaq and the early Europeans.

Ancestors of the Mi’kmaq potentially settled and traveled this area for 10,000 years. Europeans came to Atlantic Canada in search of fish and were drawn to the St. Peter’s area because the bay was handy to abundant cod stocks in the waters off southeastern Cape Breton and the area was a traditional gathering place for the Mi’kmaq having many trading opportunities.  The Mi’kmaq and the early Europeans used a portage path over the narrow strip of land to move canoes and small boats between the Atlantic Ocean and the Bras d’Or Lake. In 1869, the portage became the St. Peter’s Canal.

There is reason to believe early European visits to the St. Peters area included the Portuguese and Basque. St. Peter’s was called Hoslava by the Mi’kmaq, San Pedro by the Portuguese, Port Toulouse by the French, Port Augustus by the English and finally, St. Peter’s now by Canadians. The fact that Nicolas Denys set up a major Trading Post there in 1650 is evidence that it was known as a center of activity well before Louisbourg.

St. Peter’s Canal National Historic Site
The national historic significance of the St. Peter’s Canal is tied to its role as a transportation corridor. It has evolved from a land-based portage route used by the Mi’kmaq and Nicolas Denys to a canal waterway constructed between 1845 and 1869. Today it is used by pleasure craft and commercial vessels moving between the Atlantic Ocean and the Bras d’Or Lakes. Stop by, spend some time, and learn the history of the canal.

St. Pierre Fortress, St. Peter’s
Test excavations by Parks Canada in 1985 verify that Fort Saint-Pierre, established in 1636 by Pierre Desportes and Jean Tuffet and operated intermittently by Nicolos Denys between 1650 and 1669, was located on the western shore of the Atlantic entrance to St. Peter’s Canal. The fort, with all its content, was destroyed overnight in a fire 1668 or early 1669. Since the fire it has remained largely undisturbed, which makes it an unusually rich archaeological site with the burnt remains of its inventory more or less contained. The site is located handy to the St. Peter’s Canal and part of it lies under the foundation of the old Canal Masters

Port Toulouse, St. Peters
From 1713 to 1734 sixty-seven Acadian Families immigrated to Port Toulouse (St. Peter’s). Because of serious economic difficulties by 1734 there were only 18 families (100 persons) remaining in Port Toulouse. Much of the history, family names and activities are well documented. Foundations and archeology remains are left and are located within the St. Peter’s Canal Park.

Fort Dorchester, St. Peter’s
The old French road (Louisbourg connection)
 

Retrace History from Louisbourg to St. Peter's on the Fleur-de-Lis Trail

Get in touch with your adventurous side and retrace history by traveling the road from Louisbourg to Port Hastings on Cape Breton's Heritage Coast. "The Old French Road" was the original land route connecting the Fortress Louisbourg to Fort Toulouse (St. Peter's).

Before leaving Louisbourg, make sure you have a full tank of gas as there are no gas stations on this trail; in many places there is no cell phone reception. As you drive along the meandering road, imagine your surroundings in the time of Nicolas Denys...stop your car to smell the mixed Acadian forest and listen for the sounds of the ocean.

Driving Times:
Louisbourg - Forchu: 1 hour
Forchu - L'Ardoise: 1 hour
L'Ardoise - St. Peter's: 20 minutes
St. Peter's - Arichat: 30 minutes
Arichat - Port Hastings: 40 minutes

Follow the signs for the Fleur-de-Lis Trail (left turn). Continue along the banks of the sparkling Mira River, dotted with cottages and bungalows. The first few kilometres are rough, but that is a good reason to drive slowly and enjoy the scenery.

Just off the Fleur-de-Lis Trail, there are many small picturesque communities: Gabarus, Forchu, Framboise, and St. Esprit. There you will find harbours filled with colourful fishing boats against a backdrop of the dramatic Atlantic Ocean. Turn off the trail and take the short drive into each community; strike up a conversation with a local resident, and find out what life is like in this remote region of North America.

Highlights:

  • The Creighan - a windswept drumlin extending out into the Atlantic Ocean at Forchu is an ideal spot for reflection and a picnic. A pioneer cemetery can be seen at the base of the drumlin
  • Morrison Beach - a long, curving beach; you will probably be the only one here!
  • Framboise and Forchu - Community breakfasts and festivals in the summer; both are active fishing communities

Grand River is a great spot for fishing or to put-in with your kayak or canoe. Salmonview Log Cabins offer comfortable accommodations for the night if you decide to stay and take advantage of the river. From Grand River, a dirt road along the coast connects to spectacular Point Michaud Beach Provincial Park; the beach can also be reached by taking a left turn off the trail at L'Ardoise. In July and August, Point Michaud is a popular surfing spot with surfing equipment available for rental and a successful Learn to Surf program. The 3km long sandy beach is backed by dunes and is ideal for birdwatching, beachcombing, building sandcastles, or picnicking.

From L'Ardoise, continue along the Fleur-de-Lis to the village of St. Peter's. A left turn at the Bras d'Or Lake will take you to the St. Peter's Visitor Information Centre where friendly and knowledgable staff will welcome you, answer questions, book accommodations, and let you know about must-see attractions and cultural events scheduled in the area.

St. Peter’s is one of the oldest settlements on Cape Breton Island. In 1521, Portuguese fishermen had a station on the isthmus where St. Peter’s Canal is now. They fished on a seasonal basis until the late 1520s when they abandoned the station because the winters were too cold. They referred to the area as “San Pedro”. In later years, the area was settled by the French and Irish, and was known as “St. Pierre” and finally “St. Peter’s”. It was a source of supply for Louisbourg, joined to it by the “French Road”. It was also the first line of defense to the fort.

The St. Peter’s Canal is a Parks Canada National Historic Site. In 1854, construction began on the St. Peter’s Canal, which was officially opened in 1869. The canal brought prosperity to the area, and the village grew to almost its present size. A railway line from St. Peter’s to Point Tupper was built in 1903, followed by a fish plant which operated for a decade. Other industries followed. In the mid 1960s, Battery Provincial Park was constructed on the east side of the canal.

St. Peter’s today serves as a service centre for the region. The Nicolas Denys Museum stands as a memorial to the village’s founder, and another honours a famous resident, photographer Wallace R. MacAskill. St. Peter’s is also home to a marina, restaurants, and shops. The canal is the gateway to the beautiful Bras d’Or Lakes, so there is something for swimmers, sailors, photographers, or those who just prefer to picnic on the banks of the canal.

Live Music
Vacation Packages
things to do | places to stay | about the heritage coast | sights & sounds | contact us Site designed by ViBE CREATIVE GROUP