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Fleur-de-lis Trail, Nova Scotia


Step through a doorway in time into a magnificent French town whose streets are a bustle of 18th-century activity. This is Fortress Louisbourg the largest historic reconstruction in North America. Inside the massive stone gates, the year is 1744. Come stroll the lively streets where costumed washerwomen, bread sellers, soldiers, noblemen and musicians are going about their daily business. Explore historic period gardens, watch musket and cannon drills, roam through the king's storehouses, and visit the homes of commoners, merchants, and wealthy residents. Meticulously rebuilt on the foundations of the original Fortress, this is the site from which the French controlled their trade with the new world in the 1700s.

Fortress Louisbourg highlights the French heritage of the Fleur-de-lis and Marconi trails. Picturesque fishing villages with a distinctly Acadian flavour lie along the rugged sea coast. This is also Canada's richest coal country, and the history of the region's coal mining is captured at Glace Bay's Miners Museum where visitors can tour a historic miners village and enter a real coal mine, the Ocean Deeps Colliery.

The communities that owe their existence to the coal-mining industry form the foundation of the Colliery Route, which follows the coastline from Glace Bay Harbour to Sydney Harbour; brochures are available at information centres and at the various sites along the route.

The Marconi National Historic Site marks the location of the first west-to-east transatlantic radio transmission in 1902, and the S&L Railway Museum pays tribute to the region's rich railway history.

The 263-KM Fleur-de-lis Trail begins at the Canso Causeway, "The Road to the Isles," and travels around beautiful Isle Madame, through the Acadian communities of Arichat, Petit de Grat, and D'Escousse. The Trail winds its way along picturesque coastlines with many secluded inlets and coves. St. Peter's Canal is a popular yachting canal with a history dating back to 1650. Cape Breton's oldest highway leads to impressive Fortress Louisbourg, a national historic site situated on the eastern coast of Cape Breton Island. The Fortress is a reconstruction and re-enactment of community life as it was in 1744 when this fortified town was an important and thriving French stronghold.

The Canso Causeway, completed in 1955, is the world's deepest causeway. Locks on the Cape Breton Island side allow passage of small coastal vessels.

Port Hastings is a major highway junction and service area. Services in Port Hastings include accommodations, restaurants, stores, a service station and a museum. The Port Hastings Historical Museum and Archives is located on Church Street. Stop at the Nova Scotia Visitor Information Centre to get information about Cape Breton Island.

Port Hawkesbury is a major commercial and recreation centre located on the shores of the Strait of Canso. Year-round services include accommodations, banks, restaurants, shopping malls, liquor store and museums. Swimming, tennis, golfing, hiking, sailing, kayaking--all are within easy access. The Creamery Craft fair, located on the waterfront, offers arts and crafts, displays, weekly ceilidhs, and internet access. The Festival of the Strait, held at the beginning of July, is a week-long celebration with sailing and canoe races, outdoor concerts, dances and craft shows.

Outside Port Hawkesbury is the junction of Route 4 and Highway 104.

The Fleur-de-lis Trail passes through Cleveland to Grande Anse. A left turn at Grande Anse leads to Dundee, where there are several resorts, an 18-hole golf course, a practice range and a marina.

At Grande Anse, turn right onto Route 320 and proceed on the Fleur-de-lis Trail to Louisdale, an Acadian community with bakery and restaurants offering French Acadian cuisine, a service station, a credit union and a grocery store. The Trail crosses Lennox Passage Bridge to Isle Madame, named after one of the titles of the Queen of France. This 42.5- km2 island has a strong Acadian heritage. Look offs, picnic areas, beaches, wharves, and lighthouses are among the many delights of historical Isle Madame.

At Martinique is the Lennox Passage Provincial Park. The road continues through D'Escousse, settled by fishermen in the 1700s. Relics of the past can be seen at Martinique Beach Provincial Park, where a lighthouse still stands. Harbour Fest, a celebration of boating, seafood and local music, is held the first weekend of August. The scenic Pondville Beach offers great swimming and beachcombing.

Arichat, junction of Routes 320 and 206, is the shire town of Richmond County. One of the oldest communities in Nova Scotia, Arichat had strong business ties with Jersey in the Channel Islands during the mid-1700s and was a booming Atlantic seaport in the early 1800s. Located on Arichat Harbour, the town has a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean. LeNoir Forge Museum, a restored 18th-century black-smith shop, welcomes visitors. Route 320 ends at Arichat, turning into Route 206.

Nearby, off Route 320, left, are Petit-de-Grat and Little Anse. Petit-de-Grat , on the south side of Isle Madame, is the oldest fishing village in the area. It is a photographer's paradise of weather-beaten shacks, stacked lobster traps and nets, and boats anchored in small inlets. The Acadian culture centre, La Picasse, is found here. Le Festival Acadien de Petit-de-Grat is held here each August.

Little Anse is a fishing port with one of the most colourful harbours on the Atlantic seaboard. A hiking trail leads to Cap Rouge and a view of Green Island, the gateway to the Strait of Canso.

Fleur-de-lis Trail continues. About 1.5 km past West Arichat, on Route 206, is a look off and picnic area at Babin's Hill. Continue on Route 206 back to its junction with Route 320 near Martinique.

Veer left on Route 320, crossing Lennox Passage, and follow Route 320 through Louisdale and back to Grand Anse, where Route 4 can be reached. The drive on Rte. 4 provides a picture-postcard view of River Bourgeois, a quiet, picturesque sea-side village, with the Church Point Roman Catholic Church as a centrepiece. The Community dates back to the 1700's with ties to early Fortress Louisbourg, supplying kiln-fired bricks for part of its construction. Atlantic tide waters, flowing into the bays offer a calm and safe haven for the boating enthusiast. Several books have been written about the community, including two by Garvie Samson, entitled The River That Isn't, and Lyrics By A Centenarian.

Turn right on Route 4 at Grand Anse. At River Tillard, Highway 104, left, leads back to Port Hawkesbury. Turn right to follow Route 4 and the Fleur-de-lis Trail. Route 4 is one of the oldest highways in the province; construction was initiated by Lieutenant-Governor Macormick of Cape Breton in 1788, to move troops from St. Peter's to Sydney.

St. Peter’s, known as the "Gateway to the Bras d'Or," is situated on a narrow strip of land separating the Atlantic Ocean and Bras d'Or Lake. It is a major service centre for Richmond County, with a visitor information centre, restaurants, a tea room, hotels and cottages, craft shops, a liquor store, an RCMP detachment, museums, campgrounds, and a full-service marina. The community hosts a Summerfest during the first week of August.

St. Peter's is the birthplace of world-famous photographer Wallace MacAskill, whose picture of the Bluenose was used for the design of Canada's ten-cent coin. His childhood home (c.1880) on the main street has been restored and converted to a summer museum that displays many of his original hand-tinted prints.

Route 4 crosses St. Peter's Canal, a national historic site which connects Bras d'Or Lake with St. Peter's Bay. The canal's history dates back to 1650; construction of the locks was started in 1854, and additions, renovations, widening and lengthenings continued until 1917.

The Nicolas Denys Museum, located on the west bank of the canal, tells the story of this adventurous pioneer. Battery Provincial Park with a campground and picnic area, is located on the east side of the canal.

The Fleur-de-lis Trail continues along the Atlantic Coast via Route 247, right. Route 4, straight ahead--part of the Bras d'Or Lakes Scenic Drive--leads along the south side of Bras d'Or Lake to Sydney and Glace Bay.

L'Ardoise is the site of the Festival Acadien de L'Ardoise, held in July. Nearby, Point Michaud  has a long sandy beach with change houses and picnic facilities.

From L'Ardoise the Fleur-de-lis Trail leads to Grand River. The river is a noted salmon stream open for angling from early June to mid-October. A salmon broodstock study at the scenic Grand River Falls is open to the public. Visitors are also welcome to join the annual salmon supper held here.

A road at Grand River leads inland to Soldiers Cove on Route 4.

The Fleur-de-lis Trail crosses the bridge at Grand River, right, and travels to L'Archeveque, a picturesque fishing port situated on a wide ocean cove. Off the Fleur-de-lis Trail to the right is Loch Lomond, named after Loch Lomond, Scotland, by the settlers who arrived in 1827. Fine lakes offer good trout fishing in this area. A canoe route leads from Loch Lomond into Grand River.

Framboise, named for the French word for "raspberry," was settled by Scottish Highlanders in the early part of the 19th century.

The next village, Fourchu, is a small fishing port straddling a long, narrow harbour.

At the end of the shore road, facing the lighthouse, is a stone breakwater and small beach. A walk along the sand to the opposite shore eventually leads to the rusted hulk of a ship--the stern trawler Iceland II, wrecked in 1967 with a loss of 10 lives.

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