A quick glance of a map of Cape Breton Island from the perspective of a spiralling bald eagle reveals the geographical uniqueness of the Island. Its exterior coastline is surrounded by the salty waters of the western North Atlantic, while its interior land mass is dominated by a resplendent, brackish sea, called the Bras d’ Or Lake. The Lake displays itself not unlike a giant octopus with some of its meandering tentacles groping seaward toward the Atlantic in the form of two natural passages and a man-made canal.
This oases is composed of two picturesque reservoirs comprising some 1100 Sq. Km. The ‘Big Lake’ tothe southward is approximately 35 km in diameter while the other smaller ‘Northern Basin’ forms a dogleg to the westward known as St. Patrick’s Channel that helps delineate the Washabuck Peninsula, a native name depictingits Mi’kmaq origins and influences.
These natural reservoirs are linked at the island’s centre by the Barra Strait (CaolasnamBarrach), a deep, narrow, body of churlish water, named for the for the Isle of Barrain Scotland, the original home of so many of the transplanted Gaels that settled here and upon the opposite shore at Grand Narrows, more than two centuries ago and whose descendants continue to dwell along the shores of its scenic watershed. St. Patrick’s Channel,bit-by-bit tapers into the Strait of Julia (CaolasnamSìlis) at Little Narrows before anchoring itself at its most western point with Whycocomagh Bay.
It’s thestriking combination of the Bras d’ Or Lake waters with the captivating community of Iona situated on the Barra Strait, which constitutes this remarkable marine component of the Trans Canada Trail (TCT). Situated at the island’s centre the community of Iona provides a strategic,vivid, and historicstopping point for the adventuresomekayaker.
Harbouring 200 + years of history, the Iona community manifests itspast through the Baile nan Gàidheal | Highland Village, a 43 acre folk museum – a short kilometre from the Iona Port facilities –which depictsand displays the inspiring culture and history of the Highland Scot in Scotland and in Nova Scotia, through its Gaelic-speaking animators within the museum’s period buildings. Next door one can relax and savour fare, beverage, and entertainment, at the Frolic & Folk pub and inn, even while appreciating the stunning vista overlooking the matchless landscape. For those partial to a chocolate treat of various sorts, visit Jill’s Chocolates, produced, fashioned, and crafted, at the same site.
Across the road, children from the extended community absorb and delight in the cleverly situated P- 12, Rankin School of the Narrows, overlooking the vivid Barra Strait. The community is served by a diligent firefighters’ department, a Post Office, a B&B, two churches, as well as an exceptional sandy beach great for swimming activities, asit ties the nearbyshady provincial picnic park to the community’s Port wharf, with its own wash-rooms, change-rooms, and boating storage amenities. All-in-all, Iona is a worthy community for the adventurous to reconnoitre and savour,along this marine leg of the TCT. Come and relish Nova Scotia’s Masterpiece – Cape Breton Island – from its Centre, at Iona. You’ll want to revisit regularly.