JOURNEY

Nova Scotia's Celtic Colours Festival

  • 200 km travelled
  • 1 panoramic island view
  • 12 soulful fiddlers

In the old Celtic wedding tradition, bride and groom gather in the wilderness to marry before their gods. So as newlyweds arriving at the Celtic Colours Festival, we were blessed. Think of it. Nine days of Celtic music and culture on rugged Cape Breton Island just as the fall colours are lighting up the sky. Fiddles. Kitchen jams. Community supper and song by the sea. We ended up living by the Gaelic saying: He who travels has stories to tell. 

Day 1
Baddeck and beyond
Baddeck is all about beginnings. It’s the start and end of the stunning Cabot Trail, and where Alexander Graham Bell lived and envisioned Canada’s first powered airplane. We started at the Wagmatcook Centre where young Aboriginal drummers played while we took in contemporary art by native Mi’Kmaq. Afterward, we hopped a ferry to the Highland Village Museum and mingled with Scottish settlers. The blacksmith forged a beautiful wrought iron piece before our eyes. A costumed pioneer showed us how to weave and speak Gaelic. At the evening Ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee), we held our breath. Absolute quiet, then people started tapping their feet. Soon the whole room erupted, Scottish and Cape Breton musicians, fiddles, pipes, harps, Gaelic song. We all knew the tune.
Day 2
Communal love song
Up early, a hot coffee, and hit the road. At the university, Gaelic and music historians played a kind of name that tune, giving us the surprising origins of traditional songs. Then at the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design, we met artists and browsed island creations. At the loom, we learned about warp, weft, and how to flick a flying shuttle. We learned how to make jewellery from objects found on the beach. My proud wife got to take her necklace home. Brought my guitar along to the Bras d'Or Yacht Club for the open-mic jam. I sang a song written for my wife and the musicians picked up the tune. Fiddles. Banjo. My wife tearing up. You couldn’t tell who was a visitor and who was a local. Just one community, dancing.
Day 3
Musical hills
"Hiking boots. Check. Water. Check. So excited to do the Celtic Colours Hike and Ceilidh over the island hills in Coxheath. Along the trail, we met a botanist who gave us the lowdown on the flora and fauna. Large eastern hemlocks, sugar maples, Painted Trillium and Lady’s Slipper. He told us to listen for pipers playing at the look-outs. When we reached the mountain top, we saw panoramic island views stretching to Cape Smokey and Mira Hills. Pittman’s Lodge was bouncing with Celtic music and storytelling. Back at the community centre, we refueled with tea biscuits and carrot cake. We wound up the evening at the Ceilidh in Knox Church Hall, clapping to fiddle and piano over oatcakes and apple cider. Food and fiddles. We're setting this honeymoon trip to music.